February 12, 2021 - 1:00pm
BOYS FEEL BLACK: RACE AND THE EROTICS OF MINOR MIGRANT GOVERNANCE IN SICILY
Known officially as MSNA (minori stranieri non accompagnati), over 80,000 unaccompanied
foreign minors entered Italy from 2014 to 2020. This number includes all who plausibly—based
upon appearance—claim to be under 18 years old. Under National Law 176/1991 and then
National Law 47/2017, Italy must accommodate MSNA within the territory and provide them
with state care. Italy must serve their ‘best interests.’ Many migrants, therefore, present
falsely young ages at the Mediterranean border. They achieve what so many others cannot,
entry into the European Union.
The despair flooding many MSNA migrant centers initially struck me as a conundrum. Sicily
ceremoniously welcomes young migrants amid ongoing border carnage. Politicians pose with
young asylum-seekers, smiling for reporters, as these migrants disembark at Sicilian ports.
“Integrate! Be Italian,” migrant center staff exhort migrants.
Despite myriad legal protections, migrants routinely assert that Black people could not
establish lives in Italy. Young migrants came to such understandings while living in youth
migrant centers, spaces where migrants and staff theoretically undertook integration with joy
and enthusiasm. MSNA arguably receive more state care than any other category of migrants
in Italy but exude incredible despondence and frustration, especially concerning issues of race
Through fieldwork in eastern Sicily, I examined how young migrants derive and act upon
understandings of Blackness. My dissertation most centrally explores a forceful human
experience at the heart of Italy’s complex response to young migrant governance: