In Political Geography this morning.

Joe Painter, Evie Papada, Anna Papoutsi Antonis Vradis,

Received 26 January 2017, Accepted 27 February 2017, Available online 7 March 2017


What is a hotspot? Ask a random passer-by in your average city street and the by now ubiquitous wireless internet access point will most probably come up immediately in response: the hotspot is somewhere that connects you to the internet’s everywhere. Ask most European Union officials, however, and the very same word will make them sing the praises of the EU’s blueprint for a holistic approach to the migration crisis: a very special “somewhere” that may very well be on its way to become―as this editorial wishes to warn―a new kind of “everywhere”, one that commences with the decades-long European integration finally reaching a tangible form.

In this editorial we reflect on our fieldwork in Lesbos and Athens as part of the Transcapes project (part of ESRC’s Mediterranean Migration Research Programme, 2015–2017) in order to call for a threefold direction for future research. First, we argue geographers need to take seriously into account the ramifications of the EC’s hotspot approach for the future of the EU integration project as a whole. This will then add to, and bring to date geographical thinking over the production of EU territory in the past decade (Bialasiewicz, Elden, & Painter, 2005) below and beyond its mainstream portrayal as an ‘uncertain’ Union (Bialasiewicz, 2008); one that is to the contrary built meticulously through everyday, calculative practices (Luukkonen & Moisio, 2016). Second, we argue that the birth of the hotspot needs to be brought into, and to update the discussion on the future of the nation-state within (Leitner, 1997) and beyond (Swyngedouw, 2000) the EU project. From the revival of area studies in spite and against the prevalence of the nation-state (Sidaway, Ho, Rigg, , & Woon, 2016) to the quest of cities for autonomy from their immediate regional or even their national context (Bulkeley et al., 2016) geographers are already tracing the ongoing globally occurring shift in the relationship between political power and territory (Elden, 2009 ;  Sassen, 2012) while striving to answer what the future geographical distribution of said power might look like after the nation-state. Third, the hotspot offers a stark warning on the future of mobility (Painter, Papoutsi, Papada, & Vradis, 2016); the way in which the state creates differentiated temporalities (Griffiths, Rogers & Anderson, 2014; Vitus, 2010), altered geographies (Mountz, 2016) and mobility regimes (Shamir, 2005) and exposes certain populations to these regimes through new, arbitrary and wholly flexible categories. A transformation that opens up a new chapter in the nature of citizenship and territory-related rights: Studying the EC hotspot approach is now key in answering these questions.


In the summer of 2015 we commenced our fieldwork on the island of Lesbos, NE Greece and in the country’s capital, Athens. It very quickly became apparent to us that the EC’s “hotspot approach” (2015), hailed as an encompassing, bold and effective response to the said crisis, was in fact little other than the material grounding of the EU’s increasingly coercive policies, taking over elementary state functions such as border control, examination of asylum claims, detention―by this point, all of which are almost exclusively EU funded. Not unlike the state-building exercises encountered following the apparent roll-out of neoliberalism into previously public institutional “hardware” infrastructure (Peck & Tickell, 2002), this process of building fragments of an EU superstate within the marginal territories of peripheral member-states now requires the triggering of all key functions of a conventional state apparatus.

Once an area is declared a hotspot, key EU agencies are offered an effective carte blanche in their respective areas of jurisdiction; namely the judiciary (EUROJUST), the police (previously FRONTEX, now Border and Coast Guard Agency), and the European Asylum Support Service (EASO); add to these the NGOs charged with a very particular, hybrid kind of population management and welfare provision that corresponds to, while at the same time essentially replaces more conventional welfare state provisions: essentially, a new form of privatisation within EU territory where past state and public sector functions are routed toward UNHCR, who then acts as a proxy allocator of funds to NGOs. In this way the foundation and operation of the hotspot constitutes a crucial trial field for the EU operation at the local level in terms of (i) border security, (ii) population management and (iii) welfare provision: three key functions that have been historically reserved for the nation-state. The importance of centralising these at the EU level would of course easily surpass and outlive any seemingly hasty responses to momentary crises at the Union’s entry points. If successful, the hotspot approach will then be pointing at a model of territorial administration and governance that supersedes the national in favour of hybrid, super-national governance: a model whereby security and population management are dealt with above the national level, while welfare is provided through superstate/private partnerships, an evolution of the 3P (Public-Private Partnerships) ( Wettenhall, 2010) now apt for this emergent superstate governance landscape.

The misty rise of the EU superstate

The vagueness surrounding the legal and operational framework of the hotspot is not a design flaw and it works, even if inadvertently, toward the formation of the EU superstate: being able to designate entire areas, islands, regions―potentially even national territories―as hotspots with all the emergency measures accompanying this declaration conveniently helps bypass obstacles of national legislation, while curbing potential local resistance along the way. In terms of its actual, prescribed and declared function as a border dispositif the hotspot becomes a highly flexible informal mechanism for governing diverse migrant populations. In this way, it not only enforces existing boundaries but even draws in and materialises new ones on an often fluid basis of deservedness (i.e. migrant arrival date in relation to the enforcement of the EU-Turkey statement). At this moment in time, the EU needs this flexible and adjustable device to serve the shifting needs of its border regime; to choose who to let in depending on internal labour, demographic needs, or political aspirations.

Beyond integration: a call to study the contested geographies of the EU superstate

Geographers have been quick at grasping the importance of studying Europe’s edges as spaces that are “marginal and central” (Steinberg, 2016) to its future: spaces at the continent’s geographical edge but that are, at the same time, in the core of its monumental political transformation. We have spent the past year in the continent’s geographical edge and we have seen how the hotspot approach has been used at the cutting edge of the Commission’s migration and bordering policies. And yet to understand the hotspot as little more of yet another―however important―element in the EU’s bordering policies misses out what we believe to be an absolutely crucial point: the potential capacity and even more so, the potential threat of the hotspot to become a trial site for a much widespread mechanism of population filtering and control. The global outlawing of spontaneous migration is a long running project and central to the EU’s liberal interventionist agenda (Duffield, 2010), most evident in the ever increasing set of agreements with countries of origin and transit. Yet at the same time the hotspot still introduces, however violently or even inadvertently, a more universal understanding for the subjects that find themselves in its jurisdiction: the sweeping generalisation and bundling together of an ever-increasing segment of ‘unwanted’ populations can potentially outburst into a new kind of universalism recognised between these very subjects.

The hotspot therefore emerges as a key site of study: it can help us understand the potential future directions of the European Union superstate, as outlined in this initial commentary. This is not however to assume we are solidly on track toward the formation of a teleological structure of absolute and final European integration; to think so would be falsely alluding toward a linear and largely uncomplicated or unhindered process of said integration, thereby simultaneously obscuring the contestation between the multiple social and political forces fighting both toward and against it. To the contrary it is reasonable to assume that within, during and beyond the formation of the EU superstate territory, an array of contradictions and struggles emerge continuing to produce, to shift and to alter prevalent and pre-existing models of citizenship and non-citizenship alike.

The hotspot approach, we argue, is at the same time both an experimental field site and a potential precursor of a future form of graduated sovereign control and governance whereby the nation-state as historically known so far may be giving way as the fundamental unit of power; progressively overtaken by a much more flexible, spatially and chronologically variable form of territorial governance and control. Most crucially the form of sovereign control that emerges in the case of the hotspot paradigm does not overthrow, but instead succeeds the nation-state as the core unit of sovereign power: in this way, it still carries forward the inherent contradictions and antithetical forces found within the nation-state itself. The hotspot paradigm is both a geographically limited and specific precursor and a potentially generalised avant première of a new type of governance. In taking a close look at the hotspot, political geographers will be called to unpack the variant spatialities of a new form of sovereignty as this becomes discernible under the dawn light of the European Union superstate.


Bialasiewicz, 2008 The uncertain state(s) of Europe? European Urban and Regional Studies, 15 (2008), pp. 71–82

Bialasiewicz et al., 2005 L. Bialasiewicz, S. Elden, J. Painter. The constitution of EU territory. Comparative European Politics, 3 (2005), pp. 333–363

Bulkeley et al., 2016 H. Bulkeley, A. Luque-Ayala, C. McFarlane, M.L. Gordon. Enhancing urban Autonomy: Towards a new political project for cities. Urban Studies onlinefirst (2016)

Duffield, 2010 The Liberal Way of Development and the Development—Security Impasse: Exploring the Global Life-Chance Divide Security Dialogue, 41 (1) (2010), pp. 53–76

Elden, 2009 S. Elden Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty. Minnesota UP, Minnesota (2009)

European Commission, 2015 European Commission. The hotspot approach to managing exceptional migratory flows (2015)

Griffiths et al., 2013 M. Griffiths, A. Rogers, B. Anderson Migration, time and Temporalities: Review and prospect. Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, Oxford (2013)

Leitner, 1997 H. Leitner Reconfiguring the spatiality of power – the construction of a supra-national migration framework for the European Union. Political Geography, 16 (2) (1997), pp. 123–143

