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Politics, Practices, and Discourses of Mobility

Reporting from the first Edinburgh Conference in Critical Migration and Border Studies: a GJA Innovative Initiative Fund event

About the Conference and this Report

The First Edinburgh Conference in Critical Migration and Border Studies brought together 37 early career researchers based in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. It followed the format of an unconference, with participants preparing inputs and stimulating collective debate of common themes and questions. The following report summarises the discussions of the eight sessions that took place on Friday, with reports on each session written by the respective facilitators. It also briefly outlines the content of the two conference keynotes, as well as the network-oriented discussions that took place on Saturday, January 10, 2015.

Opening Keynote: Vicki Squire (Politics and International Studies, Warwick)

Thursday 8th January, 16.30 – 18.00

Post/Humanitarian Border Politics Between Mexico and the US: People, Places, Things

Vicki Squire opened the conference with a look towards the US-Mexican border, and the politics of different humanitarian interventions in the Sonoran border region in particular. Examining various artistic and academic engagements of things left behind, as well as legal struggles over the distribution of water bottles and practices of recycling of discarded belongings, the talk developed a unique ‘more-than-human’ perspective on the significance of people, places and things to humanitarian border struggles. While drawing attention to the ambiguities of humanitarian interventions, Squire also focused on the critical potential of a post/humanitarian border politics that transforms place by fighting for people, through things.

Learning and teaching in the context of/about migration

This session was organized by Sophie Cooper (Edinburgh), Reem Doukmak (Warwick), Stephen Trotter (Glasgow), and Jennifer Elrick (Toronto). It addressed two overlapping and complementary forms of teaching/learning in the context of migration: teaching in higher education and teaching/learning in migration/refugee contexts. The organizers started off the session by talking extemporaneously for ten minutes each about their teaching experiences and one content point, drawn from a list of possible ‘entry points’ for discussion generated during their pre-session preparation session. These entry points included: belonging, boxes, methods, ethics, ethnicity/religion/others, and language. The session then progressed to a round-robin discussion, and the other ten participants were encouraged to follow the coordinators’ leads by talking about their experiences with teaching and one thematic concern each arising from those.

The following issues were raised in the course of the discussion:

1) The importance of looking at contemporary movements and debates through a historical lens;

2) Exposing students to real-life migration narratives as a counterpoint to theory (e.g. through interview assignments);

3) Foregrounding different national institutional contexts when studying pathways to belonging for migrants (e.g. religion versus ethnicity);

4) Confronting the assumptions one brings into the classroom as a teacher (e.g. level of privilege in relation to students);

5) Setting the course syllabus as a political act;

6) Bringing activist groups, NGOs and other experts into the classroom;

7) The risks/possibilities of intervening politically as a teaching assistant if one does not have control over the syllabus;

8) The role of universities in policing migrant students (e.g. through mandatory attendance-taking) and ways to foreground that (e.g. announcing oneself as UK Border Agency representative);

9) Introducing critical language and concepts into elite, mainstream, policy-oriented courses in a way that does not evoke immediate resistance or result in a loss of credibility;

10) Using other countries (e.g. US) as case studies in courses to encourage critical thinking from a ‘safe’ distance;

11) Refugees are likely to become migrants after they survive the sea and seek asylum in Europe

12) The ethical challenges that the researcher encounters in the field and learning from refugees’ coping experience; 

13) The role of refugee host/funding body policy in shaping methodologies of refugee education; and

14) Putting refugees in categories (refugee/guest) impacts on how refugees view themselves as passive recipients of services rather than co-participants in the making of their lives.

Positions, positionality, privilege(s) and conflict(s)

The discussion was organised in small groups around three main themes, which in turn were organized around two main questions to engage with. The three main themes were:

1. the relationship between research and activism (with a specific emphasis on positionality and knowledge of production),

2. the relationship between migrant activism and resistance,

3. how to overcome binaries.

