Front and back cover caption, volume 28 issue 6
LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE
Most French towns have at least one street, avenue or square named after the Republic, in a tradition that dates back to the late 19th century. The Place de la République with its monumental statue is a familiar Parisian landmark, yet smaller towns would also adorn their squares, city halls and law courts with symbolic representations of the Republic, such as in this picture.
A female allegory is taken to embody the values of the Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity. Once brandished in the revolutionary struggle against the monarchy, against aristocratic and clerical privileges, these principles have retained their universal appeal.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité are the common denominator that French politicians of all hues can agree on, apart from the far-right Front National which is seen as standing outside this Republican consensus, as its policies would for instance openly deny equal treatment to residents with non-European backgrounds.
EU border policing practices show that the moral and political dilemmata epitomized in French politics have begun to affect the entire continent: How much freedom of movement are Europeans prepared to grant to those who want to partake in our relative wealth and freedom? What are the limits of liberty? How far do our feelings of fraternity extend in times of austerity?
In this new Europe, with countries straining under unsustainable debt burdens, and seemingly less willing to share their remaining riches, discursive markers are shifting almost imperceptibly. Claims to freedom and equality may come from unexpected quarters, as Anne Friederike Delouis writes in her article on the French far-right fringe.
Protesting asylum seekers and irregular migrants face police in Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta, August 2010. The protest erupted amid migrants’ uncertainty over the length of time they were kept in the enclave before transfer to mainland Spain, enacted here in the protesters’‘shackling’ of each other in front of the cameras.
Ceuta and its sister enclave Melilla have been key outposts in the EU's swiftly evolving border regime since 2005, when sub-Saharan migrants launched what the media called a ‘massive assault’ on the territories’ perimeter fences. The ensuing crackdowns led to a displacement
of routes towards the Canary Islands and an unprecedented naval operation in response. Still, migrants kept coming – across the Greek-Turkish border in 2010 and to Italy in 2011. As a result, the EU is fast-tracking a ‘European external border surveillance system’ involving further investments. For the border guards and defence contractors involved, clandestine migration has become big business.
The high stakes in controlling migration stoke increasing tensions, however – as seen in Ceuta's 2010 protest and the desperate mass entry attempts across Melilla's high-tech fence in 2012.
As Ruben Andersson argues in this issue, such tensions highlight larger contradictions in the EU's border regime, which conceptualizes migrants as a source of risk to the external border – while feeding on this very risk. An anthropological lens on this ‘game of risk’ reveals how the business of bordering Europe is a fraught enterprise in which border guards, defence contractors, migrants and smugglers are stuck in a feedback loop, generating ever stranger and more distressing sights at the southern frontiers of Europe.