Dr. Megan Carney, of the Department of Anthropology, was recently awarded a grant from the Center for West European Studies for her research on migration in Italy. ” She is currently working on a new book manuscript “Island of Hope: Migration and Solidarity in the Mediterranean.” This academic year, she is also collaborating on a Simpson Center funded project with UW Professors Katharyne Mitchell and Ricardo Gomez on spaces of Sanctuary, you can see the Facebook page here. Dr. Carney has been doing research in Italy since 2005 and is interested in the everyday dynamics and challenges of contemporary migration to Italy beginning. Her interests in this topic are not limited to Italy, but also in migration from Mexico and Central America to the United States. This culminated into the publication of her first book, “The Unending Hunger: Tracing Women and Food Insecurity Across Borders” (University of California Press).
What interests you about migration in the Italian context?
As an anthropologist, I’m compelled by people’s lived experiences with migration and the process of resettlement. The Italian context is particularly compelling because of the economic crisis that has brought about mass unemployment and austerity measures. In other words, Italians have been coping with myriad political and economic struggles, while migrants arriving to Italy are increasingly vulnerable to homelessness, unemployment, and health decline. I’m also a medical anthropologist, so the health dimensions of these processes are of particular interest to me.
How are you approaching your research methodologically?
My book in progress represents a counter-narrative to the conventional narratives about hostility, violence and conflict, xenophobia, resistance to this migration, etc. that have dominated the literature on the contemporary “migration crisis” in the EU. Sicily has emerged as a site of multiple small-scale resistance and grassroots movements that invoke the language of solidarity with migrants. Sicilian households, community-based NGOs, social workers, churches, and migrants themselves have been collaborating in a variety of positive, socially transformative ways. In short, Island of Hope takes conventional narratives of recent events in the Mediterranean and turns them on their head; instead of viewing these events through a lens of multiple humanitarian and welfare state failures, it sheds light on human ingenuity and collective action.
How does this research tie into your teaching here at UW?
The work connects with my current online teaching at the UW in that I’m establishing a hashtag (#islandofhope) and Twitter (@IOHmedandbeyond) in advance of publication, to function as online companions to the physical text. My experience teaching in the Integrated Social Sciences program here at the UW has proved to me the power of online learning and democratization of knowledge that can happen through online discussions. My hope is that students of all backgrounds will be inspired to take their ideas, criticisms, and examples of migrant solidarity in the Mediterranean and elsewhere in the world to these spaces online and push for broader social change. I’m also an advisory member of the new Public Education Initiative of the American Anthropological Association “World on the Move: 100,000 Years of Human Migration” that is striving to educate a wider public about migration, so the book and online project connects to my efforts in this initiative as well.