As we shut down for the holiday period, the team at Border Criminologies would like to look back over 2016 and ahead to 2017. As usual we will summarise what we have been up to, and map out where we are heading. Before we get to that, though, it’s important to reflect more widely on recent developments in order to think about their implications for our work.

Globally it’s been a terrible year. Basic freedoms and human decency have come under threat in democratic societies, particularly with the election of Mr. Trump in the United States. The UK voted in favor of leaving the European Union, breaking up the postwar social contract and now awaits the formal trigger of Article 50 and the uncertainty that follows. Italy’s pro-EU Prime Minister has just formally resigned as France prepares for its upcoming and contentious election featuring a strong nationalist and anti-immigrant party. The EU is once more under significant pressure and tries to shut its borders even as migrants and asylum seekers continue to seek refuge. The bloodbath in Syria is in its fifth year and large sections of the Middle East remain in conflict and famine.

While many of us will be protected, at least in part, from these factors, in a globalized world nobody can be fully immune. For those crossing borders, or living precariously within nation states, matters seem set only to worsen. Under these circumstances, as we have written before, (here and here), collaborative and critical scholarship on border control is ever more urgently needed. It is imperative to keep this work up, engage in public debate, and try to ensure that 2017 does not simply follow 2016 but breaks from it. In the US, more people voted for an inclusive vision of society than against it. Our scholarship, even if it is difficult at times or seems futile given these obstacles, can contribute to its realization.

On a pragmatic level, how do we keep writing under conditions like this? Will research access, always so difficult to obtain and delicate to maintain, dry up?  Will governments allow research to continue?  Will migrants, NGOs, or refugees continue to talk to us? Even if we have these doubts or face these barriers, we must keep up with our efforts.

On a political level, other questions arise. Academic work is often hard to justify, its pace frustratingly slow, and its impact unnervingly vague.  Those who have other skills, like law degrees, may feel pulled in other directions. In the US, in particular, it seems clear that we will need strong, legal advocacy to resist some of the more egregious threats posed by the Trump administration. Increasingly, even in settled democracies, our work places are not entirely immune from the changes going on around us. Not only are they increasingly coopted into border control, but as universities depend more and more on precarious staff, many scholars may feel unable to write on politically unpopular matters. Emotionally and psychologically it is important to acknowledge the challenges of writing in dark times.  It is, quite simply, hard to write when it feels futile.  For those working in environments even more hostile to migrants and refugees, it may even be dangerous.

Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, Hairy Angel, digital photograph 2015, Immigration Detention Archive

In this context, some of us ask how our role as academics investigating border controls can go beyond the University’s walls, more actively engaging in public debates, demonstrating, militating, campaigning. How can we use our words to fight back against a ‘post-truth’ current? We have no choice here: Academics must stand up for facts.

For all of these reasons, Border Criminologies remains committed to providing an inclusive platform for people to share research findings and ideas.  While we continue to emphasize substantive research, in the new year we will also be running posts on how people around the world are coping with working in such troublesome times.  It is also worth remembering that we have a closed Facebook research forum to discuss practical challenges people might be facing. Please contact us for more details.

Border Criminologies has been as busy as ever. We have run our usual term card, welcoming a series of guest speakers from around the UK, and cohosting events with other departments in the University. In September, we held an international two-day seminar on Race, Migration and Criminal Justice Control. The papers from this workshop will appear in 2017 as Race, Migration and Criminal Justice: Boundaries of Belonging edited by Mary Bosworth, Alpa Parmar and Yolanda Vázquez and published by Oxford University Press

Our members have produced a number of scholarly outputs, including Ines Hasselberg’s co-edited book Deportation, Anxiety, Justice, and a short film produced for the Social Science Division about Mary Bosworth’s Immigration Detention Archive. A special issue edited by Ana Aliverti and Mary Bosworth in the New Criminal Law Review on ‘Criminal justice adjudication on the age of migration’ is due to be published next January. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll is currently in Jogjakarta Indonesia where she has written a play based on her work with Mary on immigration detention. The script uses the archive and testimonies in a documentary fiction set in a detention centre. To build the set she has been the resident artist in the Papermoon Theatre, working on the production that premiered in their Pesta Boneka festival on December 2. It will also be staged in the Konzerttheatre Bern, Switzerland on March 16, 2017.

