Cite as: Bejan, R., 2017, "Lesvos: Tracing the space of the refugee crisis”, in Haines D., Howell J., Keles F. (eds), Maintaining Refuge: Anthropological Reflections in Uncertain Times. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, Society for Urban, and Transnational/Global Anthropology, American Anthropological Association. pp. 49-60.
Excerpt from the chapter:
The Mediterranean, therefore, is the center of world history. Greece lies here, the focal point of history. In [what is nominally] Syria there is Jerusalem, the center of Judaism and of Christianity. To the southeast are Mecca and Medina, the source of Islam. To the west are Delphi and Athens; and farther west there is Rome, with Alexandria and Carthage on the south side of the sea. Thus the Mediterranean is the heart of the Old World, that which conditions it and gives it its life. Without it we could not imagine world history—anymore that we could think of Rome or Athens without the forum where all things converged. (Hegel 1988)
Hegel’s quote takes on new dimensions today, as Europe was confronted, in the last years, with a massive influx of irregular migrants. The Eurocentric ideal is particularly significant in defining the “refugee crisis.” Millions of refugees were already stranded in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey for years, and yet the refugee crisis only became a “crisis” when people started to flock into Europe and were seen to contaminate the symbolism of what Europe constitutes. The actuality of the refugee “problem” is subsequently connected to how we name and choose to understand the idea(s) of Euro-centrism, of Europe, and its cultural supremacy on the world map. Starting in 2015, thousands of people coming from the Middle East and Africa disembarked on the shores of Italy and Greece in search of refuge. This essay traces the emotion conveyed by the island of Levsos, as the space containing the refugee crisis, while it critically interrogates the current representational imagery of the crisis. The discrepancy between the everyday island life and the surreal problem of the “refugees,” is metaphorically extrapolated here through a narrative account describing the space of the island.