Giulia Sbaffi

Giulia Sbaffi (New York University)

Giulia Sbaffi is a PhD candidate in Italian Studies at New York University. Her dissertation examines the politicization and the cultural representations of sex labor in Italy through the collection of oral history interviews with sex workers. Her work has appeared on Dinamopress and Zapruder: International Journal for the History of Social Conflict. She is a member of the Archive of Migrant Memories and of the Italian Association of Oral History. She holds a M.Sc. in International History from the London School of Economics.

ABSTRACT: as presented by Giulia Sbaffi and Valeria G. Castelli

Waiting as Captivity: A Reading of Postcolonial Practices of Domination over Migrants’ Lives through Film

In this presentation, we examine how migrants’ lives are controlled by means of the politicized waiting of today’s border regime through the analysis of Shahram Khosravi and Dagmawi Yimer’s Waiting (2020). This short film deals with waiting as an instrument of domination, power, and control over migrants. It integrates an academic reflection on the relationship between waiting and migration with the stories of individual migrants in order to reach a broader audience. As Khosravi explains in Waiting, today’s border practices steal and exploit migrants’ time, exactly like colonial practices stole and exploited natural and human resources in previous eras. “Keeping people in waiting is a punishment,” Khosravi says, “a punishment for being a foreigner and for having thus arrived late.”

We consider this reflection timely and illuminating, especially given how the Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened migrants’ precarious conditions. Waiting sheds light on the still too common exploitation and discrimination suffered by migrants by telling the story of Salif, a former schoolteacher from Burkina Faso. After crossing the Mediterranean in 2014, Salif arrived in Italy where he started working as a fruit picker in agricultural regions of both Southern and Northern Italy.