Introduction by Mary Bosworth, Director of Border Criminologies. Follow Mary on Twitter @MFBosworth.
Over the next three weeks we are running a themed series on our research network. Earlier this year, we contacted members of our advisory board, and affiliated students and researchers asking for an update on their activities. Not everyone responded, so if you’re reading this now and meant to do so, please get in touch!
As is evident in the variety of posts, Border Criminologies’ members remain extremely active. The root cause of this activity―the ongoing closure of borders and various crises of mobility around the world―remains one of the key matters of social justice of our era. It would have been far preferable to have heard back from our members that their work and ideas had dried up!
Notwithstanding the depressing political context, we’re very proud to be associated with the members of our international research network. Border Criminologies continues to grow and diversify, welcoming new members and showcasing new research. Much of the published research of our participants is available on the open access SSRN. Again, if you have been meaning to send us your articles, please do so.
The themed series, which begins today with the accounts below by some of the Oxford members of Border Criminologies, is arranged institutionally as well as thematically. Where possible we have grouped reports of researchers at the same institution. Some pieces are longer than others and thus stand alone.
As this academic year starts to wind down, we hope these accounts will inspire our readers to share their research with us. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, but as the post in this series will demonstrate, there is also an enormous amount of work underway.
At present, I’m working on wrapping up my postdoctoral research project, ‘Home and Away: Gender, Nation, Deportation,’ which examines immigration detention and deportation in the United Kingdom. This means I’m in the throes of qualitative data analysis and writing up the findings based on a year of ethnographic fieldwork across four immigration removal centres and a year of follow-up research with former detainees released to the community and/or removed or deported to another country. The work aims to advance understanding of the interconnected practices of detention and deportation in relation to key themes of identity, home, and belonging. My latest paper in Time & Society explores waiting and uncertainty in immigration detention. I continue to work on journal articles and give presentations to share the research. Ultimately, I hope a book on the project will be ready in the next year.Working in the area of British immigration detention at this particular moment in time is especially interesting as the topic is receiving a lot of political and public interest. The All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration inquiry into the use of immigration detention, and its report, published in March 2015 (and assessed here), has helped generate pressure to reform the British immigration detention system. Several government-commissioned reports (e.g., the Tavistock Institute review, the Shaw Review, and an independent investigation of Yarl’s Wood IRC) focusing on the welfare of detainees have also been produced since February of last year, drawing particular attention to the detention of ‘vulnerable’ groups. Litigation undertaken by the NGO Detention Action has helped to force change to the UK’s Detained Fast Track asylum process. Since my in-detention fieldwork from September 2013 to August 2014, two IRCs have closed, one of which―Dover IRC―was a fieldwork site. Calls for a time limit on detention, especially for pregnant women, are reforms that have garnered notable traction.
As I work towards completing this research project, such reform efforts are a good reminder that detention and deportation are not static policies or practices. It remains to be seen what impacts these reforms will bring about and the degree to which detention and deportation are further entrenched as key state mechanisms of border control.
Over the course of the past year I’ve been collating, coding, and analyzing the data related to my project, The Postcolonial Prison. The project examines what the increasing number of foreign-national prisoners in Europe may tell us of the role of the prison in carving out national identity, taking Portugal and England and Wales as case studies. Working in different jurisdictions meant that I got different levels of access to the filed sites and as such ended up with two sets of data that are more different than I first expected. This has been quite a trial in my data analysis, one that I recently wrote about here. Going through the data has indeed been challenging, sad, and at times extremely frustrating. But it’s also exciting to see the emerging findings and to think through the arguments that are developing in my head. The feedback and support of colleagues and students here at the Centre for Criminology has been instrumental in this regard, and I could not be more grateful to them.It has also been a very rewarding year. In April I saw the publication of my first monograph, Enduring Uncertainty: Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life, which has been quite exciting. It was a particular joyous moment as it coincided with the publication of Sarah Turnbull’s own monograph Parole in Canada: Gender and Diversity in the Federal System. Sarah and I started this post-doc together three years ago and together we worked on our book proposals and went through the pains of publication. So it was wonderful that together we celebrated the publication of our books.
I was also fortunate to be invited to contribute with chapters to volumes edited by scholars whose work has been influential to me. In particular, I was given the chance to dig out the journal and interview scripts of a brief field trip to Cape Verde that I conducted right at the start of my doctorate back in 2008. As my doctoral research changed over the course of that year, I ended up never using the data I collected, not until now. Looking at my old notes made me ponder what they could eventually contribute to the existing literature on post-deportation studies and resulted in a chapter reflecting on matters of research methods, positionality, and social change in this field of studies.
I’m currently working on a paper discussing grievance procedures in prison and their intersection with prisoners’ perceptions of themselves as rights-bearing subjects. This will be presented at the Critical Prison Studies, Carceral Ethnography, and Human Rights workshop taking place at Onati, Spain, on 23-24 June. I’m looking forward to this workshop that is bringing together emerging scholars in the field and is promising engaging discussions.
Over the next academic year I will complete my postdoctoral fellowship, and although I still have quite a few months in Oxford I am starting to feel nostalgic about this beautiful city and the wonderful people that I encountered here. It has been a magnificent learning journey. The end of the fellowship will hopefully mark the beginning of new yet unknown adventures.
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style)
Bosworth, M., Turnbull, S. and Hasselberg, I. (2016) Border Criminologies Researcher Updates. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2016/06/border (Accessed [date]).