724 Migration, Borders and Space: Decolonial Approaches

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Module overview

What is migration? Is this the ‘age of migration’? Just as new forms and flows of movement – from people, to capital, to goods and information – point us towards an increasingly mobile world, so do we witness the proliferation and fortification of borders on the global scale, and the extension and diffusion of border policies, practices, logics and technologies into the local spaces of everyday life. Far from being abstract lines at the edges of nation-states borders form a central technology in the governance of human life; structuring not only the right to move but also the right to stay put, and shaping everyday experiences of space, surveillance, access to resources, and degrees of exposure to multiple forms of harm. In this module, we will examine how the bio-political control of migration is practised at borders and on bodies, shaping migrant and refugee journeys, subjectivities, and practices of 'resistance'. We will seek to understand borders through an anthropological interrogation of what borders do, and of how border regimes produce ‘race’, gender and class both as structures of power and as everyday experiences. This course will explore these issues by critically engaging with the ways in which migration has been understood historically and in contemporary times, introducing different theories, approaches and disciplinary angles for discussion. Through ethnographic explorations of borders, sovereignties, and governmentalities of migration across spatial and temporal contexts we will consider what a decolonial approach to migration and migration studies might look like.   


Compulsory module for all students on:

  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies
  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies + Intensive Language

Guided option for students on:

  • MA Anthropology of Food
  • MA Anthropology of Food + Intensive Language
  • MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability
  • MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health
  • MRes Social Anthropology
  • MRes Social Anthropology + Intensive Language

This module is also a School-wide Open Option. No prerequisites.

  • Note: Combination of 724 Migration, Borders and Space and 725 Asian and African Diasporas: Culture, Politics, Identities is open only to students on the MA Migration and Diaspora Studies and the MRes Social Anthropology. All other MA students may take either 724 or 725 as an option, but not both.


Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  • Understand the parameters of analysis and stakes involved in migration and diaspora theories and their applicability.
  • Use interdisciplinary approaches to analyze the past and present phenomenon of migration and the formation of diasporic communities.
  • Apply increased analytical and research skills to contemporary topics related to migration and diaspora.
  • Read texts closely and critically.
  • Reflect critically and in nuanced ways on the politics of knowledge production involved in representing migrant and diasporas in academic and non academic literature.
  • Understand how "migration" is a lens to analyse wider issues including: governmentality, borders meaning and making, nationalism and the formation and evolution of racial capitalist systems.
  • Acquire theoretical skills enabling social and political change.


Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Anderson, B. 2013. Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Appadurai, A. 2006. Fear of small numbers: An essay on the geography of anger. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
  • Bucholtz, M. 2019 The public life of white affects. Journal of Sociolinguistics. 23: 485–504.
  • 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. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
  • Fassin, D. 2011. Policing Borders, Producing Boundaries: The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times. Annual Review of Anthropology 40: 213-226.
  • Fassin, D. 2013. On Resentment and Ressentiment: The Politics and Ethics of Moral Emotions. Current Anthropology 54:3, 249-267.
  • 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 Migrating Borders and Moving Times: Temporality and the Crossing of Borders in Europe (pp. 157-175)
  • 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 Press.
  • 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): 742-760.
  • Salih R. 2018. 'Refugees and cathartic politics: From human rights to the right to be human.' South Atlantic Quarterly 117(1): 135-155.
  • Vertovec, S. 2018. The public understanding of migration. Max Planck Society Newsroom .


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules