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Public Seminar Series, Trinity term 2019

Everyday Resistance to the European Governance of Migration

Series convenor: Dr Cory Rodgers


The Trinity 2019 public seminar series focuses on “Everyday resistance to the European governance of migration”. As national immigration and asylum regimes become increasingly restrictive in countries around the world, “Fortress Europe” stands out for its efforts to regulate human movement both within and beyond its borders. Following the 2015 “crisis”, spikes in detention and deportation have been common features of European migration management. But there are also examples of resistance by migrants and citizens, who defy, endure, and creatively navigate these systems and practices of exclusion, often in ways that are overlooked in legal and institutional accounts of migration governance. This term, four Oxford-based speakers will describe situations in which such efforts become visible (and audible), through diverse case studies from sites on both sides of the Mediterranean. While focused on dramatically different situations and activities, they share an interest in alternative understandings of migration governance, as well as the practices by which people contend with state strategies, xenophobic narratives, and exclusionary practices.

the seminar

Sub-Saharan migrants in Libya often experience their unauthorized journeys through situations of forced immobility. In such contexts of fragmented state authority, transnational and local migration governance is shaped by state and criminal actors and linked to the extraction of value from migrants’ lives. Through an ethnography based on three situations of forced immobility - being stopped in the Sahara desert, detained in detention centres, and waiting in a private house - my talk takes migrants’ perspectives as a starting point to analyse this dynamic. Rendering vulnerable mobilities into a source of value through commodification of migrant lives, labour and the means to undertake journeys results in an informal mode of accumulation. I conclude by showing how a focus on forced immobility and accumulation enables nuanced understandings of mobility economies in Libya and elsewhere.

the speaker

Marthe Achtnich is a Fellow by Examination in Anthropology at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. She is an anthropologist working on mobilities, migration and informal economies with a focus on unauthorized migrants’ journeys from sub-Saharan Africa via Libya to Europe. Her current research project (Mobility Economies) builds on her doctoral work on Mobility in Crisis (DPhil, University of Oxford), an ethnography of migrants’ mobilities through the Sahara desert, detention centres and smuggling houses in Libya, across the Mediterranean sea by boat to Malta, and onwards through Europe. Before returning to Oxford for her current fellowship, Marthe was a Wiener-Anspach Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and was awarded a small research grant by the Society for Libyan Studies.


For information, at the speaker's request this seminar will not be recorded and podcast.

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House. Click here for details of forthcoming seminars.

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Forthcoming events

Book launch: The Politics of Crisis-Making: Forced Displacement and Cultures of Assistance in Lebanon

Wednesday, 29 May 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Skilled worker visas for refugees – a qualitative evaluation of the UK’s Displaced Talent Mobility Pilot

Wednesday, 05 June 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

A celebration of the life of David Turton

Saturday, 20 July 2024, 2pm to 3pm @ The Crypt Cafe, St Peters Church, Northchurch Terrace, London N1 4DA