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Illegality, Inc. is concerned with the “fight against illegal migration” in West Africa and southern Europe, and follows migrants and border workers through their interactions across the emerging Euro-African borderlands. Focusing on the Spanish case, which has been held up as a “success” in the “fight against illegal migration”, the book looks in turn at the trauma and drama of deportation to Senegal and Mali; Euro-African cooperation in the policing of the frontiers; and activism and aid work in the borderlands as well as in Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, tiny EU territories where many migrants find themselves indefinitely retained. While the book drills down into the Spanish section of the EU’s “external borders”, this article instead looks briefly towards the U.S.-Mexico frontier to unearth some deeper trends in migration controls. Prepared in 2013, it was written at a particular time, just before large numbers of refugees started arriving into southern Europe, and just as the US Senate debated ambitious immigration reforms which have since faded from view. As the article suggests, the reason for this shift away from reform may not be surprising – a politics of fear, concentrated on the border – yet to understand the implications and entrenchment of these destructive border politics, we need to unearth the logics behind “more border security” on both sides of the Atlantic. Exploratory in nature, my comments here are meant to open debate about these logics, as well as about their day-to-day workings and human consequences.

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Journal article


Anthropology of This Century

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