Researching Irregularity and the Thorny Question of Ethics

Authors: Melanie Griffiths*, University of Bristol
Topics: Migration
Keywords: immigration, detention, ethics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Migration scholars are used to operating in a complicated arena. We face numerous methodological and ethical questions: from the nature and purpose of our research findings, to the networks and research paths that we use to reach them. Such questions take on particular importance today, at a time of rapid advancement of mainstreamed xenophobia and exclusionary border controls. I argue that such tumultuous geopolitics demonstrate that we - academics and campaigners - need to move beyond our usual responses, recognising that (at best) the pace of change has been too slow and piecemeal, or only provided relief for a handful of individuals. Now is the time for us critically examine our failure to significantly influence the direction of political travel, and to strategise for a more effective future. In this talk, I question what obligation we have to actively problematise the field we study: from questioning politico-legal rhetoric and administrative classification (from the migrant/refugee binary, to the figure of 'The Migrant'), to practically challenging immigration enforcement mechanisms. Drawing from immigration detention campaigning in the UK, I argue that migration scholars must go beyond simply documenting the harm of border controls, to critically challenge the framing of contemporary migration debates in order to achieve meaningful and systemic change.

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