Curating Objects from the European Border Zone: The “Lampedusa Refugee Boat”

  • Karina HorstiEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


The cultural politics of the present encourage museums and artists to seek an ethical vision within Europe navigating the knowledge of ongoing mass death at the border. This is one explanation for the interest in objects symbolising present-day irregular border crossing among museum curators, artists, designers and activists. Wooden fishing boats, inflatable dinghies and life jackets appear regularly in exhibitions and installations. This chapter focuses on the meaning of “the Lampedusa boat” and argues that the narrative context within which the boats are exhibited guides the work of imagination that animates the object. While exhibiting the boats carries the critical potential to relocate the border and make it visible, this potential is disrupted by a political context that simultaneously militarises and humanitarianises the border.


Museums Art Objects Border deaths 



I would like to thank Kim Tao, Giovanna Rocchi, Teun Castelein and the three anonymous Malian men for sharing their experience. I am also grateful for Gianluca Gatta, Randi Marselis and Klaus Neumann for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences & PhilosophyUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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