The Border Criminologies team continues to grow and branch out from its Oxford base. In September 2016 we began an institutional partnership with Maartje van Der Woude and her research group at Leiden Law School, who will take over the funding of the SSRN  Criminal Justice, Borders & Citizenship Research Paper Series once Mary’s Leverhulme grant runs out. As part of our link with Leiden, we have just advertised an exciting Leiden and Oxford PhD studentship opportunity on crimmigration and EU cross border mobility, details of which are here.  We also welcomed two new Associate Directors: Dr Ana Aliverti, from the University of Warwick (and a Criminology Alumna) who will focus on the legal aspects of migration and Dr Vanessa Barker from Stockholm University (and former visitor to the Oxford Centre for Criminology) who has particular responsibility for public outreach. Finally, we have two new student editors working on the blog and on our social media accounts: Liz Kullman and Dominic Aitken.

As part of our commitment to outreach, Border Criminologies has recently launched a number of new initiatives including: A Masters’ Dissertation/Thesis Prize, a new Working Papers Series and a guest Twitter Project. The Prize, which is being generously supported by Routledge, seeks to reward and encourage the next generation of scholars by focusing on Masters students who produce outstanding research dissertations. There will be two recipients of the Border Criminologies Prize each year. The winner and the runner up will receive £200 and £100 worth of Routledge books respectively. The prize will be judged by a panel made up of members of the Border Criminologies team and representatives from the Border Criminologies Advisory Group.

The Border Criminologies Working Paper Series will be part of the wider SSRN’s Criminal Justice, Borders & Citizenship Research Paper Series. It provides an opportunity to publish academic work containing research results promptly, without interfering with later publication in a peer-reviewed journal.  You can submit your dissertation or working paper to bordercrim@law.ox.ac.uk.

Finally for the Guest Twitter project, our Twitter account @Bordercrim is taken over for one week at a time by members of our network. The aim is to give the floor to emerging scholars, researchers, and practitioners from around the world to share their work, ideas, opinions and news from their countries, etc. If you are interested in participating in this project please contact Andriani Fili.

We are also starting a new series of posts focusing on legal issues on border controls and migration. Through weekly posts, we hope to keep an open forum for academics, legal practitioners and experts spanning a range of disciplines from around the world to reflect on current legal developments. The first group of posts in January will focus on unaccompanied children.

In 2017, a series of events are already planned. Emily Ryo and Mary are holding a workshop at the University of Southern California on immigration detention, provisionally scheduled for April. More information will be made available in due course.  In May, Ana Aliverti is holding a two-day international seminar at Warwick University on Policing, Migration and National Identity.  There are 40 places available to the public to attend. Please email Ana for further details. Back in Oxford, in June, Mary Bosworth and Hindpal Singh Bhui will host a Knowledge Exchange event on their current project on National Preventive Mechanisms in the UK, Greece, Turkey and Hungary.  While finally, Border Criminologies has partnered with colleagues at the Monash Border Crossing Observatory to hold a two-day Researching Borders Master Class in September for postgraduate students in the Monash Prato Centre in Italy. Around 15 students were selected from a large group of candidates to come and work on a publication in conjunction with senior academics from around the world. 

In all of these events, our commitment to outreach and cooperation remains evident. Working together and supporting younger scholars, involving non-academic partners and promoting alternative forms of dissemination and expression are all important tools of resistance and engagement. We are living through difficult times, but we can and will work together to illuminate and challenge them as best we can.

We wish all our readers a happy and peaceful holiday period, and all the best for the new year. See you in January!

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