Luukkonen and Moisio, 2016 J. Luukkonen, S. Moisio On the socio-technical practices of the European Union territory. Environment and Planning A, 48 (8) (2016), pp. 1452–1472

Mountz, 2016 A. Mountz The enforcement archipelago: Detention, haunting, and asylum on islands. Political Geography, 30 (3) (2016), pp. 118–128

Painter et al., 2016 J. Painter, A. Papoutsi, E. Papada, A. Vradis Flags flying up a trial Mast: Reflections on the hotspot mechanism in mytilene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, available online (2016)

Peck and Tickell, 2002 J. Peck, A. Tickell Neoliberalising space. Antipode, 34 (3) (2002), pp. 380–404 

Sassen, 2012 S. Sassen When territory deborders territoriality. Territory, Politics, Governance, 1 (1) (2012), pp. 21–45

Shamir, 200 R. Shamir Without Borders? Notes on globalisation as a mobility regime. Sociological Theory, 23 (2) (2005), pp. 197–217

Sidaway, 2016 D. Sidaway, E. Ho, J. Rigg, C.Y. Woon Area studies and geography: Trajectories and manifesto. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 34 (5) (2016), pp. 777–790

Steinberg, 2016 P. Steinberg Europe’s ‘others’ in the polar mediterranean. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 107 (2) (2016), pp. 177–188

Swyngedouw, 2000 E. Swyngedouw Authoritarian governance, power, and the politics of rescaling. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18 (1) (2000), pp. 63–76

Vitus, 2010 K. Vitus Waiting time: The desubjectification of children in Danish asylum centres. Childhood, 17 (1) (2010), pp. 26–42

Wettenhall, 2010 R. Wettenhall. Mixes and partnerships through time. G.A. Hodge, C. Greve, A. Boardman (Eds.), International handbook in public-private partnerships, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK (2010)

Excited to be part of a volume with an excellent cohort of anti-gentrification comrades the world over. Here, I take a first shot at “Gentrination”, the idea that global capital flows may be reshaping parts of the global semi-periphery in a way much akin that the same flows reshape the urban. 

Gentrification as a global strategy

This book pays homage to Neil Smith’s ideas, offering a critical approach and rich collection of insights that draw on Smith’s work for inspiration and debate. With interdisciplinary and international contributions from leading experts, the book demonstrates the impact of Smith’s ideas on understanding the role of urbanization in general and gentrification, in particulate, in contemporary society. The book demonstrates how gentrification varies significantly from city to city, across different cultural and political-economic regimes, and in terms of the timing of urban transformations.

Friends over at the Cured Quail have launched their fund-raising campaign:

With What Must a Journal That Will Not Be Read Begin?

A fundraising appeal

What is Cured Quail?Cured Quail is a journal of critical theory that takes seriously the aesthetic, social and conceptual problems of literacy. By literacy we don’t mean simply the ability to read and write. Rather, Cured Quail poses the question of illiteracy as a historically specific hindrance to fully experiencing the words on a page, the patience of an idea, or the particulars of a work of art. Cured Quail is concerned with discussions on culture, philosophy, political economy and modern and contemporary art, featuring critical essays, reviews, polemics, interviews, and other formats.However, as our commencing editorial describes, the redundancy of already existing publications devoted to the nomenclature society-art-culture presents us with a challenge; foremost derived from the experiential chasm nourished by the refreshing content of curated feeds that in its rapid-fire shots of interest prepares any but the most recondite reader for a diet of distraction.We thereby ask ourselves: what does it take to be convincingly exceptional? While shouting toward a mural depicting a cave we’d like to assure the potential reader we haven’t expected an echo. This suits the editorial board of Cured Quail and the crux from which we will write and our writers will write, and from which we now entreat your support for the necessary funding to print our inaugural volume.For the thought and readership of Cured Quail—like everything else today—money stands as the transcendental condition for the possibility of experience. Your support will help finance a first run of Cured Quail Volume 1.

Read more.


Fund-raising appeal: Cured Quail

Johnny B.

January 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

I read John Berger―no. I read over John Berger. No, not even that, not quite. I slowly scan through the pages and investigate his words, returning to favourite passages and devouring new ones. I try to find what it is that makes these such a pleasure to read. I come to realise it is not the use of words alone―aberrant, disconcertingly, urgent and mute. No, it is not the use of the beautiful words. For all the joy I derive from encountering these, there is something in the mastery of their use, something in the way in which they have been moulded, crafted, slowly taken over. There is something in these words that radiates, in glaring lucidity, how they have travelled from afar to land onto the page, and how they have done so slowly. Slow: this great, unreachable luxury of a time that devours and diminishes; a time of so much action yet so little interaction where, from skimming through a text to skirmishing with the police, there is never the depth, never quite the prolonged quality that will turn the fleetingness of an ever-nonsensical moment into the substance of a coherent present.

