The call for submissions for the WAU Congress 2024 in Johannesburg is now closed, and we thank all participants; paper evaluations will be ready on June 14.




( pn39 )

Anthropological perspectives on the coloniality of border regimes and the ‘liberal’ way of migration and international mobility governance


    Gianmaria, Lenti

    Nationality: Italy

    Residence: Mexico

    La Trobe University, Melbourne / Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City

    Presence:Face to Face/ On Site

    Bernardo, López Marín

    Nationality: Mexico / Denmark

    Residence: UK

    Durham University, UK

    Presence:Face to Face/ On Site

IUAES Affiliation: Migration


Borders, (im)mobilities, coloniality, liberalism, decolonial studies


Western discourses of freedom and liberty continue to flower in international politics and societal discourses that neither apply equally for all contexts, nor entitle everyone to exercise their own self-determination. While the relatively free circulation of merchandises, financial capitals, enterprises, academics and wealthy travelers is extolled as a positive outcome of globalization, foreign interventionism in Africa and other underprivileged parts of the world openly reflect the opposite. Furthermore, the implementation of externalization agreements and sophisticating border regimes as a way of ‘defending’ the West and its sociocultural values counterpoint that sociopolitical cliché. Those discourses seem to have a variable meaning for people who cannot foresee dignified living conditions and lack opportunities in their countries, while finding scarce possibilities to migrate or seek asylum through regular channels and having limited alternatives other than engaging in life-threatening journeys that often leave them stuck in transit. This panel looks into the perception and understanding of liberal discourses among irregularized migrants and asylum seekers who are subjected to racialization, mobility control, exclusion and hardship, emphasizing the variabilities in sociopolitical and cultural contexts molding their migration experiences as non-white, middle-class and western. These intersections provide a diversity of equations that have been excluded from the main rhetoric oversimplifying the notion of ‘free movement’ while describing migration as a problem, invasion or sociocultural and economic threat. Contributions to this panel reflect on the liberal mentality of individual choice, underlining the disparity of applicability between ethnicities, religions, genders, languages and social classes. Taking direct testimonies and actions of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, activists and solidarity groups as a starting point, this panel challenges liberal notions of mobility by addressing the actual experiences, structures and power relations underprivileged people face when seeking ways out of existential stuckedness. A mixture of anthropological depth and historically-sensitive decolonial thought would nurture the contributions to this panel. The intention is to address the aftermaths of colonialism and various contemporary forms of neocolonialism in countries of origin, as well as the coloniality intrinsic in the international governance of mobility in a diversity of contexts and at various stages of the migration journeys. The panel welcomes contributions orientated by decolonial praxis, broadly understood in terms of methodologies, theories, standpoints and research topics within and beyond academia, which represent an instrument to deconstruct Western sociopolitical discourses and policies. The intention is to scrutinize traditional paradigms frequently reproduced by academia to simplistically define the subjective experience of people on a journey, without listening to their voices or being aware of the realities they experience in their previous life contexts or while they are in transit countries. The panel welcomes interdisciplinary proposals that explore and design decolonized forms of knowledge-production, as well as research focusing on how people on the move resist the coloniality of migration systems in search for existential mobility and life-change. Hence, the proposed panel aims to foster anthropological scholarship on mobilities and borders from a decolonial perspective, while offering relevant insights on decolonial practice in thought and practice, which could be beneficial to research, activism, solidarity work and policymakers.