Border Criminologies in Dark Times: A Response to the US Election



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Post by the Border Criminologies team. You can follow us on Twitter @BorderCrim.

As we confront the reality of a Trump Presidency, here at Border Criminologies, we once again feel the need to speak out about the importance of scholarship and activism about immigration and border control and to invite others to partner with us.

As with Brexit, the US election result shines a harsh light on the entrenched nature of social exclusion and its political legitimacy.  For many people of colour and for those in LGBT communities, women, and the poor, this is nothing new.  Trump’s victory does not signal a new beginning, in this regard, but rather, an inevitable consequence that many have worked against for generations. 

What can be the role of the academy in challenging this politics of exclusion? How can we act, when ‘expertise’ is belittled, and when the media and the political classes seem determined to ignore evidence that goes against their will? What is the point of research or teaching in dark times like these?

These are the kinds of questions many of us will be asking ourselves today. And sadly, like you, we have no easy answers. But there are some points worth making, however obvious they may seem.

First, we need to remember that one of the main roles of the academy is instruction. We are teachers and our students will be needing us more than ever, just as we will be needing them. Our work in the classroom has never been more important. Please send us posts and syllabi. Please involve your students in your work and ours. You might be interested in looking at the approach of Susan Coutin, who uses her book as a means of teaching outreach, hoping to create a living document about the impact of migration control

In a world where ‘experts’ have become the adversary, we also need to think and talk more about ways of communicating our findings. The Border Criminologies blog as ever, is one avenue, as is our open access SSRN research paper series. As we announced on Twitter the other day, we are about to start a Working Paper series too, for rapid communication of findings. Keep an eye for this, and please submit your research.

The regular media and other websites offer wider audiences. It can be difficult for those of us doing research in hard to access places to speak freely to the press. It would be good to have more discussion about how to manage this aspect of our work.

Still others are engaging in quite different outputs altogether, making films, art work, writing plays, producing popular accounts, in addition to academic articles. It is difficult in the neo-liberal university to break free from the usual expectations of scholarly outputs, but now may be the time to take some risks.

Intellectually and politically, it is clear that scholars must engage with issues of racial and economic justice. White nostalgia is a dangerous force that needs to be challenged.  For that to happen, we need to understand it better.

As the breakdown of demographics of Trump’s supporters suggests, it was the white, older, males who overwhelmingly closed ranks with him, as well as white women. Class might have had a role too, yet it is less clear whether the disaffected poor lined up behind him. Racial and ethnic minorities largely supported Clinton.

So far, most of the literature in Border Criminologies focuses on the migrant experience.  Now is the time to pay more attention to the wider community, for the far-right in Europe, the UK and US -together with a mendacious media- have succeeded in galvanizing and bolstering the victimhood of the white electorate who fear they are losing their privileges. More research needs to be done on how class, race and gender combine to create this toxic but increasingly vocal and dominant demographic to understand today’s new mainstream politics.

Today is a sad, frightening and enraging day. It is right to take some time to process this result. We need to understand it and to regroup. But we cannot afford to let it overcome us.  Instead, we must recommit to building coalitions and networks of creativity and support. Our work in this area is more urgently needed than ever. As the appeal to blatant lies and misleading information about migration is becoming widespread to make electoral gains, the challenge for academics researching border controls and migration cannot be clearer. The need for rigorous research in this field has never been more urgent. Please work with us, and direct us to others who are working for racial, gender, and social justice. We stand together.

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