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Border Externalization: Trajectories and future directions for the study of dis/un/re-placed borders [ANTHROMOB] 
Sebastian Cobarrubias Baglietto (ARAIDUniversidad de Zaragoza)
Maribel Casas-Cortés (Universidad de Zaragoza)
Paolo Cuttitta (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord)
Send message to Convenors
Ruben Andersson (University of Oxford)
Sabine Hess (University of Heidelberg)
Sabine Hess (Institute for Cultural AnthropologyEuropean Ethnology)
Network affiliated Panels
Wednesday 22 July, 11:00-13:00 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel will assess existing research on Border Externalization, from Anthropology and beyond, positing theoretical and methodological directions for future research. We encourage work that unpacks the concepts of "border" & "externalization", with particular regard to migration control

Long Abstract

Border externalization has become a prominent subset of Migration and Border Studies. The externalization of migration controls has been a fruitful avenue as a way of interrogating the validity of political borders and how they are implemented and experienced. In the European context, border displacement responded to processes that accompanied the 'Big Bang' enlargement and what seemed like the 'expansion' of EU borders and policy imperatives. Far from being a field limited to EU enlargement, border externalization has now become a central way in which the EU and its members interact with spaces understood as "outside", while at the same time dissolving clear distinction between an in/out. In the intervening two decades, the border has become a disciplinary crossroads between Anthropology, Human Geography, Political Science, Sociology and Law to name a few. Anthropologists and ethnographers in general have advanced key contributions such as how is an externalized border lived, and in what ways such institutional cultures normalize a restrictive understanding of human mobility.

This panel seeks to critically assess how researchers have understood externalization and posit potential theoretical and methodological tools for new research. This panel deepens the study of border externalization by engaging:

• Ethnographies of externalized migration control practices

• Historical analysis, including the colonial past, of border externalization

• Geo-political analysis beyond state- and Euro-centric approaches toward border externalization

• Discourses of exclusion/inclusion in externalized spaces

• Border thinking and border ontologies

Accepted papers:


Ignacio Mendiola (University of the Basque Country)

Paper short abstract:

The objective is to rethink the production of the borderland as a dispositive for capturing spaces and subjectivities, conferring special attention to the different geographies that are put in relation to carry out the capture itself.

Paper long abstract:

The border cannot be anymore read as a line where the state sovereignty limit is established. On the contrary, the border has to be reconceptualized as a complex knowledge-power dispositive that is characterized by its movement and elasticity. In a socio-political context marked by the various hybridizations that are unleashed between the neoliberal, the security and the neocolonial, the border emerges as a determining element in the current reconfiguration of the social in what refers to the ordering of mobility regimes.

From this approach it is intended to reconceptualize the border from a double dimension. The first refers to the complex topology of the border; through this idea we seek to move away from a dichotomous vision that reproduces in one way or another the inside-outside distinction. The topology works as an intricate fold of spaces that gives rise to a complex network of geographies put in connection. The second dimension delves into the idea that the border is a heterogeneous dispositive to capture spaces and subjectivities territorializing what should be the practice of spaces and mobility.

Consequently, when these two dimensions are put in relation, what emerges is a vision of the border as a martial and securitarian governmentality that alters in a dynamic and contingent way its complex topology, its increasingly militarized techno-network, to exercise a capture in which unfolds a mutation of the war.


Paolo Gaibazzi (University of Bayreuth)

Paper short abstract:

