Should Borders Separate or Connect?

This is episode four of our course Six Impossible Ideas (after Brexit). For this series, we’ve teamed up with six researchers from the London School of Economics, each offering a compelling take on one seemingly impossible idea.

What is a seemingly impossible idea, you ask? We’ve challenged each of our lecturers to propose an idea about migration that appears self-evident to them but is missing, misunderstood, or misinterpreted in public conversation.

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Part 4/6 from Six Impossible Ideas (after Brexit)

In our political and media narratives, we often operate with binary notions: secure or insecure borders, legal or illegal immigration. Ruben Andersson, an anthropologist and Associate Professor at Oxford University who researches undocumented migration from West Africa to Southern Europe, challenges this way of thinking.

Andersson immerses himself in the reality of migration, accompanying migrants, border guards, and aid workers to present the impact of the migration control industry from their perspectives.

Apart from the usual three questions, we’ve linked to two full chapters from Andersson’s book, Illegality, Inc., winner of the 2015 British Sociological Association/BBC Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award.

Thinking of borders as points of connection

Will deals like the one with Turkey reduce migration?

Let’s talk about solutions

Recommended Reading

Ruben’s book Illegality, Inc. is based on his research on the trail of undocumented migration from West Africa into Southern Europe. We’ve secured permission from the University of California Press to share two chapters, Hunter and Prey, on the spread of the border control industry deep into West Africa, and The Border Spectacle, on the construction of the notion of the illegal migrant. Click here to view.

This recent Quartz article summarises the futility of borders and fences in deterring migration, from 2005 to today.

Did you know the world now has more border barriers than at any time in modern history? Raising Barriers, a new Washington Post series, examines barriers through words, video, and sound.

Resources hand-picked by Ruben:

Border Patrol Nation, a book by Todd Miller, as an important comparison between the US border and what’s happening in Europe.

A global view from Border Vigils, by Jeremy Hardin.

The award-winning documentary, Fire at Sea, which captures life on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a frontline in the European migrant crisis.

Ruben Andersson

Ruben is Associate Professor at Oxford University’s Department of International Development and Associate Researcher at Stockholm University’s Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on migration, borders, and security. His book, Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe, documents the vast industry built around undocumented migration. Currently, he is investigating the risks and danger associated with international intervention in Mali and the wider sub-Saharan Sahel region.

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You should also sign up for our newest course, A Migrant’s View, here. It’s a bit different than our other courses, focussing on both research about so-called “origin countries” (where migrants and refugees come from) and stories of arrival, waiting, and return. By signing up for our newsletter on our site, you’ll be the first to know which courses we’ll be releasing next (trust us, there will be more).

What is Migration Matters?

Migration Matters was founded in January 2016 to address the public’s biggest conundrums and fears surrounding migration and the so-called refugee crisis.

Our free video-based courses break down commonly held preconceptions about migration and offer nuanced and solution-oriented perspectives from leading thinkers in the field: researchers, practitioners, as well as migrants and refugees themselves.

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