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Transiting Western Sahara

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Western Sahara has recently been termed the last colony in the world and the largest prison in the world. This essay will attempt, by focusing on daily points of transit, to assess the ways in which the regional conflict that has unfolded there is negotiated from within, and to reckon with the pervasive failure of decolonial logic, through the prism of geographic border crossings. It will further assess how, through border management and movements, the relationship between Western Sahara, Morocco and Spain is constantly reconfigured by the conflating geopolitics of human circulation and human containment. The unresolved colonial conflict in Western Sahara cannot be disassociated from former Spanish colonial interventions and the current Spanish possessions of Ceuta and Melilla. Some of these legacies will be explored through the lenses of two video essay exercises by Ursula Biemann: Europlex (2003) and Sahara Chronicles (2006–2009). Both projects engage in a visual theoretical analysis of the confluence of the politics and economics of mobility and migration, on the one hand, with contention and confinement on the other, as displayed in these territories. Europlex follows the trade routes and the daily border crossings and transactions between Morocco, the Spanish colonial strongholds of Ceuta and Melilla and the Straits of Gibraltar, as a metonymic passage between two continents. Sahara Chronicle follows various concurrent West African migration routes towards Europe stopping at pivotal sites of both passage and containment, including two heavily transited points at either end of Western Sahara: in the south, the Guantanamito migrant detention center of Nouadhibou in Mauritania and, in the north, the C├írcel Negra deportation prison in Laayoune. The two documentaries invite us to rethink patterns of migration and transit in relation to signifiers of the Spanish colonial presence in North Africa: Ceuta, Melilla and Western Sahara.
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Keywords: Ceuta; Europlex; Melilla; Sahara Chronicle; Western Sahara

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, USA

Publication date: April 3, 2019

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