The questions that fostered the discussion around the first theme were:

a) How can the tensions that arise from doing critical activist research be a productive part of the process?

b) How to produce politically relevant knowledge that provide tools to resist the management of migration and the production of Knowledge? How not to feed into what we are trying to resist?

As concerns the second theme, instead, the following questions were identified:

a) What forms does migrant resistance take? What is migrant resistance? How does it relate to intentionality, purpose, etc.?

b) How can a researcher stimulate/support migrant activism and resistance?

The discussion on the third theme revolved around the following questions:

a) Do we need to overcome binaries, and how?

b) Which use can binaries have?

Different small groups discussed each question and then presented the outcomes of their discussion to the whole group for a further collective reflection. This resulted in several inputs/questions/precautions that the whole group identified as important for each question. A list of the inputs emerged for each question is following: 

Question: How can the tensions that arise from doing critical activist research be a productive part of the process?

· Where should activism be/Where is the struggle?

· Who controls the research process? Can you control that your research is used for the right purpose?

· Access to research groups can get limited

· Language is different

· Compromise due to source of funding

· If you are known as activist scholar, will this help you disseminate knowledge?

· Makes you more aware of your positionality

· Makes you more accountable – non-governmental/non-academic networks

· Produce more politically relevant knowledge

· How to overcome binaries in discussion?

· Need for decolonial mindset

· Access: individualism versus collectivism

Question: What forms does migrant resistance take? What is migrant resistance? How does it relate to intentionality, purpose, etc.?

· What is activism? How to identify resistance?

· Does resistance always involve intention? What if migrants do not call it resistance?

· Question of researcher privilege

· Different layers of resistance - everyday acts / community organisations / political activism / trade union activism – messiness of categories and complexity

· Relate our activism to other forms of resistance

Question: How to produce politically relevant knowledge that provides tools to resist the management of migration and the production of Knowledge? How not to feed into what we are trying to resist?

· How is research framed?

· Binaries of success and failure – how do we look at the knowledge we produce?

· Ignoring migrant voice? Look at the whole picture – not enemies but players

Question: How can a researcher stimulate/support migrant activism and resistance?

· Image of the perfect political migrant – not be part of exclusionary system – how to avoid imposing this on participants?

· Should we categorise resistance?

· Is it up to ‘us’ to define and categorise resistance? Relationship researcher and migrant (binaries?)

· Reinforce binary between researcher and migrant resistance? Our resistance not separate from migrant resistance.

· What is resistance? Where does it play out? Where do ‘we’ see it? Where do migrants see it?

· Do we as researchers laud all sorts of resistance?

Question: Which use can binaries have?

· When can we use binary to put our finger on the problem?

· Privilege – Some people only reflect and are no longer activists due to problem of binaries

· Difficulty of categorizing – we never know what might happen/what the outcome might be? Indeterminacy of life.

(Anti-) Detention, Trauma, and Violence

On 29 November 2014, nearly 100 detainees went on protest inside Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre after a detainee was physically assaulted by the guards. We began the session by showing a short film about the protest made by a solidarity protest outside the gates: https://vimeo.com/113244678.

We facilitated a discussion around i) what elements of detention are traumatic and violent, ii) the different experience of detention and iii) how we might respond to trauma and violence in detention and the immigration regime more broadly.

As might be expected, we found that the experience of detention varies - not all detainees experience detention as traumatic, violent or unjust. This reflects varying degrees of isolation and violence between detention centres. We debated how the variance between detention centres is used as a method of discipline, punishment and control. For example, Colnbrook was generally experienced as more harsh that Campsfield and the threat of being moved between detention centres was seen as a means of coercion by some detainees and is seen as a way to break down potential resistance and solidarity. Similarly the use of segregation units to deal with both resistance and those with mental health conditions was seen as another method of control. The constant state of uncertainty cause by the immigration detention and removal process is a form of violence by the British state. For example, not being automatically assigned a lawyer, the arbitrariness over when someone gets put in detention, having no time limit to detention, the purposeful incompetence of Home Office and having different rules for different detention centres all contribute to the unknown.

