Cite as: Wagner Tsoni I. & A.K. Franck, 2019, “Writings on the wall: Textual traces of transit in the Aegean borderscape”, Borders in Globalization Review 1 (1): 7-21. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18357/bigr11201919243.
The Greek island of Lesvos has a centuries-old history as a site of departure, arrival, coexistence and resistance for the forcibly displaced. This migratory chronology, however, was overwritten by the unprecedented attention that Lesvos attracted during the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’. This paper examines vernacular aspects of bordering, specifically the practice of border crossers and other groups standing in solidarity with—or against—them, to inscribe messages on walls in and around carceral and public spaces, viewed as a process of constructing and contesting borders from below. Closely reading numerous inscriptions collected around Lesvos reveals how borders are constructed, enacted and contested from below through borderlanders’ discursive practices on some of the very walls that constitute the EU frontier’s material infrastructure. This study aims to advance understandings of the historical continuity of the Aegean borderscape as a complex landscape of border effects and affects that exceed borders’ legal, infrastructural and political dimensions, while also highlighting the persistence and importance of personal agency, self-authorship and identity reclamation by border populations even in the direst of circumstances.