On 21 October, Jair Bolsonaro, the now president-elect of Brazil, made an announcement via his smartphone that was transmitted to crowds of supporters gathered in São Paulo: “Criminals of the MST [Landless Workers’ Movement], criminals of the MTST [Homeless Workers’ Movement], your actions will be classified as terrorism.” This was delivered as part of a broader threat made to the Left (Mollona 2018)—singling out Fernando Haddad, his Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores) opponent in the presidential race, who he promised could “rot in jail” together with the currently imprisoned former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva—which would be “cleansed” after he assumed presidential office.
The second part of this interview with Nicholas De Genova moves into an analysis of the so-called refugee crisis since 2015 and possibilities for militant academic research that challenges the increasingly hard-right consensus in Europe and beyond.
The first part is published here and traces De Genova’s intellectual biography, the question of militant research, his work on migration in the United States, and his recent shift to research in Europe and collaborations with the European, especially Italian, school of autonomy of migration research.
In Turkey, especially after the Syrians’ arrival following 2011, the field of migration studies has more or less confined itself to mainstream discussions such as integration, social cohesion, data collection, and so on. At this point, the work of Nicholas De Genova and the wider literature on the autonomy of migration open up a new horizon for discussing migration. De Genova has had a decisive influence in shaping our approach to migration and borders. We hope that this interview, conducted in Istanbul when Nicholas attended the conference “Migration, Social Transformation and Differential Inclusion in Turkey,” will be read across Turkey and make his work accessible to students, activists, and everyone interested in migration. We had a long conversation on topics ranging from the recent “refugee crisis” and alternative ways to think about migration and politics, activism, and academia in general.
Picture a street handcraft market in a touristic village called Porto de Galinhas in Pernambuco, Northeast Region of Brazil. A few days before the second round of the 2018 presidential elections on 28 October, I observed the following conversation on the market.
“You can vote for him, don’t worry, he won’t kill gay people,” says a local 50-year-old addressing a couple of openly gay, young, black men wearing tight shorts and colorful shirts. They reply: “Yes, he will, Bolsonaro will kill gay people.” While the young men walk away, the Bolsonaro supporter keeps trying to convince them, half-laughing, half-serious, stating that his candidate is not as bad as some people have been arguing. “No, he won’t . . .” he says, “and don’t worry, because if he does kill gays, the environmental agency will come after him—after all, they are animals under risk of extinction!”