Handbook on Critical Geographies of Migration
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Handbook on Critical Geographies of Migration

Edited by Katharyne Mitchell, Reece Jones and Jennifer L. Fluri

Border walls, shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, separated families at the border, island detention camps: migration is at the centre of contemporary political and academic debates. This ground-breaking Handbook offers an exciting and original analysis of critical research on themes such as these, drawing on cutting-edge theories from an interdisciplinary and international group of leading scholars. With a focus on spatial analysis and geographical context, this volume highlights a range of theoretical, methodological and regional approaches to migration research, while remaining attuned to the underlying politics that bring critical scholars together.
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Chapter 12: ‘Ceci n’est pas la migration’: countering the cunning cartopolitics of the Frontex migration map

Henk van Houtum and Rodrigo Bueno Lacy


The periodically updated Frontex map of undocumented migration (called ‘risk analysis’) to the European Union (EU) has become the predominant cartographic narrative in the debate on the EU border policy. In this chapter the authors conduct a critical iconological study of this Frontex migration map to deconstruct the implicit deadly restrictive border regime recommendations it suggests. Through a dissection of three concrete iconographic features (the grid, arrows and frame) they show that this map not only builds upon a phobic and nativist discourse but it also aggravates it. Its visual arrangement evokes an invasion of unwanted African and Muslim migrants that is calling for the border closure of the EU by any means necessary. The authors argue that the Frontex map aligns with a sinister narrative of migration that is rehabilitating the nationalist-populist ideology and anti-humanist policies that the EU’s postwar ethos aimed at preventing. They get no sense at all of undocumented migrants being among the most vulnerable and materially insecure people in the world. On the contrary, it is the EU who is portrayed as a victim. Therefore, although intended to help protect the EU, this surrealist migration map is actually stoking EUroskepticism and xenophobia, thereby undermining the EU’s own foundations. Surreal. 

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