SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

351 Migration, Borders and Space: Decolonial Approaches

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

What is migration? Is this the “age of migration”? What is Diaspora and what challenges do diasporic communities bring to modern political constructions such as the nation-state, national “imagined” communities, citizenship and their associated metaphysics of sedentarism? This module explores these issues by critically engaging with the ways in which migration and diaspora have been understood historically and in modern and contemporary times. Different theories, approaches, and disciplinary angles will be introduced and discussed. We will also consider what de-colonising approaches to migration and diaspora might look like.

By drawing on established and less charted bodies of work on migration studies, diaspora and identity, postcolonial and de-colonial studies the course offers an interdisciplinary approach to the emergence of diasporas, the reformulation of 'home' and the simultaneous instability and reinforcement of nation-states. The second part of the course offers ethnographic explorations of borders and of the governmentalities of migration. We will examine how the bio-political control of migration is practiced at borders and on bodies, shaping migrant and refugee journeys and subjectivities. Ethnographies of migration and diaspora will offer a lens into wider lived and embodied experiences of time, space and identities in the contemporary times.


Guided option for students on:

  • BA Social Anthropology (Year 2 or Year 3)
  • BA Social Anthropology and... (Year 3)
  • BA Global Development (Year 2)

This module is also a School-wide Open Option (Year 2 or Year 3). No prerequisites.

Suggested reading

Representative  readings:
  • Anderson B. (2013) Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Introduction.
  • Appadurai, A. (2006) Fear of small numbers: An essay on the geography of anger. Durham, N.C.; London: Duke University Press.
  • Crawley, H., Skleparis, D. (2018) Refugees, Migrants, Neither, Both: Categorical Fetishism and the Politics of Bounding in Europe’s ‘Migration Crisis.’ Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44, 48–64.
  • De Genova, N. and N. Peutz (2010) The Deportation Regime: sovereignty, space and the freedom of movement. Duke University Press. Introduction.
  • Fassin, D. (2011) “Policing Borders, Producing Boundaries. The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times”. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40, 213-226.
  • Ioanide, P. (2015) The emotional politics of racism: How feelings trump facts in an era of colorblindness. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Iosif, K. and Robins, S. (2017) “Missing migrants: deaths at sea and unidentified bodies in Lesbos” in: Madeleine Hurd, Hastings Donnan and Carolin Leutloff-Grandits, eds., Migrating Borders and Moving Times: Temporality and the Crossing of Borders in Europe (pp. 157-175). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Khosravi, S. (2010) “Illegal Traveller”: an auto-ethnography of borders. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Navaro-Yashin, Y. (2008) “Life Is Dead Here”: Sensing the Political in “No Man’s Land”. In
  • Panourgiá N. & Marcus G. (Eds.), Ethnographica Moralia: Experiments in Interpretive Anthropology (pp. 168-187). New York: Fordham University.
  • Rosa, J. & Bonilla, Y. (2017) Deprovincializing Trump, decolonizing diversity, and unsettling anthropology. American Ethnologist, 44, 201–208.
  • Salih, R. (2017). 'Bodies that walk, bodies that talk, bodies that love. Palestinian women refugees, affectivity and the politics of the ordinary.' Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, 49 (3). pp. 742-760.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules