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Katharyne Mitchell, Reece Jones and Jennifer L. Fluri

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Mary Gilmartin and Anna-Kaisa Kuusisto-Arponen

In this chapter the authors discuss critical geographies of migration through a focus on two key sites: the border and the body. They outline critical approaches to the study of borders, which include discussions of specific borders (European Union, USA–Mexico, detention sites). They also detail the effects of the hierarchization of migrant bodies, and elaborate on this through a discussion of migrant experiences at work. The authors argue for the importance of bringing together geopolitical and biopolitical approaches to the critical geographies of migration, in a way that emphasizes embodied migrant practices. The chapter concludes by highlighting some ways in which approaches to the critical geographies of migration could be further developed.

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Yolanda Weima and Jennifer Hyndman

The management of migration and displacement, including humanitarian response, is shaped by geopolitics and relies on the construction of two key spatialities of exclusion, containment, and securitization: externalizing asylum and refuge so that those on the move are kept in ‘regions of origin’ away from the ‘global North’; and encampment within those regions. Both are tied to a state-centric orientation that refugees return to their countries of origin, as a preferred ‘durable solution.’ Yet refugees negotiate their own safety both within and beyond the humanitarian governance system, through extensive and often transnational networks. The authors explore the idea of transnational displacement as an alternate theoretical framing that is empirically rooted in more circulatory geographies. Observable pathways to safety are grounded in a case study of Burundian refugees and returnees. Ultimately, ‘grand theories of humanitarian government’ cannot fully capture the ruptures and sutures of displacement, return, and return again that may occur in the lives of families caught between violence, starvation, and family separation.

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Cecilia Menjívar and Shannon Drysdale Walsh

Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Honduran immigrant women often experience a continuum of violence. Patterns of violence begin in countries of origin through experiences with unresponsive legal systems and institutional inequalities, continue along migration routes, and resume after arrival within the United States. This chapter focuses on these harms through the lens of legal violence – the normalized but cumulatively injurious effects of laws at different stages in the migration process. Although manifestations of violence vary by context, the authors analyse gender-specific reasons for these women’s migration, their experiences during the journey, and their interactions with the US justice system upon arrival. While other analyses focus on individual acts of violence, the authors instead use the lens of legal violence to analyse legal structures and institutions that implicitly and explicitly shape most aspects of these immigrant women’s lives.

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Timothy Raeymaekers

How shall we make sense of migrant mobility in a context of increasingly dislocated governance of territorial borders? What kinds of intersecting spaces and places does such a politics produce? And what forms of structured agency emerge from these intersections? This chapter argues for an embodied analytics, which deals, consecutively, with three productive tensions that underpin the effects of human displacement in contemporary migration regimes: between displacement and enforcement; sovereignty and governmentality; and the negation and negotiation of rights. Building on an analysis of return migration to Italy within the rapidly European asylum regime since 2011, the author argues that while human displacement can be associated to a field of power that is not necessarily fixed in place, today’s liquid migration management also produces, sometimes unpredictable, outcomes and renegotiations of identities, hierarchies and rights.

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Benjamin J. Muller

What is the biometric border? How did it emerge and to what extent have biometric technologies changed borders and the experience and articulation of the bodies that cross them? Although the use of biometrics in border security and visa and mobility management are presented as enabling verification and authentication of political identity, deeper trends towards what for lack of a better term we might refer to as a ‘biometric state’ are part of this story. It is as much about the increasing interoperability and interchangeability of border security and identity management tactics that biometrics promises, as it is about proliferating and enhancing sovereign power as global commerce and mobility challenge the state’s resilience. Referred to as emergency or exception, biometric borders are instrumental facilitators in the proliferation and permanence of this discretionary sovereign power.

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Anna-Kaisa Kuusisto-Arponen and Mary Gilmartin

Migration is an experiential and embodied practice. This means that migrants constantly negotiate a sense of embodied (be)longing. Belonging is therefore constructed of bundles of socio-spatial sites and ties, both in the past and the present, there and here. For all migrants this belonging is both translocal and transcultural. In this chapter the authors focus on unaccompanied refugee minors and their ambiguous positions when confronted with migration governance, as they seek to create a sense of belonging while simultaneously coping with spatial trauma of being forcibly displaced. Institutions of care should support the development of belonging, but often actively inhibit it or do not recognise the transcultural needs of unaccompanied minors. Yet embodied belonging should be the desired goal for institutions looking after unaccompanied minors. If this is not the case, this creates long-term problems in personal and societal levels.

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Brenda S.A. Yeoh, Kellynn Wee and Charmian Goh

In the context of the Asia-Pacific, the corporeal geographies of migration are inflected by temporariness. The flexibilization of life and labor has led to low-waged migrants taking on the brunt of socially devalued work, particularly jobs which require demanding physical labor or the intimate care of others’ bodies. By centering corporeal geographies as an analytical lens, this chapter shows how understanding bodies as analytic and scale destabilizes binary ways of thinking, uncovers power operating at various scales, and foregrounds migrants’ experiences and desires. The authors review poststructuralist, feminist, and critical race approaches to corporeality, as well as conceptual work on emotional geographies and the ‘mobilities turn.’ They then turn to three broad themes to draw out the major contributions that corporeal geographies have made to our understandings of migration: migrant bodies and the politics of border control; migrant encounters, enclavement, and enclosure; and corporeal absence, mediated intimacy, and transnational family life. 

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Anu Sabhlok

This chapter follows the seasonal journeys of migrant laborers in India. It pays particular attention to the pains and pleasures experienced by their laboring bodies. Retaining an emphasis on embodied experiences, the author discusses how these are constituted based on the laborers’ gender, caste and regional identity. The author argues for the need to incorporate the migrant journey into studies of migration moving beyond the sole focus on source and destination points. The seasonality and circularity of the journey is an important aspect of the migrant experience. The narratives of circular migrants have a lot to tell us about uneven development and socio-cultural differences within India and how these spatial disparities and diversities affect the material body of the laborer.

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Patricia Ehrkamp, Jenna M. Loyd and Anna Secor

Trauma has become a ubiquitous framework for attempts to conceptualize the after-effects of violent and life-disruptive experiences. As such, trauma is an important discursive practice through which to consider how militarized violence persistently escapes from ideologically circumscribed war zones and their discrete temporalities. This chapter demonstrates the tension between trauma practices that conceptualize trauma as within individual body-minds and trauma practices that understand experiences of trauma as relational, or emergent from particular social environments and legal procedures that individuals encounter. The authors focus on trauma practices within refugee resettlement processes specifically for Iraqi refugees since the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. They focus on the narratives and creative practices of Iraqis who have been exiled, and in particular one woman’s memoir. Through Alia Al-Ali’s narrative the authors demonstrate how a relational understanding of trauma unfolds an intimate, affective geopolitics that cannot be extracted from historical geographies of US imperialism, war, and displacement.