On a wider scale, we discussed how separation itself is fundamental to understanding the violence and trauma caused by detention. Although justified by the Home Office as administrative, this distinction between detainees and others links detention to violence in prisons and other spaces of incarceration and exclusion. We debated the poor healthcare and poor food in detention as well as the conditions of labour that sustains the system, where people in detention are forced to work for between £1 and £1.25 an hour, much needed money that allows detainees to buy phone credit to maintain contact with people outside.

Detention affects a broad population - not just those inside but also families, friends of people in detention, all those claiming asylum and reporting to the Home Office, visitors, activists and members of support groups, workers in detention centres. Many people in the session discussed how they had met people who feared detention, especially when reporting at the Home Office.

Detention can be seen as racialised or racist violence, where there is an over representation of people of colour among those who overstay their visas.

How is violence resisted? What can we do from the outside?

We discussed how hunger strikes have been a significant method of resistance and have been effective in the past. Recently, they have been managed with end of life plans put in place. The violence of the border itself is tested through repeated border crossings and deportations.

We discussed detainees’ voice not being enough to resist with. It does not seem to have the effect of public outrage. In the UK it is easy to access information which highlights negative aspects of immigration detention, and furthermore issues around detention globally. Multiple articles on detention have recently been published in the mainstream media, for example: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/yarls-wood-undercover-tour-of-detention-centre-with-dreadful-reputation-for-its-treatment-of-asylum-seekers-9863842.html.

Yet, the link between newspaper coverage and a change in public perception is weak.

Resistance on the outside of detention can include bridging separation, standing in solidarity during dawn raids, maintaining contact with people detained or removed and energising anti-detention activism. Importantly, we must look after our ourselves too to ensure effective, sustained activism against the violent and traumatic processes of detention for all those involved.

We discussed the importance of connecting the struggles in the UK and Europe to the wider global anti-detention struggles. Immigration detention must be looked at alongside, and in connection with, deportation and border struggles. Discussion around immigration detention should also be connected to discussions around prisons and the justice system as a whole.

Self-care is crucial in academic and activist environments as frustrations are ubiquitous in both, the former tends not to be as attentive to it as the latter. There is space for mutual learning and caring.

Politics of representation

The workshop was facilitated by Emma Hill (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh), Gerhild Perl (University of Bern), Jacopo Colombini (University of St. Andrews) and Vitalija Stepušaitytė (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh).


The first part of the session was dedicated to a general introduction (with short theoretical insights) of the concept of representation.The facilitators used their own research experiences to raise questions and stimulate the discussion.

· Emma: Concept of “voice”. How can migrants have voice? How can they be heard? They are totally capable to have their own voice and represent themselves, but...

· Gerhild: Political relevance of public mourning; what kind of political dimension and relevance does the recovery and public mourning of mostly anonymous dead bodies have? Is it possible that the dead re-enter the political domain once thy are recovered?

· Jacopo: Role of the collective memory; strategies to challenge media/politics hegemonic migrants representation; use of aesthetic for self-representation; are some activists' initiatives, while seeking to expose injustices and exclusion, contributing to the conceptualisation of migrants as eternal others to a racially and culturally largely homogeneous in-group?

· Vitalija: Experiences of being abroad; use of stereotypes; migrant (negative nuance of the term); sense of belonging; observing migrants; how do we place people? Why? Why do we want to know where people come from?

Representations can never be real or objective. They can take different forms, but often they are constructed images. These images need to be critically interrogated for their ideological content. In migration and borders studies we often face issues of representation, starting from the problem that often marginalized groups do not hold the power over their own representations (Who does produce them? Who does represent the voices of the “subaltern”? Who can really speak for whom?[1]) the group decided to focus on the use of migrants images in the media, specifically in the press.

Practical group activity: production of a front-page and a headline around an image of typical “boat people” image. Reflecting on media logic, critical representation and “political-correctness”. The three different groups share their considerations:

· Frustration with the coverage of “boat people”; lack of historical reflection and contextualisation (why do not add a picture of the the Niña or the Mayflower?)

