The Politics of Borders and Migration Control: Critical Social Science Approaches

Course content

On a global level, migration control and border security have emerged as highly salient issues on various political levels, reaching from international to local debates. Political approaches to migration are decisive factors in elections, they (re)shape relations between states and regions and they (re)define wider areas of international politics. In this class, students will learn therefore how social sciences make sense of migration control and border security and how these issues can be understood in different national, regional and global contexts. To this end, this class will both offer a broad theorization of migration and borders as well as an in-depth introduction to empirical examples. At the end of the class, students should be able to not only understand, but critically examine dominant narratives of migration control and border security and apply different forms of critique to migration and borders. They should also be able to draw on empirical cases and how these cases can be regarded from various conceptual angles.

Tentative Outline:

  • What is Migration? What is the Border? Theoretical Questions
  • Security, Migration and Borders - Mechanisms of Securitization
  • Migrants’ agency and challenges to dominant approaches: Examining the Autonomy of Migration-approach
  • Borders as tools of racialized and colonial migration control
  • The perpetual migration “crisis” and its mobilization in migration politics
  • How do we research migration and borders – Methodological Reflections
  • The Global Level of Migration Control: UN and IOM
  • The Borders of Europe and Migration Control in the EU
  • “Build that wall” – Emerging Control Regimes at the US’ Southern Border
  • Technological Borders? How Technology is mobilized in Migration Control
  • Expanding Borders: Politics of Externalization and International Cooperation
  • Violent Bordering Infrastructures: Critiquing Infrastructures of Reception and Return
  • Humanitarianism and Matters of Care in Migration Control
  • Discussion

Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

  • MSc in Political Science
  • MSc in Social Science
  • MSc in Security Risk Management
  • Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Sociology
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology
  • Master programme in Global Development
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Psychology


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
  • Credit students from Danish Universities
  • Open University students
Learning outcome


Students will learn on both theoretical as well as empirical issues of global migration politics, they will gather deep knowledge on theoretical approaches of social sciences as well as expertise on institutions and political practices in the field of border security and migration control. At the end of the class, students should be able to understand more deeply how the political field works and how to interrelate migration with International Relations

Skills: Students should be able to both engage with academic literature on migration as well as with political developments analytically and critically. They will be able to understand backgrounds and bigger structural circumstances and therefore to formulate their own analytical arguments. In the end, they should be able to produce a research design.

Competences: Students will be able to provide analysis and critique of migration and border politics and also provide a deeper understanding of the structures. They will learn how to use research methods in order to gather data in the fields of borders and migration and how to make sense of this data analytically. They will learn how to present their own research and how to give constructive feedback to other students.

This course will use an interactive approach in which students actively participate during seminars. Courses will usually begin with an input or a lecture by the teacher and then by a common work on the contents taught – in form of quick presentations and discussions where students can apply their learnt knowledge. Additionally, students should engage actively with the readings and ideally write excerpts of the texts for a deeper understanding.

Aradau, Claudia, and Sarah Perret. 2022. “The Politics of (Non-)Knowledge at Europe’s Borders: Errors, Fakes, and Subjectivity.” Review of International Studies, Online First, 1–20.

Bellanova, Rocco, and Dennis Duez. 2016. “The Making (Sense) of EUROSUR: How to Control the Sea Borders?” In EU Borders and Shifting Internal Security, edited by Raphael Bossong and Helena Carrapico, 23–44. Heidelberg: Springer.

Bigo, Didier. 2014. “The (in)Securitization Practices of the Three Universes of EU Border Control: Military/Navy – Border Guards/Police – Database Analysts.” Security Dialogue 45 (3): 209–25.

Campesi, Giuseppe. 2022. Policing Mobility Regimes: Frontex and the Production of the European Borderscape. Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship. London New York: Routledge.

Casaglia, Anna, and Agnese Pacciardi. 2022. “A Close Look at the EU–Turkey Deal: The Language of Border Externalisation.” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Online First.

Castles, Stephen, Hein de Haas, and Mark J. Miller. 2014. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. 5. ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Côté-Boucher, Karine, Federica Infantino, and Mark B. Salter. 2014. “Border Security as Practice: An Agenda for Research.” Security Dialogue 45 (3): 195–208.

Cusumano, Eugenio. 2018. “The Sea as Humanitarian Space: Non-Governmental Search and Rescue Dilemmas on the Central Mediterranean Migratory Route.” Mediterranean Politics 23 (3): 387–94.

Cuttitta, Paolo. 2018. “Delocalization, Humanitarianism, and Human Rights: The Mediterranean Border Between Exclusion and Inclusion.” Antipode 50 (3): 783–803.

De Genova, Nicholas, ed. 2017. The Borders of “Europe”: Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering. Durham: Duke University Press.

Dijstelbloem, Huub, and Annalisa Pelizza. 2020. “The State Is the Secret: For a Relational Approach to the Study of Border and Mobility Control in Europe.” In Secrecy and Methods in Security Research: A Guide to Qualitative Fieldwork, edited by Marieke de Goede, Esmé Bosma, and Pallister-Wilkins, . Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge. 48-62.

El Qadim, Nora. 2014. “Postcolonial Challenges to Migration Control: French–Moroccan Cooperation Practices on Forced Returns.” Security Dialogue 45 (3): 242–61.

