CFP Edinburgh Conference in Critical Migration and Border Studies

Call for a Collective Debate and Intervention

Politics, Practices, and Discourses of Mobility

  First Edinburgh Conference in Critical Migration and Border Studies


  The movement of people has long been a contentious socio-political phenomenon that also currently dominates newspaper headlines and political debates in the UK, Europe, and beyond. The flow of people on the move becomes increasingly directed, monitored, and controlled by complex networks of governmental actors, an emerging regime that overflows traditional conceptions of nation-states and their organisation. Migrations highlight and often problematise the functioning of the international sovereign state system and broach diverse questions concerning (the limits of) democratic inclusion and rights, race, and international (labour) relations. In response to the war in Syria, leading to one of the most severe refugee crises in the last decades, the UK as well as the EU have closed their doors to those on the move, fleeing violence and persecution. Reports on deadly tragedies occurring along the external borders of the EU have become commonplace phenomena. At the same time, migrations within the EU are met with increasing opposition: those who leave certain EU member states and move toward Western European countries experience increasing political rejection, social antagonism, and racial discrimination.

How can we understand the discourses that portray people on the move primarily as security concerns or ‘welfare scroungers’ who would threaten the economic and cultural well-being of nation-states and their populations? How are borders practiced as political technologies, keeping some (temporarily) in and others out? How important is race in contemporary migration governance, and in questions of citizenship? How do such discourses, and the practices of surveillance they engender, operate within the university as an institution? And, is it not time to go beyond a discourse that regards migration first and foremost as a political problem that needs to be governed? Is it, instead, possible to regard migration as a social force – beyond the demands of the labour market and citizenship – that creates and enacts ‘new worlds’ with the potential for realising social justice?

In this two-day workshop, we will explore these and other questions through collective debates in an open format. Instead of following the individualistic logic so prevalent in academic settings today, we hope to engage in collaborative thought processes and reflections, and to identify common themes, questions, and concerns that unite our various works. Rather than preparing paper-based individual presentations, PhD students and early career researchers will be invited to come together in small groups to provide short inputs and stimulate collective discussion. Following up on successes with this format at a previous workshop in Leicester, this event seeks to further promote and extend MobLab, an emerging network of critical researchers working at the intersections of activism and academic knowledge production in the field of migration, mobility, and border studies.

Possible themes to discuss include (but are by no means limited to):

  • What boundaries exist between academia and activism? How can (or should?) we overcome them?
  • How can we intervene in the politics of migration from a critical perspective?
  • How are we teaching migration and mobility, and how can we encourage critical reflections on these topics in the classroom?
  • How can we deal with institutional requirements in higher education, such as the monitoring of students for border control purposes?
  • How do pressures within academia – such as the need to publish in particular outlets, to excel individually, to obtain research funding – affect our ability to produce critical work? What coping strategies can we develop?

If you are interested in participating in this event, please send a short abstract of the concrete problematic you would like to discuss, and a brief biographical note reflecting your interests and background by 26/11/2014 to

Nina Perkowski

and Veit Schwab

This will allow us to group people according to their interests. If you have further questions regarding the format, the workshop, or the network, don’t hesitate to send us an email as well.

Applications from persons without formal academic affiliation are highly encouraged!

A limited number of travel grants is available. Please indicate in your application whether you will need financial support for travel and/or accommodation in Edinburgh.

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