Against the electric-like shock and violence of the current, Berger was the grounding: a serene reminder to stop if we are to ferociously act in any meaningful way. I pause. I find myself unable to put together any further thoughts. I listen to one of the last recordings, I suspect perhaps even the last one; an audio-recorded interview with a frail John Berger calling in from a Parisian suburb somewhere. A broken voice that pauses longer than the usual. I quickly travel back to a long Greek summer evening, back home, when I had the pleasure of taking a similar call myself. A request for a written interview turned down in the most humble of ways. “In transcribing an interview”, you tell me, “there is so much that is lost”. Pause. “There are the gestures”. Another pause. “There is the significance of the pauses, of the silences”. The sturdiness of a sonorous voice wrapped in a fleeting French accent: “Do you see?” I do see. A text, then? A text it will be.

A text that was―as always―not like most. I read it over. There is something in these seemingly fragmented notes that brings together the hard-to-remove packaging of modern-day commodities, the calculated rigidity of modern work, the Goulag, undocumented Mexicans in the States, and a young girl learning how to swim in a municipal indoor swimming pool. The images are jotted down in a stream of consciousness; separate but not fragmented, they come together to sketch out the great mystery of experiencing freedom in our prison-like world. Their prose, weaving fragments into a constant, has the serenity of playing punk music and the viciousness of painting a portrait. Their energy smells nothing of an auditorium. It reminds me of the scent of a favourite basement, where friends come together every now and then to enjoy the rawness of an improvised gig.

Friends tell me a sense of loss is near-irrational for someone your age. Of this I am not sure. I have now stood enough on this planet as it orbits around the sun to have witnessed what might very well be, statistically speaking (if this is even a fathomable quality), my fair share of loss. From the utterly unexpected―the loss of a dear childhood friend―to what would, I imagine, count as the “expected”: the departure of those up in the genealogical line. What is rational, anticipated or logical in the timing of our loss? There is of course the calculation of biology, the linearity of life, its trajectory, the timing of its end. But what remains of life when you break these linearities and trajectories apart? The timing becomes irrelevant. It would never be too soon or too late to say goodbye. Still, there is something deeply poetic in losing you at this moment of utter absence of meaning, when time whizzes so agonizingly fast, leaving us struck, frozen.

In the days passed since your passing, Athens has descended into a paralysing cold; vehicles coming to near-halt on its roads, passers-by evaporating from its pavements. Our freezing city might be trying to freeze time. I think it might even be trying to say goodbye.

Punk painter of words, prophet of the present: so long, so beautifully long, Johnny B._

The (in)hospitable city: spaces of co-existence and exclusion.

Thursday December 15, 5.30, room D28 at the Gallos campus. Department of Sociology, University of Crete. Postgraduate programme of studies in Sociology.

  • Reggina Mantanika, Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7
    (border policies)
  • Antonis Vradis, Loughborough University
    (Hotspot, Lesbos)
  • Loukia Kotronaki, Panteion University
    (City Plaza occupation, Athens)
  • Samy Alexandridis, University of Crete
    (migrant movements, Chania)

Two Fully funded PhD studentships in the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences

PhD applications on Space and Communication – Loughborough University

The Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University (CRCC) welcomes applicants for ESRC funded doctoral studentships in Communication and Media.

The CRCC is a large, interdisciplinary research centre that has been at the forefront of research in the field internationally for twenty five years. The CRCC has a large, vibrant and cosmopolitan post-graduate community working on a range of subjects in the fields of sociology, media and cultural studies, social psychology and geography.

Dr Antonis Vradis (Geography) would be particularly keen to support applications from students with an interest or expertise in the intersection of space and communication, with a particular focus in one of the following areas:

  • Critical urban studies at a time of crisis, including but not limited to both the communication and representation as much as the actual marginalisation of urban populations; the shifting representations of public space and the communication of dissent and the right to protest in cities across Europe.
  • Critical migration studies, particularly on the dynamics of dominant and mainstream representation of the current migration wave in Europe and the transformations of media, state and other institutions in the process. Research here could lead up from Transcapes (, the ESRC/DFID grant where Vradis acts as PI.
  • Social movement studies, including the portrayal and representation of grassroots social innovation, alternative currencies and grassroots resistance in face and in spite of the prevalence of neoliberal policies in Europe. Research here would relate to PURSI (pursi) the ESRC Urban Transformations project where Vradis acts as Co-I.
  • Contemporary Brazilian social and spatial studies, with a particular focus on the representation and the lived experience of the country’s marginalised urban populations and its communication in the mainstream, in the midst of the country’s currently unfolding crisis.

