© The Party Sales and Hassan Fazili
Decolonising La Mer Mortelle

Infrastructures of Displacement & Racialised Boundaries

EU countries have the most mortal borders of the world, with thousands of deaths of African and Middle Eastern people each year and many more detained or living under deplorable circumstances as “illegal”—which makes them easily exploitable and deportable people. In this third edition of Decolonising La Mer Mortelle, we will focus on the structural, infrastructural and longue durée colonial legacies in current migration policies and ideologies.

Critical voices increasingly argue that the situation at the European borders could only be possible due to the survival of coloniality, where the lives of some people are considered so much less worthy than those of others. The Francophone Martinican author and politician Aimé Césaire talked in the context of such deep inequality in terms of “thingification,” which he considered the essence of colonialism. Last year’s agreements with Tunesia made by the EU, initiated by the Dutch government in cooperation with Italy—after warnings for grave human rights violations from many sides—are a case in point.

In the series Decolonising La Mer Mortelle, running in the academic year 2023-2024, we ask how refugeehood and migration can be decolonised. In this last of three meetings, our panel will focus on the deep layers of current migration policies. They will discuss colonial legacies and the construction of racialised borders, and ask how the period of “decolonization” and colonial continuities have contributed to the regulation of migration, and how they have formed part of the conceptualisation of “Europeanness” and of what are “European countries” (Rébecca Franco). Furthermore, we will address how infrastructures of displacement and immobility are also “infrastructural violence” (Huub Dijstelbloem). Lastly, and gearing towards an alternative imaginary, we will address the question “what no borders” sounds like (Neske Baerwaldt).

About the speakers

Rébecca Franco is an interdisciplinary postdoctoral researcher at the Sociology Department of the University of Amsterdam, where she researches platformised sex work. Previously, she completed a PhD dissertation at VU University of Amsterdam on the regulation of interracialised intimacies and (post)colonial migration in the French context of decolonisation. She published on the saliency of race and racialisation in the historical regulation of intimacy and migration. Her research focus more broadly revolves around the regulation of sex and intimacies.

Huub Dijstelbloem is Professor of Philosophy of Science, Technology and Politics and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) of the University of Amsterdam. He is co-founder of the UvA’s Platform for the Ethics and Politics of Technology and one of the initiators of the movement Science in Transition. His current research concerns the politics of border control and long-term climate policy. His work has been published in Nature, Security Dialogue, Geopolitics, the Journal of Borderlands Studies, International Political Sociology, Sociology of Health and Illness and the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning. His most recent book is Borders as Infrastructure: The Technopolitics of Border Control (MIT Press, 2021).

Neske Baerwaldt is a PhD candidate at the Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance, and Society at Leiden University. In her dissertation, she studies Europe’s borders as bound up in colonial and imperial histories and the stratification of human life. She is also the co-producer and host of the podcast de Verbranders, together with Wiebe Ruijtenberg, where they learn about Europe’s borders through conversation, music, and sound, exploring intimacies across continents and empires.

Yolande Jansen (moderator) is Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. She also is a Special Professor for the Socrates-foundation at VU University, where she holds the chair for ‘Humanism in relation to religion and secularity’.

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