Frowd, Philippe M. 2018. “Developmental Borderwork and the International Organization for Migration.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44 (10): 1656–72.

Geiger, Martin, and Antoine Pécoud, eds. 2010. The Politics of International Migration Management. Migration, Minorities, and Citizenship. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Geiger, Martin, and Antoine Pécoud. 2014. “International Organisations and the Politics of Migration.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40 (6): 865–87.

Glouftsios, Georgios. 2019. “Designing Ditigal Borders: The Visa Information System (VIS).” In Technology and Agency in International Relations, edited by Marijn Hoijtink and Matthias Leese. Emerging Technologies, Ethics and International Affairs. London; New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. 164-187.

Hernández, Kelly Lytle. 2010. Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. American Crossroads 29. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press.

Huysmans, Jef. 2006. The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration, and Asylum in the EU. The New International Relations. London; New York: Routledge.

Isakjee, Arshad, Thom Davies, Jelena Obradović‐Wochnik, and Karolína Augustová. 2020. “Liberal Violence and the Racial Borders of the European Union.” Antipode 52 (6): 1751–73.

Jeandesboz, Julien. 2016. “Smartening Border Security in the European Union: An Associational Inquiry.” Security Dialogue 47 (4): 292–309.

Jones, Reece. 2017. Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move. London: Verso.

Jones, Reece. 2021. White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

Kalir, Barak, Christin Achermann, and Damian Rosset. 2019. “Re-searching access: what do attempts at studying migration control tell us about the state?” Social Anthropology 27 (S1): 5–16.

Lemberg-Pedersen, Martin. 2019. “Manufacturing Displacement. Externalization and Postcoloniality in European Migration Control.” Global Affairs 5 (3): 247–71.

Metcalfe, Philippa. 2022. “Autonomy of Migration and the Radical Imagination: Exploring Alternative Imaginaries within a Biometric Border.” Geopolitics 27 (1): 47–69.

Mezzadra, Sandro, and Brett Neilson. 2013. Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. Durham: Duke University Press.

Moffette, David, and William Walters. 2018. “Flickering Presence: Theorizing Race and Racism in the Governmentality of Borders and Migration.” Studies in Social Justice 12 (1): 92–110.

Nail, Thomas. 2016. Theory of the Border. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Pacciardi, Agnese, and Joakim Berndtsson. 2022. “EU Border Externalisation and Security Outsourcing: Exploring the Migration Industry in Libya.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, April, 1–19.

Pallister-Wilkins, Polly. 2015. “The Humanitarian Politics of European Border Policing: Frontex and Border Police in Evros ,.” International Political Sociology 9 (1): 53–69.

Pallister-Wilkins, Polly. 2022. Humanitarian Borders: Unequal Mobility and Saving Lives. London: Verso Books.

Papoutsi, Anna, Joe Painter, Evie Papada, and Antonis Vradis. 2019. “The EC Hotspot Approach in Greece: Creating Liminal EU Territory.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45 (12): 2200–2212.

Perkowski, Nina. 2021. Humanitarianism, Human Rights and Security: The Case of Frontex. Interventions. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge.

Perkowski, Nina, Maurice Stierl, and Andrew Burridge. 2023. “The Evolution of EUropean Border Governance through Crisis: Frontex and the Interplay of Protracted and Acute Crisis Narratives.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Online First

Rozakou, Katerina. 2019. “‘How Did You Get in?’ Research Access and Sovereign Power during the ‘Migration Crisis’ in Greece.” Social Anthropology 27 (S1): 68–83.

Sachseder, Julia, Saskia Stachowitsch, and Clemens Binder. 2022. “Gender, Race, and Crisis-Driven Institutional Growth: Discourses of ‘Migration Crisis’ and the Expansion of Frontex.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, no. Online First: 1–25.

Squire, Vicki. 2015. Post/Humanitarian Border Politics between Mexico and the US: People, Places, Things. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Squire, Vicki. 2020a. Europe’s Migration Crisis: Border Deaths and Human Dignity. Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Squire, Vicki. 2020b. “Hidden Geographies of the ‘Mediterranean Migration Crisis.’” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Online First, 1–16.

Trauner, Florian. 2016. “Asylum Policy: The EU’s ‘Crises’ and the Looming Policy Regime Failure.” Journal of European Integration 38 (3): 311–25.

Vaughan-Williams, Nick. 2015. Europe’s Border Crisis: Biopolitical Security and Beyond. First edition, Paperback. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vradis, Antonis, Evie Papada, Joe Painter, and Anna Papoutsi. 2019. New Borders: Hotspots and the European Migration Regime. London: Pluto Press.

Basic knowledge of Qualitative Social Science methodology and International Relations is required. Basic knowledge of the EU is preferable.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

The course builds upon the development of a proper research design that should result in the written assignment. Therefore, students will be given feedback on their progress throughout the seminar. In doing this, students will also learn how to develop a research design which materializes in a seminar paper at the conclusion of the seminar. In order to learn how to give constructive feedback, students will also read the research designs of their peers and feedback them.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Type of assessment details
Free written assignment
The use of AI/LLM tools for the exam is permitted.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assessment

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


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester


Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Sociology
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Clemens Binder   (3-66656c436c6976316e7831676e)
Saved on the 21-02-2024

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