Book launch – Seeing Like a Smuggler: Borders from Below

Event date
17 November 2022
Event time
15:30 - 17:00
Oxford week
MT 6

Seeing Like a Smuggler: Borders from Below (Pluto Press), edited by Mahmoud Keshavarz and Shahram Khosravi.

Seeing like a smuggler

The word smuggler often unleashes a simplified, negative image painted by the media and the authorities. Such state-centric perspectives hide many social, political and economic relations generated by smuggling. This book looks at the practice through the eyes of the smugglers, revealing how their work can be productive, subversive and deeply sociopolitical.

By tracing the illegalised movement of people and goods across borders, Seeing Like a Smuggler shows smuggling as a contradiction within the nation-state system, and in a dialectical relation with the national order of things. It raises questions on how smuggling engages and unsettles the ethics, materialities, visualities, histories and the colonial power relations that form borders and bordering.

Covering a wide spectrum of approaches from personal reflections and ethnographies to historical accounts, cultural analysis and visual essays, the book spans the globe from Colombia to Ethiopia, Singapore to Guatemala, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and from Kurdistan to Bangladesh, to show how people deal with global inequalities and the restrictions of poverty and immobility.

The launch event will consist of presentations by the editors and some contributors, followed by an open Q&A with the audience.

Contributors: Mahmoud Keshavarz; Shahram Khosravi; Tekalign Ayalew Mengiste; Nichola Khan; Aliyeh Ataei; Rebecca Galemba; Amin Parsa; Javier Guerrero-C; Debdatta Chowdhury; Kennedy Chikerema; Craig Martin; Simon Harvey; Nandita Sharma


Dr Mamoud Keshavarz

Mahmoud is a Senior Lecturer in Design Studies at the University of Gothenburg and Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology. He is the author of The Design Politics of the Passport (Bloomsbury 2019) and co-editor of Seeing Like a Smuggler (Pluto Press 2022). He co-edits the journal Design and Culture. 

Prof Shahram Khosravi

Shahram is Professor in Anthropology at Stockholm University. He is the author of several books including Illegal Traveller: an Autoethnography of Borders (Palgrave 2010), Precarious Lives: Waiting and Hope in Iran (Penn Press 2017) and co-editor of Seeing Like a Smuggler (Pluto Press 2022).

Debdatta Chowdhury

Debdatta Chowdhury is Assistant Professor in Gender Studies at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Her research interests include gender and law, border/migration/Partition studies—especially in the context of South Asia.  Her monograph titled Identities and Experiences at the India-Bangladesh Border: A Crisis of Belonging has been published from Routledge in 2018. Her book chapter in this volume on Smuggling is a more updated and insightful take on the study of smuggling across the Bengal border, that was part of her doctoral work. She has published with national and international journals, and has contributed to a number of edited volumes, and continues to do so.

Simon Harvey

Simon Harvey is a visual cultures theorist and writer. His research interests include: smuggling and visual culture; new geographies of art practice; counter cartographies; concepts and practices of rhythm; and art and public space. He is the author of Smuggling: Seven Centuries of Contraband (Reaktion Books, 2016).

Amin Parsa

Amin Parsa is a lecturer in Legal Science at Örebro University – Sweden. He holds a Phd in international law and researches the interaction of law and technology in the context of state use of violence such as; war, counterinsurgency and border control. 


Dr Line Richter

Line Richter holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Copenhagen. Her work focuses on irregular migration and human smuggling. Building on extensive fieldwork in Mali, Algeria, Morocco, Spain and France, among West African migrants and connection men, her work provides insights into the social worlds of people on the migration trail. Her research centers on how everyday life is lived under extraordinary circumstances and it explores themes such as the effects of the current global 'war on migration', the experiential dimensions of living in borderlands, and the social organization of transnational crime. She currently works as an independent consultant and scholar.

Please register for the event here.

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