Migration, Borders, Diaspora


Course lead: Dr Lucy Mayblin

2021

This module explores the ways in which colonial histories continue to shape contemporary immigration policies, particularly in Britain. The module aims to explain how immigration policies result in racially stratified policies of mobility, immobility, inclusion and exclusion. It examines the hostile environment policy approach taken since 2010 through the case studies of Go Home vans, family migration, and asylum policy. It also examines ideas of diaspora.

This module explores the ways in which colonial histories continue to shape contemporary immigration policies, particularly in Britain. The module aims to explain how immigration policies result in racially stratified policies of mobility, immobility, inclusion and exclusion.

It examines the hostile environment policy approach taken since 2010 through the case studies of Go Home vans, family migration, and asylum policy. It also examines ideas of diaspora.


Lectures

1. Asylum in Britain and the Legacies of Colonialism

Dr Lucy Mayblin

Despite being located far from any current conflict zones, and hosting a tiny fraction of the world’s refugees, Great Britain is generally hostile to people who are seeking asylum. We make it very difficult for people who are seeking asylum to arrive in Britain, and if they do manage to make it here were make both their lives, and their chances of being successful in their asylum application, difficult. This session will explain who asylum seekers and refugees are, where refugee rights came from, and how we can understand current hostility to people seeking asylum when we situate the contemporary moment in the context of colonial histories.

Despite being located far from any current conflict zones, and hosting a tiny fraction of the world’s refugees, Great Britain is generally hostile to people who are seeking asylum. We make it very difficult for people who are seeking asylum to arrive in Britain, and if they do manage to make it here were make both their lives, and their chances of being successful in their asylum application, difficult.

This session will explain who asylum seekers and refugees are, where refugee rights came from, and how we can understand current hostility to people seeking asylum when we situate the contemporary moment in the context of colonial histories.

2. Rethinking Diaspora

Dr Ipek Demir

The field of diaspora studies, despite its transnational promise, has too often got trapped in methodologically nationalist perspectives, confining discussions of diaspora to nation-centric understandings and discourses. This has happened despite many diaspora theorists, Avtar Brah, Robin Cohen, Paul Gilroy and others having discussed diaspora within the context of empire. In this session we will examine the spatial and temporal limitations this has brought to our understanding of the migrations of peoples and how ignoring the colonial and empire axis of diaspora contribute to North-centric (Eurocentric) perspectives and fail to recognise the pivotal role of diasporas in decolonising the Global North.

The field of diaspora studies, despite its transnational promise, has too often got trapped in methodologically nationalist perspectives, confining discussions of diaspora to nation-centric understandings and discourses. This has happened despite many diaspora theorists, Avtar Brah, Robin Cohen, Paul Gilroy and others having discussed diaspora within the context of empire.

In this session we will examine the spatial and temporal limitations this has brought to our understanding of the migrations of peoples and how ignoring the colonial and empire axis of diaspora contribute to North-centric (Eurocentric) perspectives and fail to recognise the pivotal role of diasporas in decolonising the Global North.

3. Family, Intimacy & Migration

Dr Joe Turner

This session questions the idea that love is without borders. It explores how dominant structures of family and intimacy are in fact central to contemporary border regimes. In imperial states like Britain, who gets to be a ‘family’, or more precisely, accorded the social and political status that comes from being recognised as ‘real’ family is deeply racialised and bound up with colonial power.

European and bourgeois constructs of family were pillars of white supremacy under formal empire and bound to projects of dispossession and exploitation. These forces continue to shape how certain ideals of family are networked throughout British immigration law, which limit mobility and settlement.

Whilst patriarchal and heteronormative definitions of family are used to exclude people moving to Britain, often from former British colonies, appeals to ‘protect’ so called genuine families and ‘family values’ are increasingly used by the state to justify violent border practices.

This session questions the idea that love is without borders. It explores how dominant structures of family and intimacy are in fact central to contemporary border regimes. In imperial states like Britain, who gets to be a ‘family’, or more precisely, accorded the social and political status that comes from being recognised as ‘real’ family is deeply racialised and bound up with colonial power.

European and bourgeois constructs of family were pillars of white supremacy under formal empire and bound to projects of dispossession and exploitation. These forces continue to shape how certain ideals of family are networked throughout British immigration law, which limit mobility and settlement.

