Public Seminar | Fighting for an un/common cause: can grassroots resistance delegitimize and undermine border and migration control?

09-12-2021 from 15:30 to 17:00
Online (MS Teams)


In this talk I explore some of the attempts taken by activist citizens and social movements in Europe to fight and to delegitimize oppressive and racist immigration policies or what I elsewhere has called Departheid. From street protests to targeted collective actions, and from court appeals to documentary making, these creative attempts are amazing in showing courage to face the state authorities and in forging solidarity between illegalized migrants, residents, and citizens. Notwithstanding, during the time I conducted ethnographic fieldwork among activists, these attempts to fight and undermine regimes of border control were seriously overturned by two major dynamics. Internally, different views among activists in understanding how (racialized) power relation worked within the migration field, and society at large, became a divisive and demoralizing element. Externally, the state authorities resorted to (racialized) violence in breaking down social movements and intimidating activists, using raids, arrests, deportation of leaders, and many other methods. The talk will try to make sense of not-always-unified resistance and activism in a migration field that oppresses not only illegalized migrants but many of those who dare to stand up against its racist and fascist tendencies. Inherently, the talk grapples with an inconvenient question: can non-violent and not-always-unified resistance undermine in any significant sense a Departheid-like formation of oppressive and racist migration regimes? If not, how might a successful resistance look like?

About the speaker

Barak Kalir is an Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam. He is the co-director of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies and is currently involved in the H2020 ADMIGOV project: Advancing Alternative Migration Governance. Barak has recently rounded off an ERC-funded project entitled: “The Social Life of State Deportation Regimes”, where together with a team of researchers he ethnographically documented and analyzed the views, motivations and practices of state bureaucrats and civil-society actors, directly involved in deportation of illegalized migrants in several countries around the world: Ecuador, France, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, and Romania.

Among his recent publications are: To Deport or to Adopt” (2020, Ethnography), “Departheid: The Draconian Governance of Illegalized Migrants in Western States” (2019, Conflict and Society), “Repressive Compassion: Deportation Caseworkers Furnishing an Emotional Comfort Zone in Encounters with Illegalized Migrants” (2019, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review), and two special issues: “Nonrecording states: between legibility and looking away” (2017, Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology) and “Re‐searching access: what do attempts at studying migration control tell us about the state?” (2019, Social Anthropology).

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