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Borders as Mirrors: Racial Hierarchies and the Politics of Migration (Dr Alpa Parmar, University of Oxford)

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building, Malet Street

No booking required

This event is part of Borders, Racisms, and Harms: A Symposium taking place at Birkbeck, University of London on 2 and 3 May 2018, with generous support from the School of Law, Birkbeck. You may register for the Symposium here. #borderharms

Borders as Mirrors: Racial Hierarchies and the Politics of Migration

Dr Alpa Parmar (University of Oxford)

In this paper I propose that borders across western liberal democracies are like mirrors that reflect, deflect, and obscure the image of western democracies and their attitudes about race and emotions toward racial others. Conceptualized as mirrors, the juxtaposition of the transformative function of borders alongside their aim to preserve racial and colonial hierarchies across the world becomes clear. Borders have transformed cities, policing, categories of belonging and the mobility of migrant groups. Alongside these changes, borders also remind us of the productive capacity of the state to make and maintain race, and framed as such, borders reflect the facticity of racial hierarchies that govern mobility for some and not others. Borders conceptualized as mirrors as opposed to lines and boundaries, or barriers and walls, allows their ambiguous and protean nature to be better captured. The paper draws on empirical research on policing migration in England to demonstrate how borders operate as mirrors at micro and macro levels, and their role in ultimately ensuring that sites of racial belonging are liminal. The paper concludes by asking how the metaphor of borders as mirrors opens up the possibility for western liberal democracies to engage in a process of self-reflection (by holding a mirror to ourselves) to enable us to see beyond the apparent irreconcilability of current bordering practices and the duality of their humanitarian and exclusionary aims.

Dr Alpa Parmar is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford's Centre for Criminology and Associate Director of Border Criminologies. Alpa conducts research on the policing of migration and is interested in race, gender, and class and how the intersection of criminal justice and migration control racialize minority ethnic and migrant groups. Alpa also conducts research using life history methods to understand the pathways into and out of offending for minority ethnic groups and their experiences of being involved with the criminal justice system in the UK.

This event is free and open to the public, however registration is required via Eventbrite.

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This event is part of the School of Law's 25th Anniversary celebrations. The School of Law, Birkbeck was founded in 1992 as a Department of Law with three members of academic staff. Over the last twenty-five years it has become a School comprising the Departments of Law and Criminology as well as the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, four research Centres, 40 members of staff and an overall student body of over 1,000. The School is proud of being a pioneer in establishing and developing a hub for the field of critical legal studies. While our national and international reputation has been forged through critical legal research, more recently we have gained recognition for critical criminological and activist research, socio-legal scholarship and policy-engaged empirical research. In recognition of this the last Research Excellence Framework exercise ranked us as being in the top 10 law schools in the UK and in the top 3 in London, while our research environment was judged conducive to producing research of the highest quality.

In this our 25th Anniversary year we will be holding a series of events reflecting on our history and successes as well as looking forward to the opportunities and challenges facing critical legal and criminological teaching and scholarship in the 21st century. Find out more about the 25th Anniversary celebrations here.

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