SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Humanitarian Borders: Unequal Mobility and the Need to Save Lives

Dr. Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam)

Date: 20 February 2019Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4429

Type of Event: Seminar

Note: Internal event not open to external attendees.


This lecture focuses on the relationship between unequal mobility regimes, violent borders and the humanitarian response they engender. Drawing on research with Médecins Sans Frontières the lecture pays attention to the diverse ways humanitarianism responds to unequal mobility and violent borders and how humanitarian action is challenged and changed in the process. Particular attention is paid to the new, temporary spaces of relief that are created on land and the politics of visibility in search and rescue at sea. Through a focus on diverse practices the lecture shows how humanitarian responses to violent borders and unequal mobility act as sticking plaster for larger systemic issues underpinning states’ decisions to harden borders and make mobility increasingly difficult for those deemed undesirable. 


Polly Pallister-Wilkins is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Amsterdam, working at the intersection of political geography and critical security studies. She researches the interrelations of mobility, border control and humanitarianism, while previously working on the political sociologies of walls and fences across a range of scales. Her research has appeared in International Political Sociology, Political Geography, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Antipode, Security Dialogue, and Geopolitics amongst others and she is currently finalising a monograph based on her humanitarian borderwork research. She is a principal investigator in the Horizon 2020 project ‘ADMIGOV: Advancing Alternative Migration Governance’ looking at issues of humanitarian protection in wider systems of migration governance.

Chair: Laleh Khalili

Organiser: Dr. Matthew Eagleton-Pierce

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