Theme Panel: Theorizing Borders: Considerations on the Dehumanizing Character of Borders


Theme Panel: Theorizing Borders: Considerations on the Dehumanizing Character of Borders

Sat, September 3, 12:00 to 1:30pm

In diverse ways, this panel will explore what borders mean for human presence. In the past year, we have witnessed the desperation of refugees and asylum seekers driven out of their countries in the Middle East and Africa, faced with hostile European populations, harsh seas, dangerous roadways, and often violent death, up against narratives, policies, and practices of closure, securitization, and xenophobia. In the Americas, thousands of unaccompanied minors have presented themselves or crossed the United States’ southern border. A range of interlocutors from populist politicians and handwringing critics to sympathetic journalists have automatically labeled these children “illegal” despite the inaccuracy of this label on several levels. While there have been numerous analyses of the warfare and conflict that obviate the risks of migration to Europe and the conditions driving these children to flee their countries, less theorized is a focus on the borders themselves as symbolic markers of legality, sovereignty, and statelessness. The European Union had earlier pledged to provide shelter to asylum seekers and uphold the dignity of persons, yet the discourse of “hordes” at the border has turned those individuals seeking safe haven into criminals. On our US Southern border, the fleeing children’s mere presence at the border appears to have transformed them into violators of law; the significance of the border itself – symbolical, legal, and political – deserves our serious attention.

Considering the APSA theme of Great Transformations and Big Questions of Our Time, we have designed this panel to interrogate the potential to inspire change and to reverse the multiplication of borders through a framework of human rights norms. These norms may offer ways to challenge the inhumanity of containment and the precariousness of statelessness, but – at the same time – may prove inadequate in offering compelling alternatives to intransigent appeals to state sovereignty. This panel will investigate the transformative potential of theorizing about borders within the architecture of human rights norms.

View in the 2016 Online Program.

Michael A. Mosher, University of Tulsa

Border Myths or Paradox? Territorial Sovereignty and Uprootedness
Kathleen R. Arnold, DePaul University
Borders, Violence, and Immobility
Julie Mostov, Drexel University
Derechos en Crisis: Asylum Claims in the Age of Neoliberalism
Alfonso Gonzales, UT Austin
Occupied Body, Occupied Mind: Transforming Vulnerability in Raja Shehadeh
John Randolph LeBlanc