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Public Seminar Series, Hilary term 2022

Race, Borders, and Global (Im)mobility

Series convenor: Dr Hanno Brankamp, Departmental Lecturer in Forced Migration

This seminar series critically interrogates the ways in which militarised borders, migration enforcement, and their racial orderings continue to be normalised on a global scale. The political drive towards expanding walls, policing infrastructures, camps, detention centres, interceptions at sea, push backs, deportations, surveillance, and racist immigration policies that restrict asylum and migration is hereby not only a legacy of past empires but is also indicative of new emerging geographies of (im)mobility, racialisation, and liberal violence. Speakers in this series come from a range of disciplines and will examine global migration through questions of race and racism, coloniality, nationalism, citizenship, belonging, criminalisation, and bordering.

Series poster (pdf)

About the seminar

In the decisive shift from imperial-states to nation-states after World War Two, two, arguably related, processes took place. First, there was a wide scale effort to delegitimize racist ideologies. Academics wrote reports, including for UNESCO, that showed that 'race' was socially and historically constructed and in no way reflected actual differences between human beings. From the 1950s onward, racism, a concept first developed in the 1930s to understand Nazi ideological practices, was increasingly considered unacceptable in mainstream politics. Those continuing to declare themselves racists were regarded as extremists while a popular understanding of what constituted racism also associated it with only extreme acts of denigration and/or violence. Secondly, and at the same time, as state sovereignty was near-universally nationalized, the association of colonialism with foreignness was retained. Ideological practices grounded in nationalism were regarded not only as legitimate but as practically mandatory in politics. This talk charts this history in order to understand how racism is organized, practiced, and resisted in an era of postcolonialism (i.e. an era when national sovereignty is the hegemonic state form and when the distinction between 'national' and 'migrant' is institutionalized in national laws). In particular, I examine the growing autochthonization of politics. I show that nationalisms the world over are increasingly reconfiguring the 'national' as an autochthon, i.e. a 'native' to the national 'soil'. Through a discussion of various autochthonous movements in very different contexts and with very different political registers (i.e. White supremacist movements in the Rich World; anti-colonial movements of 'indigenous' people in the historic British White settler colonies; distinctions between 'natives' and 'migrants' in the 'national liberation states', etc). I analyze the double move wherein historic colonizers are re-termed 'migrants” and today's 'migrants' are re-imagined as 'colonizers'. This move, I argue, is made possible by postcolonial racisms: the historic articulation between ideas of 'race' and 'nation' wherein ideas of national soil are racialized and racist ideas of blood are territorialized.


The video of this seminar is available to watch on YouTube.


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

Beyond Livelihoods: A Protracted Displacement Economy Approach

Wednesday, 17 January 2024, 5pm to 6.30pm @ Seminar Room 1, Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Displacement from Conflict: Old Realities, New Protections?

Wednesday, 31 January 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Refugee History in the Gaza Strip

Wednesday, 07 February 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Evacuations as Displacement

Wednesday, 14 February 2024, 10am to 11am @ Online via Zoom

Book launch: Becoming Adult on the Move: Migration Journeys, Encounters and Life Transitions

Wednesday, 21 February 2024, 5pm to 6pm @ Seminar Room 1, Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB