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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modeling a World City

  • Author(s): Göktürk, Deniz
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

The question of migration and border control has become a litmus test for governments, democracies, and civil societies around the world in recent years. In our era of highspeed digital connectivity people acquire knowledge about the world primarily as long-distance spectators through moving images flickering on portable screens. The common framing of migrants moving in a caravan or huddled on an overcrowded boat is occasionally punctuated by a photograph gone viral, for example, of the drowned Syrian boy on a Turkish shore or the crying little girl from Honduras at the US-Mexican border, looking up her mother’s legs as a guard is patting her down. These images have made a stronger imprint on the public perception of crisis than any research publication on migration. Meanwhile, the question arises if saddening images of dead or distraught toddlers in red t-shirts are effective in mobilizing affective engagement with the human cost of violent borders. Moreover, it is unclear whether such spectatorial empathy can translate into critique and action. The direct appeal of framed helpless children offers first and foremost a safe outlet for shock and pity that affords no political intervention or systemic change. The victimizing gaze on migrants falls short of imagining possibilities of coexistence, collaboration, and a shared future. Are there alternatives to passively watching the pain of others, the suffering of refugees detained at borders, rescued at sea, or trapped in camps? What might the world look like through the lens of migration? And how can we begin to conceptualize an open city based on participation and interaction?

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