For further information or to discuss your proposal, please contact Antonis Vradis at a.vradis [ a t ]

The CRCC leads the communication and media pathway of the ESRC Midlands Graduate School doctoral training partnership, a consortium of six research intensive universities based in the English Midlands. Full details of how to apply can be found here:

Co-organised with my colleague Yorgos Mattes as part of our research project, Police Science in Digital Environments, funded by Greece’s Research Centre for the Humanities in 2016. Our other research collective, Transcapes, will also partake in the conference, which will take place at Athens University’s Department of Philosophy and History of Science (Lecture B at UoA’s Zografou Campus) on December 7, 2016 from 5 to 9pm. Programme follows (in Greek).

Continue Reading…

via OpenDemocracy

Trump is the logical culmination of a culture: the narrator of a democratic apparatus that has come to conceal itself behind the mother of all TV shows: the US Presidency.”


President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Yesterday, as I began to write these lines, Air Force One was descending on Athens’ airport, bringing the US President to our city: not the delirious orange-haired one, but the One Still There Even Though Most Of US Have Forgotten He Is Actually Still In Charge. Obama, the liberal darling of so many inside and beyond the US border, is the president under whose watch 2.5 million people were deported – more than any other US president in history and directly comparable to the “2-3 million” pledged by Trump.

Under Obama, the US has continued and excelled in its business-as-usual war, carnage and destruction the world over. But admittedly, under his watch this hell was now delivered with some impeccable puns, flawless speeches, making us feel warm inside and a sense of humility we can all relate to. Right?

A superstar, a great showman of a President? Check. But Trump is also those exact same things – perhaps in many ways more skilful than the Great Man himself: Trump read into the anguish of millions and tapped into it before the liberal elite had time to utter “let us respect and uphold the values of the US constitution”, or some gibberish of that kind.

Trump is the logical culmination of a culture that commenced with Obama: a complete and utter reliance upon the single showman (and yes, it will be a man) as the narrator of a democratic apparatus that has come to conceal itself behind the mother of all TV shows: the US Presidency. Continue Reading…

via Verso Books

There was a time when the world felt like an ocean of normality, bar your occasional pocket of carnage and destruction: I am talking way, way back in early 2016. Up until that time the Greek territory was hailed or vilified (depending on how you would see it) as one of these unruly exceptions, an impressive outlier that would grip so many to the point of coming to experience it first-hand. Upon descending in Athens, these far-flung visitors would invariably comment on how eerily peaceful it all was: cars were still driving up and down streets strikingly devoid of any enormous craters spitting out lava or fire. Despite the crisis, people were still walking around peacefully, not running nor screaming in agony. The fact that the signature Athenian cafés and bars were still in their place would become the object of scorn, something of a proof that the crisis was not much more than a bloated exaggeration on the side of us unruly Southerners who had it too good to let things change now.

Roads, pavements and street lamps (minus the odd defunct one, it must be told) were also still there: an impressive feat for those who had been caught in the swarm of the apocalyptic-talk, seemingly believing an austerity package (or three) ought to create, right there and then, an enormous rupture in the ground that would instantly swarm the screaming thousands, syphon them in and spit them out into a new urban streetscape of endlessly burning cars, knocked-down buildings, vacant lots and the smell of sulphur only just overshadowing the roar coming from the tilting ground as the next legal package was being voted in parliament: you get the picture. Continue Reading…

via society and space. Part of the forum “Governing mobility through European Hotspot Centres.”


On a quiet spring morning on the promenade of the port of Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesbos, a strange sight caught our attention: flying high on a mast just inside the port gates were two peculiarly selected flags, the French and the Finnish. Perhaps something of a random choice, maybe even a computer error picking up the two EU member-states starting with an “F”, we joked at that time. But a few hours later, during our meeting with the European Commission’s representative on the island as part of our research on the migration crisis, the record was put painstakingly straight: far from a mistake, this was a strategic choice ahead of the visits of the French and the Finnish ambassadors to Greece to the island that week.

The Office of the Commission stationed in Mytilene was tasked with presenting these two state representatives with a pristine image of the hotspot on the island: the image of some seemingly unhindered and seamless operation of the hotspot, along with all of its ancillary mechanisms. Like salespeople charged with selling a future car model, or real estate agents promoting an apartment through a brochure while construction is still taking place, the Mytilene-stationed officials have been commissioned with convincing EU member-state representatives of the efficiency of the hotspot while the mechanism itself is still under construction. Continue Reading…