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The Invisible Line of Migration – A Conversation with Multi-Award Winning Photo-Journalist Danilo Balducci, Cardiff University 04.10.18

La Linea Invisibile is a discussion by guest speaker Danilo Balducci which brings together the Translation, Adaptation and Performance, Picturing Others, and Conflict, Development and Disaster research themes at the School of Modern Languages. This lecture was broken up into 3 separate video displays of Danilo’s work. The above video is available on youtube and is the first in the series of photo presentations that we watched. Most of it is in Lesbos although some of the migrants were in Calais. Danilo travelled with migrants from Rome to Germany, very often fleeing the police alongside them. He continued to work on the situation in Italy which was a dramatic situation. In 2015 and 2016 the Balkan route was picking up and he followed this. In Lesbos the numbers were immense with 1000s gathering there. By travelling with migrants Danilo produced photography that wasn’t sterile. He was pulling people out of the sea, crossing rivers and crossing mountains. He made connections with people that he still maintains. On occasion the camera had to stay put where Danilo made the decision not to take pictures. For example when a woman was giving birth on the shore, he felt that it was too intimate a moment. However, there were some controversial images that he felt he needed to take. The dead young girl which was just a string of 14 dead migrants found that day, illustrates how difficult the migration passage could be. The problem with these deaths was that they were selling fake life jackets. They were full of absorbent material and had no buoyancy. Those who had money could buy authentic, proper ones. These deaths were the result of human, criminal folly. With regard to photography, it’s not about technique but more about empathy. It’s the ability to connect with people and to have boundaries. If somebody says: “Please do not take a picture” you must respect that.In a camp of 12000 people there can be much crying and screaming in distress. This affects you and Danilo found that he required psychological treatment. He recorded the sounds of the camps on his phone – he even captured the shots – the rubber bullets that were fired. The bloody face in the photographs comes from the shootings. On one day alone, 160 tear gas canisters were fired. They were Soviet-era Russian canisters that were out of date. Danilo had no gas mask and…

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Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill

Following on from his book on the mercenary force Blackwater, Jeremy Scahill delves into the Dirty Wars of the Bush and Obama era in the War on Terror. The main theatres covered include Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Scahill writes about the excesses of the Bush administration, in particular the detainee programs and he deals with how Obama has ratcheted up the campaign against terrorists with the heavy use of drones and targetted killings. There is a focus on American citizen Anwar Awlaki and his rise within the terrorist ranks and how his targetting by the US raised all kinds of legal dilemmas in terms of assassination by his own government. The Osama Bin Laden death is covered in detail, and perhaps extremely relevant, in light of the Kenya bombings this week, the book analyses the rise of Al Shebab in Somalia and also Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen. The book is very well researched, although I feel that the author is somewhat sympathetic towards the Jihadists and critical of the US government measures to contain them. Obviously, the killing of civilians is wrong from whatever side, and some of the US actions can be compared with those of the terrorists. It is frightening to witness how clandestine operations are from the White House down and the way in which the JSOC has been totally unleashed over the years to a status where it has virtually no oversight, is a scary fact. Since September 11th 2001, the War On Terror has been a real issue to most citizens of the world. Dirty Wars is a book which details this struggle in a very readable, interestign and enlightening manner. I highly recommend this book and believe it is a step up from the Blackwater predecessor. I look forward to future work from the author.

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