Accepted Paper:

Bordering desire: 'modern' subjectivity, 'normal' mobility and classification tools  

Author:

Francesco Vacchiano (University Ca' Foscari Venice)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims at discussing how migrant’s expectations come up against the bureaucratic taxonomic system in the receiving countries. I will discuss how categories are part of a wider “bordering” process, aimed at channelling the migration drive into productive profiles.

Paper long abstract:

In quite a recent article, Olivier Bakewell stressed the need to study forced migration 'beyond the categories", in order to avoid the "confusion between categories of policy and analysis" (Bakewell 2008). His claim, which should be extended to human mobilities altogether, seems particularly appropriate since bureaucratic categories constitute powerful tools of social ordering "through movement". For some authors, their deployment represents one of the main aspects of contemporary "border regime" throughout the world. Besides producing a deep patterning effect on mobility and on the migrants' experience, categories work as "performatives" which crystallize the complexity of movement into few recognizable administrative profiles, moulded upon the binary distinction between "regular" and "irregular". Nonetheless, contemporary migration widely exceed the motives and causes made visible by the bureaucratic reason and described through classes such as "refugee", "unaccompanied minor", "victim of trafficking", "economic migrant" and so forth. I will argue that human mobility is often undertaken "at any cost", since it is underpinned by a strong desire of being "modern", channelled through expectations of material citizenship in a framework of hegemonic global values.

This paper aims at discussing how migrant's expectations (factors often disregarded in structural analyses of mobility) come up against the bureaucratic taxonomic system in the receiving countries. Drawing on my research in countries of origin, transit and destination, I will discuss how the classification of mobility works in accordance with a general "bordering" process, aimed at channelling the migration drive into economically productive profiles for the receiving countries.

Panel P069
Moving people: anthropologists adopting, interrogating and refuting governmental categorisations (ANTHROMOB)