Frontiers of Mobility: Migration and Control in an Age of Securitisation

Dr Ruben Andersson, London School of Economics 

Tuesday 15 March 2016, 3pm, War Studies Meeting Room (K6.07)

Amid the political panic over the migration or refugee ‘crisis’, the capability to control cross- border movement has emerged as a holy grail for anxious politicians in Europe and elsewhere – just at a time when the capability to regain such control looms large for well- connected refugees and migrants themselves. This paper sketches some initial thoughts on how to analyse and research this tense juncture, characterised by a growing mismatch between states’ vast resources to control movement and the equally unprecedented resources at migrants’ disposal, as well as by the increasing securitisation of mobility that attempts to ‘paper over’ this very mismatch. One way of approaching this juncture from an anthropological perspective, I suggest, is to build an ‘ecological’ approach that explores interactions in a ‘complex system’ of mobility control. Complex systems analysis may help bridge historical and empirical scales, reaching an ethnographically grounded account of today’s perennial ‘mobility crises’ that joins up the microphysics of mobility with meso/macro structures and longer historical shifts. In the same vein, an ecological perspective may also allow for analytically treating what are often seen as separate ‘mobility problematics’ within the same frame, from the heavily patrolled European borderlands to the control of air travel and the perennial refugee encampments outside the West.

Ruben Andersson is an anthropologist at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, London School of Economics and Political Science, and the author of Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe (University of California Press, 2014).

This event is part of the Borders, Citizenship & Mobility workshop, co-organised by RCIR and the Department of Geography, King’s College London