· The photographer is absent; invisible; a picture that shows the helicopter would have been better;

· The choice of the headline: “Struggle for a better life”; “What the hell is going on?”; “The pursuit of Happiness”

· How to find the angle? How to challenge the dominant representations?

· How do we call people on the boat?

· We do not know who they exactly are, and what’s their story.

· Agenda: public service? How to avoid sensationalism and at the same time emergency?

· Left activism newspaper: an explanation of the context, the push factors to be there, and description of the conditions on the boat.

· How to express some notion of migrant agency? But if one focuses only on that (agency), it is still in the structure system...

· Navigating between victimization and representation of migrants’ agency...

· What about focusing on how they achieve happiness? Happiness in human, but then they are happiness seekers for the right wing!

· How to reach the audience? Powerful sentences? Focus on a person - and tell the story of an individual?


· Should the title just be descriptive? (can it be neutral?framing/essentialism)

· The question of the production process and media logic remains, but there are ways to turn this logic around (Veit's example of the mock-newspaper in Munich)

· Solutions?

o New efforts to deconstruct dominant modes of representation and challenge hegemonic ideologies

o Increased self-representation and inclusion of more migrants/refugees in the act of representing?

o Is this enough to alter the structural or institutional barriers that prevent equal participation in representation?

· Question of the audience: who is listening? Need of different strategies for different audiences?

Friday Keynote: Yasmin Gunaratnam (Sociology, Goldsmiths)

Friday 9th January, 11.30 – 13.00

The making of immigration controversies

Half-way through the thematic sessions on Friday, Yasmin Gunaratnam provided valuable insights into the making of immigration controversies today, and their influence on public sentiments vis-a-vis migration. Drawing upon the findings of an on-going ESRC research project, ‘Mapping Immigration Controversies’, that developed in response to Operation Vaken (the Home Office ‘Go Home’ vans), Yasmin Gunaratnam discussed the emerging findings from qualitative and quantitative research on Home Office immigration campaigns. The research included qualitative interviews and survey research and found both skepticism of the theatricality of campaigns and dynamic emotive intersections, displacements and feedback among different social groups that included the drawing of moral boundaries between older and more recently settled migrants and the development of innovative campaign strategies among pro-immigrant activists. To what extent does our attention to hostility, conflict and antagonism deflect from relations of generosity and ‘mobile solidarities’ (Squire, 2011)? What might we learn from past and current activism in the development of counter ‘controversies’?

At the end of her talk, Yasmin moreover problematised the whiteness within migration studies, which was reflected also at this conference. She appealed to participants to reflect on what they could do personally to challenge this, an issue that was discussed further over the next sessions and the Saturday activities in particular.


This session discussed political, methodological and epistemological questions concerning the categories and categorisations we, as critical researchers and/or activists, use to make sense of and intervene in the struggle field of migration and its government. The starting point of the session was a diagnosed tension between our reliance on categories as indispensable epistemological devices of understanding for research and activism and the need to question and distance ourselves from categories border and migration regimes strive on to stratify people’s access to mobility, rights, resources and life opportunities (e.g. ‘refugee’; ‘economic’ or ‘illegal migrant’; ‘bona fide traveller’ etc.). This tension was discussed in relation to the following three questions:

1. What is problematic about dominant categorisations of migration policy discourse and why is it difficult to overcome or abandon them?

2. In which situations does it make sense to deconstruct and destabilise, or at least distance ourselves from dominant categorisations, in which not?

3. What kind of strategies can we – as antiracist and pro-migration activists and scholars – mobilise to trouble, destabilise and disrupt dominant categories of the migration policy discourse and what might be problematic about these strategies?

