EU4A8      Half Unit
Migration From Below: Theories and Lived Experiences of Borders

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Niina Vuolajarvi CBG 7.06


This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Fudan) and MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.  The course will be capped and admission is not guaranteed.

Course content

This course will explore mobility and borders as sites of contestation and focus on perspectives rising from the (everyday) practices of migration in Europe and beyond. Migration is part of human condition, however, in the contemporary media and political debates it is often approached through a framework of crises or a problem to be solved. Unlike this static approach to societies, this course takes distance from the normative lens of the nation-state and its control apparatus to the movement of people. It will introduce critiques of methodological nationalism, address issues of decolonisation and postcolonial condition in migration studies and examine mobility and rights as differentially accessed resources defined by global hierarchies.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part provides a historical and conceptual overview of the questions related to border regimes, modern state formation, and rights. We will examine the historical development of border regimes in Europe and in the USA, their relation to colonial legacies and control of labour force, and how these formations inform contemporary understandings of the movement of people. Then we move to explore the core concepts, such as race, ethnicity, and nation, examine critically the categories of migration, and acquire an understanding of the international legal agreements concerning the movement of people. After orientating in concepts and providing a framework for discussion, we will move to more empirical accounts of the contemporary movement of people discussing themes such as lived experiences of border crossings, citizenship and illegality, diasporic and borderland identities, boundaries of belonging across race, class, gender, sexuality and indigeneity, detention and deportations, and experiences of labour migration. Along the way, we will also discuss the ethical and political implications of researching (im)mobilities.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one essay of 1500 words in Week 8 of MT.

Indicative reading

  1. Shahram Khosravi (2010). ‘Illegal’ Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders. New York: Palgrave.
  2. Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Schiller (2003). Methodological Nationalism, the Social Sciences, and the Study of Migration: An Essay in Historical Epistemology. The International Migration Review, Fall, 2003, Vol. 37.
  3. Stuart Hall (2017). The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation. Harvard University Press.
  4. Serhat Karakayali and Enrica Rigo (2010). “Mapping the European Space of Circulation”, in De Genova, Nicholas and Nathalie Peutz (eds.), The Deportation Regime. Durham: Duke University Press.
  5. Mae Ngai (2004). Impossible subjects: Illegal immigrants and the making of modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  6. Seyla Benhabib (2020). “The End of the 1951 Refugee Convention? Dilemmas of Sovereignty, Territoriality, and Human Rights,” Jus Cogens, 2: 75-100.
  7. Cecilia Menjívar (2006). “Liminal Legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan Immigrants’ Lives in the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 111 (4): 999–1037.
  8. Audra Simpson (2014). Mohawk interruptus: Political life across the borders of settler states. Duke University
  9. Jacqueline Nassy Brown (1998) “Black Liverpool, Black America, and the Gendering of Diasporic Space.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 13, no. 3, 291–325.
  10. Nicholas De Genova (2002). Migrant Illegality and Deportability in Everyday Life. Annual Review of Anthropology 31: 419–447.


Essay (50%, 1500 words) and essay (50%, 1500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication