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Barriers and borders

Human mobility and building inclusive societies

Anthony Turton

Open access

Julien Brachet, Victoria L. Klinkert, Cory Rodgers, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Elieth Eyebiyi, Rachel Benchekroun, Grzegorz Micek, Natasha N. Iskander, Aydan Greatrick, Alexandra Bousiou, and Anne White

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Suranjana Choudhury


The Partition of 1947 is a seminal episode in the history of the Indian subcontinent. Partition is still a living reality; it continues to define the everydayness of lives in the partitioned states. Memory is an important topic in the field of Partition Studies: the act of remembering and the subject of remembrance illuminate our understanding of Partition in more ways than one. Personal memories hold special significance in this regard. This article comprises two personal memory pieces on the cascading effects of Partition in individuals’ lives. The first story is a retelling of my grandmother's experience of displacement and her subsequent relocation in newly formed India. The story brings forth memories associated with her wedding jewelry box, which she brought with her across the border. The second story focuses on the life experiences of my domestic helper, a second generation recipient of Partition memories.

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Coronavirus with “Nobody in Charge”

An open reflection on leadership, solidarity, and contemporary regional integration

Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda

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Decolonial Approaches to Refugee Migration

Nof Nasser-Eddin and Nour Abu-Assab in Conversation

Nof Nasser-Eddin and Nour Abu-Assab


In this conversation, Nof Nasser Eddin and Nour Abu-Assab—the founders and directors of the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration (CTDC)—discuss the importance of decolonial approaches to studying refugee migration. In so doing, they draw on their research, consultancy, and advocacy work at CTDC, a London-based intersectional multidisciplinary Feminist Consultancy that focuses in particular on dynamics in Arabic-speaking countries and that has a goal to build communities and movements, through an approach that is both academic and grassroots-centred. CTDC attempts to bridge the gap between theory and practice through its innovative-ly transformative programmes, which include mentorship, educational programmes, trainings, and research.

Nof and Nour's conversation took place in November 2019 and was structured by questions sent to them in advance by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh. What follows is a transcript of the conversation edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Mette L. Berg.

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Dirty Work, Dangerous Others

The Politics of Outsourced Immigration Enforcement in Mexico

Wendy Vogt


While Mexico has been openly critical of US immigration enforcement policies, it has also served as a strategic partner in US efforts to externalize its immigration enforcement strategy. In 2016, Mexico returned twice as many Central Americans as did the United States, calling many to criticize Mexico for doing the United States’ “dirty work.” Based on ethnographic research and discourse analysis, this article unpacks and complicates the idea that Mexico is simply doing the “dirty work” of the United States. It examines how, through the construction of “dirty others”—as vectors of disease, criminals, smugglers, and workers—Central Americans come to embody “matter out of place,” thus threatening order, security, and the nation itself. Dirt and dirtiness, in both symbolic and material forms, emerge as crucial organizing factors in the politics of Central American transit migration, providing an important case study in the dynamics between transit and destination states.

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Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Mette Louise Berg, and Johanna Waters

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Elisabetta Nadalutti


This article addresses the importance of understanding the ethical values that underpin cross-border cooperation (CBC). This is done by elaborating a theoretical framework that focuses on the ethical dimension of CBC. A clear distinction is drawn between an ethical and a normative dimension of CBC. The article argues that European CBC policies lack a defined conceptualization of ethical, humanistic, and value-laden bases. By considering three ethical values—rootedness, empathy, and justice—underpinning European governance, this research finds that the operationalization of these values helps to overcome a consumeristic approach, according to which people are passive consumers of CBC. The analysis shows why and how the operationalization of these key ethical values develops a cross-border community where people feel responsible for the territory perceived as a “common good.”


Este artículo aborda la importancia de comprender los valores éticos que sustentan las actividades de cooperación transfronteriza (CBC) mediante un marco teórico centrado en explorar la dimensión ética de CBC. Una distinción clara plantea la dimensión ética de la CBC frente a la normativa. El punto ciego de las políticas de CBC europeas yace en la ausencia de una conceptualización definida de las bases éticas y humanísticas. Los valores éticos de arraigo, empatía y justicia sustentan las actividades de CBC, y su operacionalización ayuda a superar la aproximación consumista. El análisis muestra por qué y cómo la operacionalización de estos valores éticos contribuye a desarrollar una comunidad transfronteriza en la que las personas se sientan responsables del territorio percibido como un “bien común”.


Pourquoi est-il important de mieux comprendre les valeurs qui sous-tendent les activités de coopération transfrontalière? Cet article aborde cette question à partir d'un cadre théorique centré sur l'exploration de la dimension éthique de la coopération transfrontalière en la distinguant de la dimension normative. Il soutient que la faiblesse des politiques européennes de coopération transfrontalière ne réside pas dans l'absence “normative”, mais dans le manque d'une conceptualisation précise de ses bases éthiques et humanistes. En considérant trois valeurs - l'enracinement, l'empathie et la justice - qui sous-tendent les activités de coopération transfrontalière, cette étude conclut que leur opérationnalisation aide à surmonter une approche consumériste de la coopération transfrontalière, selon laquelle les gens sont des consommateurs passifs. L'analyse montre pourquoi et comment l'opérationnalisation de ces trois valeurs contribue à développer une communauté transfrontalière dans laquelle les personnes se sentent responsables du territoire transfrontalier perçu comme un “bien commun”.

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Expat, Local, and Refugee

“Studying Up” the Global Division of Labor and Mobility in the Humanitarian Industry in Jordan

Reem Farah


In migration studies, humanitarian work and workers are studied as benefactors or managers of migrants and refugees. This article inverts the gaze from “researching down” refugees to “studying up” the humanitarian structure that governs them. The article studies how the humanitarian industry ballooned after the Syrian refugee response in Jordan due to the influx of expatriate humanitarians as economic migrants from the global North to refugee situations in the host country in the global South. It examines the global division of mobility and labor among expatriate, local, and refugee humanitarian workers, investigating the correlation between geographic (horizontal) mobility and social/professional (vertical) mobility, demonstrating that the social and professional mobility of workers depends on their ability to access geographic mobility. Thus, rather than advocating for and facilitating global mobility, the humanitarian industry maintains a colonial division of labor and mobility. This raises the question: who benefits most from humanitarian assistance?

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Fashioning Masculinities through Migration

Narratives of Romanian Construction Workers in London

Alexandra Urdea


The vast majority of literature on migrant masculinities presents situations where migration challenges normative forms of manhood—“undoing gender.” Yet for the Romanians who come to London, migration has the opposite effect, as men are drawn into the wide and lucrative building industry. The article follows constructions of masculinity through an analysis of: (1) the working environment of Romanian men, generally characterized as ridden with risk; (2) the gender dynamics in the household; and (3) the temporariness of the men's migration in London. The article demonstrates that, in this case, mobility does not entail a “gender compromise,” but a reinforcement of hypermasculine traits, necessary to succeed in an environment seen as highly competitive and risky.