In the first part of the sessions, three brief interventions tackled these questions in relation to particular categories and processes of categorisation in order to stimulate debate. In the first intervention, Stephan Scheel diagnosed an epistemic crisis of the dominant definition of the most central category of migration and its studies – the figure of the migrant, which usually defined as a person moving to another country than her country of usual residence for longer than a year. He argued that an alternative definition of a migrant was needed that accounts for the bordering practices of nation-states which constitute some people as migrants in the first place in order to explain why some people are labelled and treated as migrants though they have never crossed an international border (e.g. visa applicants who are denied access to mobility because they are suspected of intending to migrate; the problematisation of the children and grand-children of migrants as ‘second’ or ‘third’ generation migrants). Subsequently, Mariska Jung discussed in her contribution, how to understand the inclusion of ‘LGBT’ into asylum legislation. She argued that the inclusion of sexual orientation as a form of political prosecution into asylum legislation in some Western states reproduces the logic of the ‘deserving migrant’ (in this case: recognisable ‘LGBT refugees’) which is constituted in contradistinction to various categories of undeserving migrants. Mariska concluded that emancipation struggles under the umbrella of ‘rights’ can further entrench borders and legitimize immigration exclusion, and how to an increasing extent sexual rights and liberation are unwillingly used to produce the un-freedom of many Others. Finally, Maja Sager engaged with the question how it is possible to reinvent the institution of asylum without falling back into processes of categorisation based on a binary division between political refugees and economic migrants. Maja argued that the valid criticisms, which have been raised against the asylum regime, including its aforementioned binary logic of selective inclusion, do not erase its political importance in terms of recognition of political dissidence for the individual, the implicit critique of authoritarian regimes, and the potential of feminist and queer ‘up-grading’ of the conceptualisation of ‘political persecution’ in the refugee convention. In the second part of the session, the three questions above were discussed further in small groups, in which participants offered experiences and strategies on how to deal with policy-designed categories from their own research and activism. 

Creative dissemination and forms of intervention

During this session, three small groups exchanged concrete testimonies of thinking and acting between academia, creative forms (theatre, art, architecture, film, etc.) and activism. The discussions were organized around the two notions of method and dissemination. They involved considering alternative mediums (whether they be creative or not, we were interested in mediums that might go beyond academic or journalistic articles and circles), collaboration, and the public(s) for research and interventions. We found that questions of method and dissemination are linked, since they must both be aimed at specific goals and publics, and since dissemination might happen while working on a project/research. Also, some modes of dissemination need a particular kind of method in order to be possible/doable/applicable, and as a result we need to think through the two in tandem. In academia we are often pushed to create a research methodology before even starting the project, so it is difficult to know what the situation on the ground is like and what kind of creative or other forms of interventions could be useful and effective. Dissemination is an ongoing process; we need to put value on the process of research.

We also discussed how in critical migration and border studies the problem might not be one of generating more knowledge (which is a commonly shared assumption in academia). There is a need for thinking through the conditions of political struggle (strategies, communication, creativity), and how they can reach more publics. It was suggested that academics could open a space for activists to formulate their own answers. We also questioned what we meant by creativity and by interventions (What is creative? Can education, and dissemination within academia, be creative? Can we creatively think of ways of sharing debates beyond academia?) Making an intervention means activating something that is not already there: what are the ethics of this? The views of the “intellectual”, and the role of “public intellectual”, might also be trapped in a “Bourdieusian” vision (i.e. of providing knowledge for the dominated). There are different ways of establishing a “public” for these issues. Open source models for disseminating research could be used. It is hard to know or predict how things will be received, a danger of people projecting pre-conceived ideas onto creative work, and a danger of work being misunderstood or used for unintended and potentially harmful discourses and actions.

Co-production of knowledge on migration

In order to stimulate thinking about the ‘co-production of knowledge on migration and borders’ the facilitators organised an exhibition-like space. The room featured different kinds of subjects or research data relating to the question ‘How is knowledge co/produced?’. Participants were invited to explore the ‘exhibition’ of photographs, drawings and recordings, to engage with other participants, to note down questions or comments and to add to the exhibition by making their own contributions. In the following, the participants share questions and discussed their reactions to the exhibition. The following questions were projected onto the wall to stimulate further discussion, in which participants shared and exchanged experiences and concerns.

