Borderlands: From migrant question to a new cosmopolitism

Key information

3:15 PM to 5:00 PM
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)

About this event

Michel Agier (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)
In this lecture, I examine the character of the borderlands that emerge on the margins of nation-states. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork (from Beirut or Zambia to Calais), I show that borders, far from disappearing, have acquired a new kind of centrality in our societies, becoming reference points for the growing numbers of people who do not find a place in the countries they wish to reach. Camps, encampments or urban squats are the main border-places, sites for a new kind of subject, the border dweller, who is both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, enclosed on the one hand and excluded on the other, and who is obliged to learn, under harsh conditions, the ways of the world and of other people. In this respect, the lives of migrants, even in the uncertainties or dangers of the borderlands, tell us something about the condition in which everyone is increasingly living today, a banal cosmopolitan condition in which the experience of the unfamiliar is more common and the relation between self and other is in constant renewal. Michel Agier is an Anthropologist, Professor at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris) and Senior Researcher at Institut de Recherches pour le Développement (IRD). His main interests are Human Globalization, Refugees, Migrants and Urban Marginalities. He has been chair of the Centre d'Etudes Africaines at EHESS (2004-2010) and member of the board of Médecins Sans Frontières (2004-2010). He is currently coordinating the research program “Babels – The City as a Border" awarded by French Agency for Research (ANR, 2016-2018). He recently published, in English, Managing the Undesirables. Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Government (Polity Press, 2011), and Borderlands. Towards an Anthropology of Cosmopolitan Condition (Polity Press 2016). Various articles available on

Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies and Department of Anthropology and Sociology