In this post, Mary Bosworth reflects on teaching about migration control.

Here at Border Criminologies we seek to showcase international research on the intersections between migration and criminal justice. As previous posts have demonstrated, we have a particular interest in research methodologies and how to integrate the voices and experiences of those experiencing border control. We are also developing ties with NGOs and with current and former prisoners and detainees, mapping out a wide network of stakeholders in this field of inquiry.

IRC Colnbrook short term holding facility (men) (Photo: MF Bosworth)
One issue that we have not yet written about, but which we have been addressing behind the scenes, is pedagogy. How can we teach about border control?
Whereas some subject groups, like migration and refugee studies, have always focused on people on the move, for criminology and law, border control is relatively novel. To be sure, legal scholars have always studied migration law, but it's not a big part of legal education and typically has been examined separately from criminal law. For disciplines like anthropology and geography, methodological matters associated with studying migrants may be familiar, but the sites of inquiry―law, custody, and the police―less so.
In short, migration control reaches across all these disciplines, making it a challenge to fit into any single curriculum. Yet without a disciplinary space for these matters, the next generation of scholars will not have an identifiable field to enter and develop.
It's not just how to carve out a new field of inquiry―an exercise that also raises questions about what to name it―but also what to include within such a field. In criminology, for instance, many of those writing about migration control come primarily from two specific subfields: punishment and society, and policing and surveillance. Those of us who write about immigration detention have often previously studied prisons. Others who are particularly interested in border control may have previously written about the police.
In our research, we will draw on traditions from these parts of criminology. Yet, at least in my experience of writing about detention, they don't seamlessly translate. Despite the many overlaps, immigration removal centres are not prisons. In the field, and in writing up, the similarities and variation between migration control and criminal justice can be disorienting. They are also fascinating. In practical terms, they call for innovation, new research methodologies, new categories of analysis, and frameworks of understanding.
Such developments have implications for the classroom. What texts should we include in an undergraduate or postgraduate course? What research methods should we prioritise? How might we revisit our mode of instruction?
In Oxford, we will launch a new MSc option on migration, citizenship and criminal justice in 2014-2015. Some of these issues have already been integrated into the BCL class on Punishment, Security and the State and the MSc option on Race and Gender. They will form the content of a lecture or two in the undergraduate criminology option in law. In each example, mobility and the control of borders are used to revisit foundational concepts like security, the state, citizenship, and crime. They are also a vehicle for integrating notions of race, gender, and ethnicity into class discussion. In teaching, I draw on photography, firsthand accounts, and policy.
Elsewhere, in the United States, Juliet Stumpf at Lewis & Clark has integrated technology into the classroom, running a series of virtual seminars in her Transformative Immigration Law course, where invited guest speakers from around the world answer questions her students pose. In so doing, Juliet addresses the transnational and interdisciplinary nature of the scholarly field, going well beyond traditional legal instruction.
Just as migration control challenges some of our fundamental categories of analysis, so too it destabilises our disciplinary boundaries. In order to integrate it more fully into existing subject areas and to secure the future study of it, we may need to experiment with pedagogical techniques. Significant challenges remain around how to ensure the voices of those subject to border control are adequately represented.
In the teaching pages of our website, we're slowly amassing examples of courses and course material. We would be very interested in hearing from others working in this area and in including your syllabi.
Any thoughts on this? Post a comment here or on our Facebook page. You can also tweet us.


How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

Bosworth, M. (2014) Teaching Matters: Thinking about the Pedagogy of Borders. Available at: (accessed [date]).