Migrant mobility and the epidemiology of intervention
Ruben Andersson (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
This paper approaches recent trends in border policing via the notion of epidemiology. It shows how in the US and Europe, risk management strategies for 'fighting migration' treat human movement both 'epidemiologically' and as a vital resource, dovetailing with political imaginaries of emergency.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I suggest drawing on the notions of epidemics and epidemiology for elucidating recent trends in the punitive and militarized policing of border crossers. Based on field research at the US-Mexico and Euro-African borders, I discuss some of the risk management strategies put in place in recent years to control, channel and curtail 'unwanted' mobility pre-emptively in these regions. The most advanced of these strategies share an affinity with epidemiological thinking, also present in wider crime prevention, which in turn resonates with political framings of unauthorised migration as an 'emergency' or an 'invasion' afflicting the body politic. Rather than inquiring into 'humanitarian borders,' I argue, we may well wish to identify an 'infected border' in which advanced matrices for controlling and experimenting on border-crossing 'life itself' (Rose 2007) dovetail with political imaginaries of chaos, crisis and affliction. In these reflections, the paper builds not only on research among border guards, but equally among migrants and refugees, whose analyses help lay the groundwork for an epidemiological take on what we may term the 'bioeconomies' of border controls. In conclusion, the paper asks whether an epidemiological frame may allow us to discern wider trends in international crisis and conflict interventions today, while pointing to historical resonances and future alternatives to the profiteering from disasters at today's infected borders.
Antagonistic sociality: an anthropology of lives opposed