· Why is co-production of knowledge important?

· Who ist the ‚co’?

· Who is co-produced knowledge for? Who does it serve?

· Co-production - a buzzword?

· How do learning and knowledge differ and overlap?

· What are the difficulties in co-production?

· How is knowledge produced/created?

· Where is co-production happening?

· How can results of co-production of knowledge ripple out wider?

· How does academia restrict co-production?

· How does co-produced knowledge differ from academic knowledge?

For a more focused discussion in the second part of the session, participants split into two groups according to their interest.

Group 1: Co-production of knowledge in the academic research framework

With regard to the question of co-production of knowledge within the academic field, the points of discussion ranged from questions of authorship to more practical questions; how can knowledge practically be co-produced? Examples of very concrete ways of co-production were consensus editing in Google documents as well as acknowledging the co-producers’ authorship and contribution. Despite such possible solutions to the challenges of ‘co-production’, some participants expressed remaining concerns of how this would practically work. How can we challenge the domination of individuals in collectively produced knowledge, e.g. journal articles?

Group 2: Co-production of knowledge as part of the political process?

· Are we assuming that co-production is between an academic / activist and the migrant other?

· On what authority do we use people’s stories and how do we treat them with the respect they deserve?

· Are activist groups actually interested in engaging with academia?

· Activist groups can be vulnerable if they are involved in illegal behaviour.

· What is the point of co-production?

o Co-production can help to make research relevant and valid.

o Co-production can also be about working with a range of other people, not just scholars and migrants (e.g., other scholars, students).

o Need to get people out of the ivory towers – get them to engage in the real world.

o Need to engage at the community level in terms of local knowledge building.

· It is important to actually have practical strategies and particular goals / projects that achieve co-production.

· Are we talking about co-production or collaboration?

· It is about trying to shift the balance of power – it is about the relationship

· Academia can be wary of people who always work collaboratively (i.e., if you don’t have any sole publications, then you’re questioned about whether you can come up with an idea by yourself!).

· Co-production does not mean that you do the same thing – can be about complementary roles.

· PhD students have to have their research as their own, can’t be someone else’s work, so that can prevent co-production.

· All research is really a result of lots of other people’s input (e.g., PhD).

· You have to put your name on your work, but it is informed and enhanced by others.

· Who profits from the knowledge generation (e.g, the PhD student)?

o Everyone who contributes / is involved in a research project benefits in some way.

Political Economy, Migration, and the University: Organising and intervening

Two broad questions structured the workshop, with the two groups coming together to discuss interventions and organisation.

Q1: What is the current context with regard to the political economy of migration? Who are the political actors responding to these challenges?

This group discussed elements of this question and grouped our response into three themes:


· In many cases it is the same countries restricting migration that are forcing people to move, e.g. the UK through covert and overt interventions that have destabilised Syria, and then refusal to accept more than a few hundred Syrian refugees; or the US with regard to NAFTA and Mexican immigrants.

· The militarisation of border controls is playing an important part in the cultural production of nations

· Migrants from oppressed countries (and in some cases their descendents) have played an important role in many movements in imperialist countries: e.g. in Italy within the anti-war movement; in Sweden, where immigrants have organised demonstrations from Malmo to Stockholm and have done important theoretical work on Sweden's capital and military connections with Afghanistan; in Britain, where Muslim youth played a leading role in the anti-war movement since 2001-2002, and also more recently in the demonstrations against the war on Gaza.


· Neoliberalism reinforces to selective and restrictive migration policies that do not aim at stopping migration but at producing stratifications among workers, thus limiting their collective agency and weakening the entire workforce.

· Examples:

o The United States promoting a particular form of regionalisation (FTAA) creating pressure on Mexican workers to move, and responded to by increasing securitisation of US border controls. Temporary labour regimes are making labour conditions of immigrant workers more and more precarious.

o Use of UK immigration controls to produce categories of workers that can be exploited in special ways

o Norway – in the EEA and Schengen Area but not EU – currently attempting to destabilise the position of migrants and impose zero hour contracts.


· Production of insecurity, definition of threat, and border militarisation are also about symbolic politics, identity politics.

· Consequences include:

o Reinforcement of political institutions and military industry;

o Creation of a layer of security professionals, across state and non-state agencies

o Production of service multinationals through outsourcing;

o Mobilisation of native population for defence of national interests in the international arena.

o Recent University of Oslo student activism preventing the university from renewing G4S contracts

Q2: How do universities reflect, actively support or undermine oppressive migration regimes? What are the potentials for contestation?

This group discussed elements of this question and grouped our response into three themes:

Monitoring and surveillance at UK universities as a border control exercise

· Recent University of Oslo student activism preventing the university from renewing G4S contracts

· Tier 4 Monitoring in the University

· Universities must keep an up-to-date copy of student passports and visa pages/UK ID cards with its student records. Notification of any of the above listed actions may result in the curtailment or cancellation of student visas. Non-state institutions are essentially required to exercise border controls.

· Session participants shared knowledge on policies from University of Edinburgh, University of Sunderland, universities in Northern Ireland and the University of Glasgow

· Participants find these legal requirements extremely troubling. The university administration claims monitoring is part of its ‘duty of care’ to students and relies on its legal obligations as a justification for its policies.

Reliance of international student tuition as a means for funding UK universities and the ‘duty of care’

· Tension between focus on obtaining of tuition fees and the universities duty of care to their students.

· Although universities are making an effort to gain students from abroad, they are also required to monitor them in order to keep their ‘highly trusted sponsorship’ status (without which the university cannot accept international students).

· Universities increasingly acting as companies in a global market, simultaneously involving themselves in border control activities.

· This process can be seen as a cycle. Universities find themselves in a double bind. They have been privatised and thus need to advertise abroad in order to gain funding from international students. In order to gain and keep international students, however, universities are asked to monitor their students or else they lose their Highly Trusted Sponsorship status and with it, the funding to keep the university running.

Diversity in teaching staff

· Diversity among teaching staff is essential, especially when teaching in or around migration-related issues. It is very difficult to get a position in the UK if one is not a native speaker. In fact, this is not a UK-only problem. When universities internationalise and invite international students to come to their institution, should it not also be a part of their duty of care to provide a diverse teaching staff?

· Questions arising: What are the repercussions felt by students of hiring a homogenous group of people? What are the repercussions to the quality of teaching?

Q3 What is the space for organisation? How do we contest this?

· Is there space for contestation? Discussions focused on the need for solidarity amongst students, academics, casualised teaching staff, cleaners and other workers within the university. Solidarity across universities is also important and contact details were shared to continue discussions.

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Following thematic discussions over the course of Friday, the Saturday session focused on network-building and planning ahead. Using the Ketso toolkit, participants were divided into three groups and asked to think about assets, resources, skills and attributes already existing within the group. The following step invited them to think about what they would like a network of critical migration and border activists/academics to achieve, before they were then asked to think about how the network could meet these aspirations.

The Ketso poster shown below is one of the three created during the exercise:

Ketso Poster 

After spending some time identifying potential problems, and engaging with and commenting on the other groups’ answers to the previous questions, each group identified three issues they wanted to take into discussions and planning with the whole group.

CM Brainstorm 


An open discussion on some of the characteristics the emerging network should have was followed by two smaller group discussions, focusing on finding practical solutions for staying in touch in between meetings, and for organising the next meeting. A mailing list was started, and a group of five people volunteered to be responsible for the follow-up meeting of the network in summer 2015.


For further information about this event, contact Nina Perkowski (n.perkowski@sms.ed.ac.uk).




[1] The debate around Spivak's famous article, Can the subaltern speak?, in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (1988): 271–313, was mentioned during the introduction.