Seeking to overcome Eurocentric views on border externalization to Africa,the paper proposes the Africanist notion of the frontier to unravel the fluid, fragmented and violent dis/orders emerging in the Euro-African space.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on different ethnographic investigations of the governance of both authorized and unauthorized migration in West Africa, the paper offers a broader reflection on externalization between Europe and Africa. The African continent has become a major site of externalization from Europe, indeed a laboratory in which migration governance is distributed along routes and, increasingly, in wider geographical areas. Debates on externalization are dominated by European, often Eurocentric, policy concerns and analytical perspectives. By contrast, this paper develops an Africanist, or better an Afro-Europeanist, perspective on the Euro-African border zone. Externalization is a complex, contested and often contradictory process, which involves so many actors as logics and scales of regulation. This is a familiar situation, if viewed from the vantage point of postcolonial borders and governance in Africa. The paper therefore seeks to harness the potential of ethnographies of borders in Africa for making sense of the kinds of fluid, fragmented and violent dis/orders emerging in the Euro-African space. It deploys the notion of the "frontier", as adapted from I. Kopytoff's work, in order to depict not only the European fronts of migration governance extending into Africa, but also to analyze the interstices or grey zones between institutionalized orders through which externalization actually operates on the ground. This approach, it is claimed, provides us with a heuristic device for understanding externalization as an emergent field of negotiation and conflict, overcoming a state-centric perspective on border-making, and making room for multiple political cultures, including migrants' own.


Leonie Jegen (Arnold Bergstraesser Institute, University of Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper suggests a new angle on externalization through investigating its capacity to "create" governable subjects (Foucault, 2007, Kotef 2015). It argues that this occurs through "subjectification" (Focault 2007) processes which aim to produce the "nationalized" migrant (Mongia, 1999).

Paper long abstract:

Research on externalisation has focused on its impacts on shifting power relations between states (Paoletti 2011, Van Crieckinge 2010), on changing borderscapes (Casas Cortes et. Al. 2015, Mezzadra & Neilson, 2012, Tsianos. Et al., 2009) and on the formulation of third countries' migration policy interests (Adam et al forthcoming, Mouthaan 2019, Natter 2018). This paper suggests a new angle on externalization policies. It sets out to investigate their capacity to "create" governable subjects (Foucault, 2007, Kotef 2015) beyond borders. It argues that this occurs through "subjectification" (Focault 2007) processes which aim to produce the "nationalized" migrant (Mongia, 1999). Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Niger in March 2018 three modes through which projects placed in the 'externalisation assemblage' (Casas Cortes et al 2015) work towards subjectifying mobility are identified. Firstly, strengthening state capacities to embrace populations and making the nationalized subject, secondly, migratizing mobility, and thirdly, the making the data migrant (Ross 2007). Arguing that categories produced through subjectification processes derive from mobile populations' racialized exclusion in destination countries, this lens on externalisation opens channels to investigate the intersection between biopolitics and geopolitics (Hyndman 2012). It places externalization within post-colonial politics of population management between "metropolis and centre" (Mezzadra 2006) and repoliticises (Pécoud 2015) apparently neutral migration vocabulary.


Sara Riva (CSIC-University of Queensland)

Paper short abstract:

As a consequence of border externalization, regions have created a transnational sovereign assemblage that prevents displaced populations from exiting the Global South. The resulting assemblage reinforces the prevailing neocolonial structure by setting distance between states and refugees.

Paper long abstract:

Externalization border control practices have been increasingly used by states around the world over the last three decades. In particular, after 9/11 these immigration controls have intensified due to the securitization rhetoric. Western countries are transnationally fortifying themselves to avoid migrants and asylum-seekers reach their countries, as these populations are viewed—in biopolitical terms—as a threat to the health of the nation. This paper argues that as a consequence of border externalization measures, these regions have created overlapping buffer areas that combined result in an overarching buffer zone that is not country specific but rather a transnational sovereign assemblage of Western countries' borders. This assemblage requires looking beyond particular nation's border regimes and rather understanding the West as monolithic buffer zone that transfers the containment of migrants and refugees to the Global South and sets a distance between the state and the "refugee". Using a transnational feminist framework, and through the analysis of secondary sources, official documents, and previous studies, I focus on how Australia, the US, and the EU deploy bordering mechanisms—including punitive forms of enforcement—and how the resulting assemblage reinforces the prevailing neocolonial structure not only vis-à-vis who is allowed to enter these Western regions, but also within the relationship these Western countries establish with third countries. This paper makes several contributions to the scholarship on critical refugee studies, migration and immigration detention, and critical border studies.