Cancelled Migration and border politics in the EU: representation, identity and the “European question”

Course content

The large number of border-crossings towards and through Europe 2015-2016 has sparked heated debates all over the EU about the “European question” (De Genova): who is supposed to be part of “our” political community and who is not? Who are we and who are the Others? And how is this to be politically regulated? In this seminar, we will explore “the border” as a site where social and political struggles around mobility, identity, rights, participation and belonging become observable, and ask about the potential of “migration” as a force of social transformations. 

Adopting first a theoretical lens, we will critically discuss different concepts and theoretical approaches to borders and migration in IR and the broader social sciences and humanities, and engage with the implications they have for studying the politics of borders and migration. Taking in a more empirical perspective, we will then examine the assemblage of actors, institutions, practices, discourses and technologies currently arising in the tension between (unauthorized) border-crossings and their (attempted) control. Hereby we will shed light on different aspects, such as discursive struggles over identity and belonging in EUropean media and policy discourses, “new” actors and practices (i.e. refugee activism, voluntarism, civil search and rescue), digital re-bordering, the externalization of border control to origin and transit countries, or the resurgence of right-populist movements and parties. Building on that we will finally explore what is (actually) at stake in current struggles over migration and borders in EUrope, by focusing on (often conflicted) politics of representation and identity/ies.


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS

Learning outcome


  • Understand and explain different theoretical approaches to borders and migration in IR and the broader social sciences and humanities
  • Assess their implications for the study of migration and border politics



  • Present and explain different aspects of migration and border politics in the EU
  • Apply an interdisciplinary framework to study migration and border politics



  • Critical thinking across different disciplines
  • Constructing and defending a coherent argument, based on selection of relevant concepts and the best supporting data
  • Writing and presenting in a convincing and clear manner


Classes will be interactive. They will consist of a combination of brief lectures, group discussions, student presentations and peer-review sessions.

This list is subject to change. A detailed list of required readings will be provided well ahead of the start of the course.

Adler-Nissen, Rebecca, Katrine Emilie Andersen, and Lene Hansen. 2020. “Images, Emotions, and International Politics: The Death of Alan Kurdi.” Review of International Studies 46(1): 75–95.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. 2018. The Lies That Bind. Rethinking Identity. London: Profile Books.

Balibar, Étienne. 2003. We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2017. “Brexit, Trump, and ‘Methodological Whiteness’: On the Misrecognition of Race and Class.” British Journal of Sociology 68: 214–32.

Brettell, Caroline B., and James F. Hollifield. 2015. Migration Theory. Talking across Disciplines. New York and London: Routledge.

Castles, Stephen. 2016. “Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective.” In An Anthology of Migration and Social Transformation, eds. Anna Amelina, Kenneth Horvath and Bruno Meeus. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2008. Provincializing Europe. Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference - New Edition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Chouliaraki, Lilie, and Rafal Zaborowski. 2017. “Voice and Community in the 2015 Refugee Crisis: A Content Analysis of News Coverage in Eight European Countries.” International Communication Gazette 79(6–7): 613–35.

Cuttitta, Paolo. 2018. “Repoliticization Through Search and Rescue? Humanitarian NGOs and Migration Management in the Central Mediterranean.” Geopolitics 23(3).

De Genova, Nicholas. 2013. “Spectacles of Migrant ‘Illegality.’” Ethnic and Racial Studies 36(7): 1180–98.

De Genova, Nicholas. 2014. “Ethnography in Europe, or an Anthropology of Europe?” Social Anthropology 22(3): 293–95.

De Genova, Nicholas. 2017. “The Borders of ‘Europe’ and the European Question.” In The Borders of "Europe. Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering, ed. Nicholas De Genova. Durham: Duke University.

De Genova, Nicholas. 2018. “The ‘Migrant Crisis’ as Racial Crisis: Do Black Lives Matter in Europe?” Ethnic and Racial Studies 41(10): 1765–82.

Hess, Sabine. 2018. “Border as Conflict Zone.” In Migration. Changing Concepts, Critical Approaches, eds. Doris Bachmann-Medick and Jens Kugele. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 83–100.

Lentin, Alana. 2008. “Europe and the Silence about Race.” European Journal of Social Theory 11(4): 487–503.

Löfflmann, Georg, and Nick Vaughan-Williams. 2017. “Narrating Identity, Border Security and Migration: Critical Focus Groups and the Everyday as Problematic.” Critical Studies on Security 5(2): 207–11.

Mezzadra, Sandro, and Brett Neilson. 2013. Border as Method, or: The Multiplication of Labor. Durham, N.C.: DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS.

Münch, Sybille. 2017. “EU Migration and Asylum Policies.” In Handbook of European Policies. Interpretive Approaches to the EU, eds. Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch. EDWARD ELGAR PUBLISHING, 306-330.  

Scheel, Stephan, Evelyn Ruppert, and Funda Ustek-Spilda. 2019. “Enacting Migration through Data Practices.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 37(4): 579–88.

Scheel, Stephan. 2019. Autonomy of Migration? Appropriating Mobility within Biometric Border Regimes. London: Routledge.

Scheel, Stephan. 2020. “Biopolitical Bordering: Enacting Populations as Intelligible Objects of Government.” European Journal of Social Theory: 1–20.

Speer, Marc, Barbara Beznec, and Marta Stojic Mitrovic. 2016. “Governing the Balkan Route” ed. Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. Macedonia, Serbia and the European Border Regime (5).

Steinhilper, Elias, and Rob J. Gruijters. 2018. “A Contested Crisis: Policy Narratives and Empirical Evidence on Border Deaths in the Mediterranean.” Sociology 52(3).

Stierl, Maurice. 2020. “Reimagining EUrope through the Governance of Migration.” International Political Sociology 0: 1–18.

Triandafyllidou, Anna. 2018. “A ‘Refugee Crisis’ Unfolding: ‘Real’ Events and Their Interpretation in Media and Political Debates.” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 16(1–2): 198–216.

Vaughan-Williams, Nick. 2009. Border Politics. The Limits of Sovereign Power Border Politics. The Limits of Sovereign Power. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Vaughan-Williams, Nick. 2015. Europe’s Border Crisis. 1st ed. pu. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Walters, William. 2002. “Mapping Schengenland. Denaturalizing the Border.” In Environment and Planning. Society and Space, eds. Stuart Elden et al. Los Angeles: Sage, 417–41.

Wimmer, Andreas, and Nina Glick Schiller. 2002. “Methodological Nationalism and Beyond.” Global Networks 2(4): 301–34.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Feedback on small, written assignments

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free Written Assignement
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28