The Sicilian Channel between Sicily and North Africa receives global attention as a major migratory route for undocumented people entering Europe clandestinely, a tragic nexus of transnational displacement and desperation. While the plight of massively overloaded and unseaworthy boats of people justifiably receives the bulk of media attention, there is a less-observed movement that occurs and has occurred for thousands of years: small boats expertly transporting handfuls of people back and forth across the Channel between Tunisia and western Sicily. This study explores the material vestiges of cross-channel migrations through assemblages identified during fieldwork by the Arizona Sicily Project along the southwest coast of Sicily in the summers of 2018 and 2019. While the exigencies of maritime crossing require distinct technologies of mobility, certain elements of migrant material culture are analogous to that found elsewhere, e.g. along the US–Mexico border zone of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. Such elements include migrants’ strategic triangulation of speed, invisibility and survival in deciding what to bring and the tactical triage of gear en route. Moreover, the political and economic injustices that are catalysts for the movements are comparable, as is the criminalization of the migrants, which has done more to endanger than dissuade them. This article sheds new light on migrant choices and challenges and contributes to the archaeology of contemporary migration.
- Contemporary migration
- Migrant material culture
- Sicilian Channel
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)