Unraveling Refuge 2: Critical Perspectives On Increasingly Restrictive Asylum Policy

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme: Ethnonationalism and Exclusion Around the World
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM (PST)
Room: Virtual 34
Organizers: Leanne Purdum, Cynthia Gorman
Chairs: Leanne Purdum


This session critically engages with the current attack on political asylum, in the U.S. and in other countries and geographic areas. Topics of interest include related forms of immigration policing, legal efforts to dismantle or undermine migration channels and the asylum process, and the centrality of asylum to the anti-immigrant extremism of the U.S. federal administration, among others.

Scholars have highlighted the inherently biased and exclusionary nature of political asylum, as it reproduces territorialized notions of state power and individual rights (Nyers 2006, Williams 2014) and functions through processes of categorization which hinge on exceptionalism and state defined identity categories deeply rooted in bordering regimes (Jones 2016). In this sense, political asylum and the refugee definition on which it relies exemplify how legal classification systems allow states to maintain control over territory and human mobility even as they claim to abide by international standards (Loyd et al. 2016). Yet asylum has also provided an important mechanism against which to resist exclusionary state practices and the instrumental (dis)regard for human rights to advance geopolitical goals. Indeed, asylum has figured prominently in the current attack on immigrants and refugees in the U.S; a testament to its role in cross border mobility. Today, it is a legal framework upon which many rely, in the hopes of securing legal protection.

Despite seemingly new and unrelenting attempts to dismantle asylum, these practices and policies build on longer histories of exclusion and forms of state violence inherent to detention and deportation, among other forms of bordering. Geographers have theorized the shifting spatiality of borders (Johnson et al 2011), which are externalized through policy and transnational policing (Hiemstra 2019), and internalized through immigration enforcement which feed detention and deportation regimes (Coleman, 2009 ; Hiemstra, 2013 ; Mountz, et al, 2013). Narratives of crisis, alarmism, and criminality justify and expand these operations of state power (Hiemstra and Mountz 2014, Nevins, 2008; Stumpf, 2006, Williams 2017), and increase the mobility of borders as they move with racialized and gendered bodies through space (Casas-Cortes et al 2015).

We invite papers that critically engage with current practices of asylum and immigration policing, including the continuities with and departures from past bordering practices; legal efforts to dismantle or undermine migration channels and asylum seeking; and, the role of asylum in the anti-immigrant extremism of the U.S. federal administration. Questions to investigate in this panel include: How do we make sense of, analyze, or contextualize the current state of asylum? What does activist scholarship look like in the current climate? How do we maintain a critical posture toward the inherently exclusionary nature of asylum and the forms of exceptionalism on which it relies while resisting the erosion of (the few) protections available for those experiencing forced displacement? How do scholars critically engage with the politics of categorization and migrant exceptionalism while strategically thinking about international norms as a basis from which to challenge the rise of xenophobia?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Caio Fernandes*, Federal University of Rio De Janeiro, Toward hostile migration policies in Brazil: pandemic and selective spatialities of control. 15 9:35 AM
Presenter Mathilde Bourgeon*, , Andréanne Bissonnette, Université du Québec à Montréal, Safe Third Country Agreement: A Collaboration Tool Instrumentalized to Curb Asylum Seeking from Central America 15 9:50 AM
Presenter Ettore Asoni*, San Diego State University, Managing detention in times of crisis: a look inside a detention center in the US. 15 10:05 AM
Presenter Leanne Purdum*, University of Georgia, Do you have a Credible Fear? Challenges, limitations, and cuts to the legal categorizations of the “asylum seeker” 15 10:20 AM

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