The Reactionary Border: Mobilities, Asylum and Triggering Migration

Authors: Lewis Dowle*, University of St Andrews
Topics: Political Geography, Migration, Social Geography
Keywords: Reactionary Border, Migration, Refugees, (Co)Relationality, Asylum
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Silver, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Scholarship addressing the political geographies of refugees and asylum seekers must account for the rupture emerging in the spatial-temporal logics of the border. Organically susceptible to forces, encounters, constructions and tensions beyond the material world, borders, and their multiple (re)constructions, exist and operate in multifarious ways. This paper proposes a new concept to explore the mutability and mutuality of borders and migrants through the reactionary border. Chrono-politically situated, the idealised constructions of the past and the symptomatic anticipations of the future shape the border reactionarily in response to polysemic stimuli. Utilising the Swedish and Danish border during the ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015-2016 as its empirical grounding, this paper considers new theoretical horizons of borders, refugees and asylum seekers, specifically concerning cognitive, political and material triggers. Social constructions of the ‘deserving’ native citizen, intimately bound up with notions of nationalism and the welfare state, culminated in discourses of nation-state sovereignty at the expense of those deemed ‘bare life’. Emotional and affectual responses stemming from these interactions between the state, citizen and migrant were amplified through semantic constructions of crises and urgencies, used to justify both solidarity and segregation. These ambiguous ‘trigger’ points sparked novel and capricious (re)activations of the border, resulting in significant and varied effects on the new arrivals into Northern Europe. Political struggles within, between and beyond both Sweden and Denmark are then explored and theorized concerning the normalization of the reactionary border, seeping into the everyday lives of contemporary asylum seekers and refugees.

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