Whilst patriarchal and heteronormative definitions of family are used to exclude people moving to Britain, often from former British colonies, appeals to ‘protect’ so called genuine families and ‘family values’ are increasingly used by the state to justify violent border practices.

4. Modern Migration Theory: The Macroeconomics of Sweden's Refugee Reception

Prof Peo Hansen

Today both researchers and policy-makers agree that refugees admitted to the European Union constitute a net cost and fiscal burden for the receiving societies. As is often claimed, there is a trade-off between refugee migration and the fiscal sustainability of the welfare state. In this lecture, Peo Hansen shows that this consensual cost-perspective on migration is built on a flawed economic conception of the orthodox “sound finance” doctrine.

By shifting perspective to examine migration through the macroeconomic lens offered by Modern Monetary Theory, Hansen is able to demonstrate sound finance’s detrimental impact on migration policy and research. Most importantly, this undertaking offers the tools with which both migration research and migration policy could be modernized and put on a realistic footing.

Empirically, the lecture brings these tools to bear on the case of Sweden, the country that, proportionally speaking, has received the most refugees in the EU over the years while also having one of the most comprehensive welfare states in the EU.

Today both researchers and policy-makers agree that refugees admitted to the European Union constitute a net cost and fiscal burden for the receiving societies. As is often claimed, there is a trade-off between refugee migration and the fiscal sustainability of the welfare state. In this lecture, Peo Hansen shows that this consensual cost-perspective on migration is built on a flawed economic conception of the orthodox “sound finance” doctrine.

By shifting perspective to examine migration through the macroeconomic lens offered by Modern Monetary Theory, Hansen is able to demonstrate sound finance’s detrimental impact on migration policy and research. Most importantly, this undertaking offers the tools with which both migration research and migration policy could be modernized and put on a realistic footing.

Empirically, the lecture brings these tools to bear on the case of Sweden, the country that, proportionally speaking, has received the most refugees in the EU over the years while also having one of the most comprehensive welfare states in the EU.

5. ‘Global Britain’ and the coloniality of British citizenship

Prof Michaela Benson

Citizenship is commonly understood as offering equal rights. But looking into the history of this shows the struggles that accompanied this, the populations written out of the claim to these equal rights, and the global inequalities this produced in its wake.

In this lecture, I consider ‘the coloniality of citizenship’ in the case of Britain’s immigration and nationality legislation. Focussing on how the status of the people of Hong Kong shifted from subjects, to citizens, to aliens and more recently ‘Good migrants’ for ‘Global Britain’, I show how the coloniality of British citizenship set the stage for a post-Brexit Britain that has ’taken back control’ of its borders.

Citizenship is commonly understood as offering equal rights. But looking into the history of this shows the struggles that accompanied this, the populations written out of the claim to these equal rights, and the global inequalities this produced in its wake.

In this lecture, I consider ‘the coloniality of citizenship’ in the case of Britain’s immigration and nationality legislation. Focussing on how the status of the people of Hong Kong shifted from subjects, to citizens, to aliens and more recently ‘Good migrants’ for ‘Global Britain’, I show how the coloniality of British citizenship set the stage for a post-Brexit Britain that has ’taken back control’ of its borders.

6. Borders and Violence

Dr Arshad Isakjee

This lecture elaborates borders as sites of violence. In the contemporary world we often see and hear about migrants suffering and sometimes dying along border zones – including in maritime spaces such as in the Mediterranean.

At other times abuses are reported at land borders or in reception centres or formal and informal camps that migrants might reside in. This lecture uses the work of Johan Galtung among others, to work through what we mean by violence – and specifically structural violence, in relation to borders.

Using examples of border violence in Europe from case studies in Northern France and the Balkans, the lecture explores why border violence takes place, in what ways it manifests and how it relates to race and processes of racialisation.

This lecture elaborates borders as sites of violence. In the contemporary world we often see and hear about migrants suffering and sometimes dying along border zones – including in maritime spaces such as in the Mediterranean.

At other times abuses are reported at land borders or in reception centres or formal and informal camps that migrants might reside in. This lecture uses the work of Johan Galtung among others, to work through what we mean by violence – and specifically structural violence, in relation to borders.

Using examples of border violence in Europe from case studies in Northern France and the Balkans, the lecture explores why border violence takes place, in what ways it manifests and how it relates to race and processes of racialisation.