2024-25 Theme Seminar - The Politics of Migration and Displacement as a Form of Life

2024-25 theme
Samuel Gratacap

Although most people worldwide live in the country where they were born, the 3 percent who do not and, even more, the 0.5 percent who are forcibly displaced across borders, according to the United Nations, draw disproportionate political attention. Demographically marginal and often socially marginalized, they have come to occupy a central role in national imaginaries and ideologies of identity, often including xenophobic and racist motifs. While much has been written on immigration and asylum, on migrants and refugees, both from the normative perspective of moral and political philosophy and from the empirical standpoint of the social sciences, we want to address the connections between the politics of migration in its varied modes and displacement as a form of life. The theme will explore the ways in which social sciences can inform normative approaches, and critical thinking can nourish empirical approaches.

What are the historical convergences and variations in the modes of governmentality that constitute and regulate migration statuses and the living conditions of the displaced? How are the contemporary politics of border control shaped by colonial past, imperial present and continuing practices of racial discrimination, regimes of membership and senses of belonging, technologies of surveillance and selection, regional arenas of cooperation and conflict, and the transnational externalization of migration governance?  What tensions, or complementarities, exist between the logics of humanitarianization and securitization? Or between the exploitation of undocumented workers and the rejection of legal routes of entry and residence? How do people on the move invent individual and collective tactics of circumvention and strategies of resistance to carry out their projects? What forms of solidarity develop in relation to them? What affects and values are mobilized in the defense of exiles or the restriction of mobility?

These are only some of the questions we want to address. The theme is open to all the disciplines of the social sciences and the humanities. We will be attentive to research conducted within various national and transnational contexts and from diverse theoretical perspectives, and we expect to convene scholars from different global regions and intellectual traditions.

The theme will be led by Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School, and Visiting Professor David Owen, Professor in Politics at the University of Southampton.