This book offers a provocative interpretation of a relatively neglected tragedy, Aeschylus's Suppliant Women. Although the play's subject is a venerable myth, it frames the flight of the daughters of Danaus from Egypt to Greece in starkly contemporary terms, emphasizing the encounter between newcomers and natives. Some scholars read Suppliant Women as modeling successful social integration, but Geoffrey W. Bakewell argues that the play demonstrates, above all, the difficulties and dangers noncitizens brought to the polis.
Bakewell's approach is rigorously historical, situating Suppliant Women in the context of the unprecedented immigration that Athens experienced in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. The flow of foreigners to Attika increased under the Pisistratids but became a flood following liberation, Cleisthenes, and the Persian Wars. As Athenians of the classical era became increasingly aware of their own collective identity, they sought to define themselves and exclude others. They created a formal legal status to designate the free noncitizens living among them, calling them metics and calling their status metoikia. When Aeschylus dramatized the mythical flight of the Danaids from Egypt in his play Suppliant Women, he did so in light of his own time and place. Throughout the play, directly and indirectly, he casts the newcomers as metics and their stay in Greece as metoikia.
Bakewell maps the manifold anxieties that metics created in classical Athens, showing that although citizens benefited from the many immigrants in their midst, they also feared the effects of immigration in political, sexual, and economic realms. Bakewell finds metoikia was a deeply flawed solution to the problem of large-scale immigration. Aeschylus's Argives accepted the Danaids as metics only under duress and as a temporary response to a crisis. Like the historical Athenians, they opted for metoikia because they lacked better alternatives.
Aesthetic Citizenship is an ethnographic study of the role of theatrical performance in questions regarding immigration, citizenship, and the formation of national identity. Focusing on Paris in the twenty-first century, Emine Fisek analyzes the use of theater by immigrant-rights organizations there and examines the relationship between aesthetic practices and the political personhoods they negotiate.
From neighborhood associations and humanitarian alliances to arts organizations both large and small, Fisek traces how theater has emerged as a practice with the perceived capacity to address questions regarding immigrant rights, integration, and experience. In Aesthetic Citizenship, she explores how the stage, one of France’s most evocative cultural spaces, has come to play a role in contemporary questions about immigration, citizenship and national identity. Yet Fişek’s insightful research also illuminates Paris’s broader historical, political, and cultural through-lines that continue to shape the relationship between theater and migration in France.
By focusing on how French public discourses on immigration are not only rendered meaningful but also inhabited and modified in the context of activist and arts practice, Aesthetic Citizenship seeks to answer the fundamental question: is theater a representational act or can it also be a transformative one?
In the 1980s, Italy transformed from a country of emigration to one of immigration. Italians are now faced daily with the presence of migrants from all over Africa, parts of South and Central America, the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe. While much attention has been paid to the impact on Italians, few studies have focused on the agency of migrants themselves. In An Alliance of Women, Heather Merrill investigates how migrants and Italians struggle over meanings and negotiate social and cultural identities.
Taking as a starting point the Italian crisis over immigration in the early 1990s, Merrill examines grassroots interethnic spatial politics among female migrants and Turin feminists in Northern Italy. Using rich ethnographic material, she traces the emergence of Alma Mater—an anti-racist organization formed to address problems encountered by migrant women. Through this analysis, Merrill reveals the dynamics of an alliance consisting of women from many countries of origin and religious and class backgrounds.
Highlighting an interdisciplinary approach to migration and the instability of group identities in contemporary Italy, An Alliance of Women presents migrants grappling with spatialized boundaries amid growing nativist and anti-immigrant sentiment in Western Europe.
Heather Merrill is assistant professor of geography and anthropology at Dickinson College.
In Almost Home, H. B. Cavalcanti, a Brazilian-born scholar who has spent three decades working and living in the United States, reflects on his life as an immigrant and places his story within the context of the larger history of immigration.
Due to both his family background and the prevalence of U.S. media in Latin America, Cavalcanti already felt immersed in U.S. culture before arriving in Kentucky in 1981 to complete graduate studies. At that time, opportunities for advancement in the United States exceeded those in Brazil, and in an era of military dictatorships throughout much of Latin America, Cavalcanti sought in the United States a nation of laws. In this memoir, he reflects on the dynamics of acculturation, immigrant parenting, interactions with native-born U.S. citizens, and the costs involved in rejecting his country of birth for an adopted nation. He also touches on many of the factors that contribute to migration in both the “sending” and “receiving” countries and explores the contemporary phenomenon of accelerated immigration.
With its blend of personal anecdotes and scholarly information, Almost Home addresses both individual and policy-related issues to provide a moving portrait of the impact of migration on those who, like Cavalcanti, confront both the wonder and the disorientation inherent in the immigrant experience.