skip to content


My research on the Greek island of Samos explores the role and work of hope among those caught up in lengthy processes of seeking asylum in Europe. My interlocutors took great risks crossing from Turkey to Greece in a smuggler’s boat and upon arrival, commonly expressed disappointment and despair at conditions and processes of asylum on the Aegean islands. Framing hope as an orientation to deeply held values, I explore the fallout of hopeful actions that do not result in desired outcomes, and the temporality of making an eve

ryday ordinary in extraordinary circumstances. While navigating material and sociopolitical hardships, I follow my interlocutors’ relationships to hope and to the values they seek to realize in concrete objects and outcomes in an attempt to locate not only a safe, but a good life.  


Photo 1 – Crossing the sea 

The first act that unites my interlocutors is the decision to travel from Turkey to the Greek islands through the services of a smuggler. Both careful evaluation of practical reasoning and the affective momentum of realizing imagined futures in Europe lead my interlocutors to crossing the Mediterranean Sea in frequently overcrowded rubber dinghies. This photo shows through the cracked screen of a phone the very moment my interlocutor’s boat was met by the Hellenic Coast Guard. He kept this photo as a reminder of the risks and horrors he and family faced on their journey to Europe.  


Photo 2 – Patience comes in waves 

Upon arrival and registration within the Greek asylum system, my interlocutors frequently experienced shock and dismay at the material and sociopolitical conditions of life in the camp. People waited for years for their asylum claims to progress to a point where they were granted permission to travel freely away from the island. Until receiving what was known as an ‘open card,’ with no geographical restrictions of movement, asylum applicants were confined to Samos. Many chose to pass their time by building temporary communities and watching the sea which surrounded them.  




Photo 3 – Hope in activism 

Appalled and frustrated with the asylum process and life in the camp, some in Samos engaged hope as a technology capable of bringing about desired futures. Moments of activism sought to produce change and free people of the geographical restrictions placed upon them by the Greek asylum system. The man in this photo pleaded that I share this picture so that the world might see what was happening in Samos and intervene. Since my fieldwork, the camp in Samos has moved to a closed camp model, where those seeking asylum can no longer freely travel within Samos and are now confined to a remote and fenced-in camp.