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With the steady, global movement towards the securitization of borders in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, scholars across various disciplinary fields have analyzed state borders as 'states of exception', sites in which, as Giorgio Agamben provocatively describes, 'a temporary suspension of the rule of law on the basis of a factual state of danger, is... given a permanent spatial arrangement, which as such nevertheless remains outside the normal order.' This paper argues against this approach. It suggests that the 'state of exception', as described by Giorgio Agamben and Carl Schmidt, does not properly account for the legal and material realities of contemporary state borders. The paper advances this argument by analyzing how legal power is organized, asserted, and exercised along the Canada-US border. In addition, it seeks to develop a set of criteria by which claims of exceptionalism at the border might be tested, and compares the border with other sites - such as prisons - which also have the potential to become states of exception. In doing so, it strives to develop a site-specific understanding that better illuminates the legal implications of the policies and practices that currently govern the Canada-US border, and to ensure that current debates properly recognize the role of law in constructing the border.

about the speakers

Efrat Arbel is Assistant Professor at the Allard School of Law., University of British Columbia. Prior to joining the faculty, Dr Arbel was awarded a two-year postdoctoral fellowship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which she held at UBC from 2012-2014. During that time, she also held visiting appointments at the Oxford University Centre for Criminology (2013) and the European University Institute (2014).

Dr Arbel earned her doctorate from Harvard Law School in 2012, where she was a Canada Research Fellow with Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, a Doctoral Fellow with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a Graduate Fellow with the Law Foundation of BC, and a Travelling Fellow with the Mackenzie King Memorial Scholarship Foundation. She holds a BA from McGill University, a JD from UBC and completed her LLM studies at Harvard Law School before proceeding with her doctorate. Throughout her graduate studies, Dr Arbel held positions as a teaching and research fellow at Harvard Law School; as a research fellow at the Kennedy School of Government; and as a researcher with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Law Clinic.  Before pursuing graduate studies, she clerked at the British Columbia Supreme Court and worked in the Vancouver office of a national firm.

Dr Arbel researches and publishes in constitutional law, refugee law, Aboriginal law and prison law. Combining her academic work with legal practice, Dr Arbel is also engaged in advocacy and litigation involving refugee and prisoner rights. She has served on sub-committees with Westcoast LEAF, and is an executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Professor Goold joined the Allard School of Law in January 2010. From 2003 to 2009, he was a Lecturer at the University of Oxford Faculty of Law and a Fellow in Law at Somerville College, where he taught criminal law, criminology and torts. Prior to taking up his post at Oxford, he taught law at the University of Niigata in Japan and criminology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He has also been a visiting researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg, Germany and at the Centre de Recherche Sociologique sur le Droit et les Institutions Pénales in Paris.

Professor Goold holds degrees in law and economics from the University of Tasmania, as well as a BCL and doctorate from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. His major research interests include privacy rights, the use of surveillance technologies by the police and intelligence communities and the rhetoric and language of human rights. He is the author of numerous works on privacy, surveillance and security, including CCTV and Policing (Oxford University Press; shortlisted for the British Criminology Book Prize in 2005) and Security and Human Rights (Hart Publishing; edited with Liora Lazarus). Among his more recent publications are works on the social and political dimensions of privacy, the role of privacy enhancing technologies (PETS) in the regulation of public and private sector surveillance and the relationship between human rights and constitutional responsibilities.

At present, Professor Goold is working on two major research projects, the first a major field study of undercover policing and covert surveillance practices in the UK (with Bethan Loftus and Shane Mac Giollabhui), and the second a study of how security products are bought, sold, and consumed (with Ian Loader and Angelica Thumala). Professor Goold has served as an independent advisor to the UK Identity and Passport Service on matters of regulation and data sharing and has acted as Specialist Legal Advisor to a major House of Lords inquiry into surveillance and data collection in Britain. He is currently a member of the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner's External Advisory Board.

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.

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

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

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

University of Sanctuary Fair, Part 1: University of Oxford as a University of Sanctuary

Wednesday, 24 April 2024, 2pm to 6pm @ Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Worcester College, Walton St, Oxford OX1 2HB

Humanitarian extractivism: the digital transformation past, present, future

Wednesday, 08 May 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Film screening and discussion: Missing in Brooks County

Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 5pm to 7pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Forced Migration on Film: A Conversation with Marc Isaacs | Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture 2024

Wednesday, 22 May 2024, 5pm to 6.30pm @ Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre, St Anne's College, 56 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HS

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