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:

  1. Introduction into Migration Control
  2. Migration and Security
  3. Methodologies of Migration Control
  4. Violence, Race and Death at Borders
  5. Walls and Private Actors as Prevalent Developments
  6. Global Migration Control Regimes
  7. The Border Control Regime of the EU
  8. The Border Control Regime of the US
  9. Technology and Migration Control
  10. The Politics of Externalization and Third Countries
  11. Humanitarianism, Gender and Care
  12. Smuggling & Anti-Smuggling Policies
  • Discussion and Alternative Approaches

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.

Ackleson, Jason. 2005. “Constructing Security on the U.S.–Mexico Border.” Political Geography 24 (2): 165–84.

Anderson, Bridget. 2013. Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control. First edition. Oxford, United Kingdom; New York: Oxford University Press.

Andersson, Ruben. 2016. “Hardwiring the Frontier? The Politics of Security Technology in Europe’s ‘Fight against Illegal Migration.’” Security Dialogue 47 (1): 22–39.

Andreas, Peter (2003): Re-Drawing the Line. Borders and Security in the Twenty-first Century. International Security 28 (2): 78-111.

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.

Bousiou, Alexandra. 2022. “Peripheralisation and Externalisation of the EU Asylum Regime: Implications for the Right to Seek Asylum on the Southeastern EU Border Islands.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 1–17.

Bousiou, Alexandra, and Evie Papada. 2020. “Introducing the EC Hotspot Approach: A Framing Analysis of EU’s Most Authoritative Crisis Policy Response.” International Migration 58 (6): 139–52.

Brown, Wendy. 2010. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. New York: Cambridge, Mass: Zone Books ; Distributed by the MIT Press.

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

Casas-Cortes, Maribel, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles. 2016. “‘Good Neighbours Make Good Fences’: Seahorse Operations, Border Externalization and Extra-Territoriality.” European Urban and Regional Studies 23 (3): 231–51.

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

De Haas, Hein, Stephen Castles, and Mark J. Miller. 2019. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. Sixth edition, Reprinted by Bloomsbury Academic. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

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.

Doty, Roxanne Lynn. 2007. “States of Exception on the Mexico-U.S. Border: Security, ‘Decisions,’ and Civilian Border Patrols.” International Political Sociology 1 (2): 113–37.

Doty, Roxanne Lynne, and Elizabeth Shannon Wheatley. 2013. “Private Detention and the Immigration Industrial Complex.” International Political Sociology 7 (4): 426–43

Franko, Katja, and Helene O. I. Gundhus. 2015. “Policing Humanitarian Borderlands: Frontex, Human Rights and the Precariousness of Life.” British Journal of Criminology 55 (1): 1–18.

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

Gammeltoft-Hansen, Thomas. 2013. “The Rise of the Private Border Guard. Accountability and Responsibility in the Migration Control Industry.” In The Migration Industry and the Commercialization of International Migration, edited by Thomas Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and Ninna Nyberg Sørensen, 128–51. London ; New York: Routledge.

Geddes, Andrew. 2021. “Prospects for Global Migration Governance.” In Governing Migration Beyond the State, by Andrew Geddes, 170–92. Oxford University Press.

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. 2023. “Performing Secrecy: Hiding and Obfuscation in Frontex’s Pushbacks Scandal.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies Online First: 1–21.

Hall, Alexandra. 2023. “Researching Security Decisions at the Border (or Serendipity and Secret Places).” In Research Methods in Critical Security Studies, by Mark B. Salter, Can E. Mutlu, and Philippe M. Frowd, 2nd ed., 108–13. London: Routledge

Huysmans, Jef, and Vicki Squire. 2016. “Migration and Security.” In Routledge Handbook of Security Studies, edited by Myriam Dunn Cavelty and Thierry Balzacq, 161–71. Second edition. | Abingdon, Oxon ; 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.

İşleyen, Beste. 2023. “Following Turkish Border Practices.” In Research Methods in Critical Security Studies, by Mark B. Salter, Can E. Mutlu, and Philippe M. Frowd, 2nd ed., 155–60. London: Routledge.

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.

Jeandesboz, Julien. 2021. “Technology, Knowledge and the Governing of Migration.” In Handbook on the Governance and Politics of Migration, edited by Emma Carmel, Katharina Lenner, and Regine Paul, 329–40. Elgar Handbooks in Migration. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.

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

Léonard, Sarah, and Christian Kaunert. 2020. “The Securitisation of Migration in the European Union: Frontex and Its Evolving Security Practices.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, December, 1–13

Longo, Matthew. 2018. The Politics of Borders: Sovereignty, Security, and the Citizen after 9/11. Problems of International Politics. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 

Loukinas, Panagiotis. 2021. “Drones for Border Surveillance: Multipurpose Use, Uncertainty and Challenges at EU Borders.” Geopolitics, 1–24

Martins, Bruno Oliveira, Kristoffer Lidén, and Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert. 2022. “Border Security and the Digitalisation of Sovereignty: Insights from EU Borderwork.” European Security 31 (3): 475–94.

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.

Neal, Andrew. 2009. “Securitization and Risk at the EU Border: The Origins of FRONTEX*.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 47 (2): 333–56.

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. 2016. “How Walls Do Work: Security Barriers as Devices of Interruption and Data Capture.” Security Dialogue 47 (2): 151–64.

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 41(1): 110-29

Pécoud, Antoine. 2020. “Introduction: The International Organization for Migration as the New ‘UN Migration Agency.’” In The International Organization for Migration, edited by Martin Geiger and Antoine Pécoud, 1–27. Cham: Springer International Publishing

Sahraoui, Nina. 2020. “Gendering the Care/Control Nexus of the Humanitarian Border: Women’s Bodies and Gendered Control of Mobility in a EUropean Borderland.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 38 (5): 905–22.

Shirk, David A. 2021. “The Escalation of US–Mexico Border Enforcement.” In Borders and Border Walls: In-Security, Symbolism, Vulnerabilities, edited by Andréanne Bissonnette and Elisabeth Vallet, 27–48. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge.

Slaven, Mike. 2022. Securing Borders, Securing Power: The Rise and Decline of Arizona’s Border Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.

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

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

Walters, William. 2006. “Border/Control.” European Journal of Social Theory 9 (2): 187–203.

Weber, Leanne, and Benjamin Bowling. 2004. “Policing Migration: A Framework for Investigating the Regulation of Global Mobility.” Policing and Society 14 (3): 195–212.

Welfens, Natalie. 2020. “Protecting Refugees Inside, Protecting Borders Abroad? Gender in the EU’s Responses to the ‘Refugee Crisis.’” Political Studies Review 18 (3): 378–92.

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 assignment
Type of assessment details
Free written assignment
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 30-04-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students