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Ex Aqua

The Mediterranean Basin, Africans on the Move, and the Politics of Policing

P. Khalil Saucier and Tryon P. Woods

Within the annals of black studies, analyses of state power begin with a well-trod premise that policing is not a response to criminal behaviour; nor is it an extension of a criminal justice apparatus whose operations can be accounted for by political economy alone. Rather, the police power is foremost a cultural phenomenon irreducible to materialist conceptions of social control in a capitalist world system. More to the point, policing is a methodology for social organisation premised on antiblack sexual violence. We consider several recent events of state power in the Mediterranean basin – as in the Lampedusa boat victims – in order to ascertain the erotic authority governing the police power of state and civil society. By using the Lampedusa case and others, we highlight that police power in the Mediterranean is more than the interpersonal and the event, but instead manifests as a methodology of violence by the state and its regimes, as history, as legacy. The policing and murder of hundreds of Africans in the Mediterranean we contend are not single and episodic events or moments in time, but are situated in the accumulated violence against black people globally. Without an analysis of antiblackness in relation to policing as methodology, events such as Lampedusa can be seen and understood as moments of exception (i.e. bad FRONTEX policy) rather than a practice that fully follows racial slavery. Without understanding policing from this standpoint, the political reaction to Lampedusa and other events has the danger of promoting 'reform' and 'revision' rather than a more radical vision: a future where black lives matter.