Brock University

State Boundaries Beyond Borders

The literature on the displacement of borders is now vast. It covers the externalization of border controls through extensive visa regimes and international security co-operation, as well as their internalization through immigration raids and the limited access to services for people without status. Rejecting the view of borders as walls, most authors working in this field argue that borders act as filters, selecting who and what can circulate, how, and for what purposes.Nonetheless, works in this field of research rarely engage with the boundary-making processes at play in this border work. The papers presented in this session will contribute to this field by focusing on the creation, application or questioning of state boundaries and categories as they relate to borders, mobility, and belonging.We invite papers on a wide range of topics, including: the assessment of immigrants' or visitors' desirability (at the border, in visa offices), the legal and bureaucratic construction of race and nationality, the role of discretion in border and immigration control, the making of 'national' territories, the symbolic values of borders, competing criteria of belonging in borderlands, etc.

Session Organizer: David Moffette, York University,


Bordering and 'Working Holiday' Visas

Jane Helleiner, Brock University,

Wealthy countries use visa regimes to engage in ‘off shore’  or ‘remote’  control and/or recruitment of human mobilities. Using the lens of filtered bordering, this paper takes preliminary look at the expansion of Canadian ‘Working Holiday’ visas that offer privileged rights of entry, work and longer stay to youth from selected wealthy countries.  Focusing on government web sites, press releases and other media related to the growing Canada/Ireland Working Holiday program in particular, the analysis looks at the boundary making (or unmaking) processes involved, and asks what may be learned from the apparently uncontroversial recruitment of growing numbers of ‘Working Holiday’ migrants in a Canadian context of high youth unemployment, backlash against (especially higher skilled) temporary foreign workers and new restrictions for family class immigrants and refugees?


Beyond the Ban: The Subjectivity of the Karitiana Indigenous People as Abnormal Other in the Security Dispositif

Mark Munsterhjelm, University of Windsor,

This paper analyzes the forms of agency mobilized by genetic researchers within the security dispositif (Bigo 2008) through their use of the subjectivity of the Karitiana of Brazil and Indigenous peoples from elsewhere as inbred and isolated Abnormal Other. Case studies of a number of different assemblages reveal how these racialized subjectivities define Karitiana as from beyond the ban, which define boundaries between the normal and abnormal in the exercise of state sovereignty and in sovereignty-enforcement technologies. First, the paper considers Yale University population geneticist Kenneth Kidd’s expert testimony in murder cases in the US and Canada spurred forensic interest in the Karitiana; second, Stanford-based researchers’ filing of forensics-related patents; third, a series of post-9/11 US Department of Justice-funded forensics-related identification research projects conducted by Kenneth Kidd and his colleagues on “Individual Identification SNPs ” and racially-encoded “informative SNPs” for “lineage,” “ancestry,” and “phenotype” (Kidd et al 2011). The paper concludes with how sovereignty over the cell lines is contested by assemblages including Brazilian government agencies, academics, NGOs and the Karitiana, which have asserted sovereignty, moral, and legal claims over the samples but US government agencies and researchers’ have refused to repatriate the samples.


Blinded by the Wall: Identity Construction and Belonging in Border Communities

Maritza Felices-Luna, Department of Criminology University of Ottawa,

Wall-building is not incongruent or anachronistic with claims of a “global society”. Neither is it an ill-fitted solution to the perceived invading hoards of illegal immigrants, criminals and/or “terrorists”; as a way of claiming ownership over litigious territories; or as means of securing conflictual borders. Wall-building is more than an attempt by the frail sovereign nation-state to assert its continued existence and showcase its strength. Wall-building reproduces the underlying logic of immigration and border control policies and practices. However the “us” and “them” yielded by wall-building is not the imaginary national community with a shared identity but actual communities grounded locally and produced through the concrete forms of life made possible by the physical existence of the wall and people’s tangible experiences of it. Mobility and communication renders communities permeable, yet, a wall impedes unrestricted transit, obstructs the view, blocks sound, prevents us from physically experiencing objects, geographies, people, communities and life on the other side of the wall. Wall-building as policy is unique in that it aims to conceal that from which we want to be separated, distinguished. It is a physical manifestation of our willingness to cut ourselves from that which lies beyond the wall.


To Regularize or Not to Regularize: The Development and Assessment of Regularization Criteria as a Form of Multi-Scalar Borderwork in Spain.

David Moffette, York University,

The avenues available to migrate to Spain with the proper documentation in hand are very limited. For this reason, most immigrants first enter Spain as tourists or under another precarious status, and reside and work irregularly for years before accessing a regularization program. Since Spain has abandoned its periodical “exceptional” collective processes of regularizations in 2006, most migrants access regularization through an individual path known as arraigo, or rootedness.

This paper discusses the multi-scalar development and application of criteria aimed at assessing integration and arraigo, and suggests that these practices should be analyzed as a form of internal borderwork performed by a multiplicity of actors at various levels of government. The paper discusses the role of this multi-scalar assessment of migrants’ desirability in the deployment of a form of immigration management that can be productively conceptualized as the governing of immigration through probation.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie