Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union? A Guest Post by Iain Chambers

Chambers Small
A Mediterranean Union
but on whose terms? Once again,
there is a proposal of incorporation from the very country—France—that
inaugurated modern colonialism in the Mediterranean. From Napoleon’s seizure of
Egypt in 1798-9 to the independence of Algiers in 1962, one can trace the 
whole arc of modern European colonialism as a cultural, historical and
political mission. (The foundation of the state of Israel perhaps also needs to
be considered as a contorted part of this history.) The real question is whether
Europe can reposition itself in the Mediterranean through acknowledging not only
an increasing migration of labor
inscribed in foodstuffs
and goods northwards across its waters, but also in the migration of cultures,
histories and peoples. Of course, these histories, although invariably denied
and repressed, are already deeply embedded in the making of  modern
Europe: Islam since the eighth century; Arab, Jewish and Roma cultures
disseminated in European musics, literatures and cuisine; the Turks since the
fourteenth century (the Ottoman Empire was once the “sick man of Europe”). A
Union based on these terms, rather than in merely the “freedom of the market”
and the benevolence that accompanies assumptions of European cultural
superiority, would require a profound re-thinking of Europe itself.

Iain Chambers is the author of Mediterranean
Crossings: The Politics of an Interrupted Modernity
. For more on the
new Mediterranean Union, see this New York Times story or this
from NPR.

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