“BORDERS AS MIRRORS: RACIAL HIERARCHIES & THE POLITICS OF MIGRATION”

Wednesday 2nd May 2018, 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM @ MAL 421, Birkbeck, University Of London, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX – FREE TO ATTEND

By: Dr Alpa Parmar is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Criminology and Associate Director of Border Criminology.

In this paper I propose that borders across western liberal democracies are like mirrors that reflect, deflect, and obscure the image of western democracies and their attitudes about race and emotions toward racial others.

Conceptualized as mirrors, the juxtaposition of the transformative function of borders alongside their aim to preserve racial and colonial hierarchies across the world becomes clear. Borders have transformed cities, policing, categories of belonging and the mobility of migrant groups. Alongside these changes, borders also remind us of the productive capacity of the state to make and maintain race, and framed as such, borders reflect the facticity of racial hierarchies that govern mobility for some and not others.

Borders conceptualized as mirrors as opposed to lines and boundaries, or barriers and walls, allows their ambiguous and protean nature to be better captured. The paper draws on empirical research on policing migration in England to demonstrate how borders operate as mirrors at micro and macro levels, and their role in ultimately ensuring that sites of racial belonging are liminal.

The paper concludes by asking how the metaphor of borders as mirrors opens up the possibility for western liberal democracies to engage in a process of self-reflection (by holding a mirror to ourselves) to enable us to see beyond the apparent irreconcilability of current bordering practices and the duality of their humanitarian and exclusionary aims.

Dr. Alpa conducts research on the policing of migration and is interested in race, gender, and class and how the intersection of criminal justice and migration control racialize minority ethnic and migrant groups. Alpa also conducts research using life history methods to understand the pathways into and out of offending for minority ethnic groups and their experiences of being involved with the criminal justice system in the UK.

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