Walking seminar along the northern section of the Balkan migrant route in Istria
From 12-15 September 2023 researchers of the Route Biographies project as well as several researchers from the Heritage on the Margins program walked part of the northern section of the Balkan migrant route through the Istrian peninsula. On this research walk, I often felt that I was walking on old-new paths, crossing old-new borders. Neither paths nor borders were the same but the area was undoubtedly corrugated and history-bitten. In part, our route, which followed the footsteps of migrants from the Middle East and Africa also revealed a new kind of Istria. In “both Istria’s” routes and borders were constantly intertwined, both in conversations with people and under my feet, and it was difficult, if not pointless, to think (and walk) them entirely separately. The sense of a multidimensional landscape, where the fragments of time and space crumbled under our feet, was made possible by our walking bodies, which were not present only in the here and now but were establishing various constantly changing relationships. It seems like the body that walks, thinks, and speaks establishes a dynamic relationship with a variety of fragments caught in ever-changing meshwork (in Ingold’s vocabulary) – with road(s), border(s), person(s) (fellow travelers or interlocutors), animal(s), the temperature, the ground, smells, sounds, the current psychological state of mind, personal and collective knowledge, memories, thoughts, feelings, and desires. These fragments can be in a hierarchical relationship but the relation itself is dynamic, changeable, and unreliable. As such, these fragments are not layered, but rather fused. When the body walks and thinks with the landscape (and other actors) it assumes the role of a peculiar “food processor”, who is both the agent and effect of change, rearranging the chips, building, with each following step, the (new-old) world meld.
On the way, we met a representative of the border police, representatives of the local communities of Rakitovec and Sočerga, the mayor of Dolina, as well as migrants and activists from Trieste. On the first day, the artist and dancer Alessandro Conte walked with us, and on the second day, Desmond, an asylum seeker in Slovenia who has traveled as a migrant from Bosnia via Croatia to Slovenia, walked with us. Two evening workshops were organized, a screening of the film Trieste é bella di notte, as well as a screening of the dance-theatre performance On the Road to Europe by Mattie Cason, Alessandro Conte, and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Mun’im in Sočerga.