From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Perfect victims and monstrous invaders: media, borders, and intersectionality in Italy

Barbara Pinelli and Gaia Giuliani


This article explores the reconfiguration of public, political and media discourses on migration to Italy’s Southern coasts since the re-making of the Mediterranean border regime, beginning in 2013. Combining our respective anthropological and cultural studies approaches, this article looks at how borders filter and control, and examines the semiotic implications of borders through shared reflections on the tightening of the EU border regime and Italy’s political positions on migrants and refugees. In the first section, Pinelli analyses border politics by looking at the shifts in humanitarian and political registers constructed on refugee women since 2010. Drawing on her ethnographic research, Pinelli demonstrates how these discursive registers legitimise the refusal of other migrants and exclude women from recognition as political and historical subjects. In the second section, Giuliani applies cultural and critical visual studies approaches to understand how two opposing media discourses on incoming migrants converge in construing the moral panic against migrants’ threats and, consequently, Italy as in need of protection. In bridging these two sections, our aim is to offer a feminist intersectional perspective to understand how sedimented categories of gender, race, sex, and class regulate relations between the receiving State and subjects who are the signers of historical hierarchies of difference (refugees, migrants, women), and to simultaneously explore the processes which construct the receiving ‘imagined community’ as white, innocent and under siege.


Italy’s Southern borders, humanitarian discourses, intersectionality, victimisation, moral panic against the invasion



Vai ad inizio pagina keyboard_arrow_up