Post by Maartje van der Woude, full professor of Law & Society at Leiden Law School, the Netherlands, and Associate Director of Border Criminologies. Maartje´s expertise lies with legal and social matters related to (counter)terrorism, (border)security and migration, and the growing interconnectedness of all three. Over the past couple of years, she has published extensively – in English and Dutch – on etho-racial profiling, border policing, (counter)terrorism and crimmigration.
Review of Migration by Boat: Discourses of Trauma, Exclusion and Survival, edited by Lynda Mannik (Berghahn Books, 2016).
In addressing these contrasting representations and experiences, all authors focus on an alternative mode of representation to facilitate humanitarian perspectives that are often left out of policy decisions, public conversations and media reports. Each of the chapters feature a particular kind of marginalization that exaggerates aspects of belonging, and underlines the fluid borders that differentiate ’us’ from ‘them’. By drawing on a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, theories and varied ethnographic fieldwork every chapter presents a fascinating case study on the human drama of migration across bodies of water. The book is divided in four sections, each containing three to four chapters: (1) Embedded memories for public consumption, (2) The artist and the illegal immigrant, (3) Media, politics and representation and (4) Stories of smuggling, trauma and rescue. With the chapters being very different from each other due to the richness of methods, perspectives and theories that are applied, the role of the editor - Lynda Mannik – in presenting them in the Introduction, as well as reflecting on their different contributions in the Afterword is crucial. Mannik is successful in identifying the connecting lines and relating the contributions to the four central themes of the book.
These themes are critical to understanding the power and relevance of interdisciplinarity in analyzing dominant discourses with regards to nation state policy making and public opinion. The first theme, water as an ambiguous space, addresses the importance of understanding the complex circulations and relationships linked to ocean travel and the positive dynamics of movement through water in order to understand the ambiguous nature of migrants’ experiences. While the water is a space of peril and danger, but on the other hand, it is also a space of hopes and dreams for better times to come. The second theme, trauma versus agency, critically questions the different dominant narratives around migration, especially the very strong dichotomy of being either a victim or a villain and the consequences this has for state and humanitarian action. The third theme, control and protectionism, looks at the way in which the framing of migrants’ and their identities, often suggesting links with criminality and risks, affects public opinion and government policies concerning immigration and vice versa. Several chapters reveal how political arguments favouring protectionism and state centered securitization seem to prevail when it comes to refugees who arrive by boat as water borders are often more difficult to police and survey, but also how media representations sensationalize them as a dire threat or crisis to the security of citizens on a variety of levels including economic, health, and basic safety. The fourth, and last theme is personal and public memory. This theme captures the richness of the empirical analysis underlying many of the essays in the book, where authors are reconstructing experiences and narratives by analyzing monuments and detailed personal accounts. Personal accounts, in particular, give unique insight into actual experience and enlighten readers to the realities of forced migration.
Migration by Boat offers its readers a diverse and rich collection of essays, centred on migration, borders, identities, and humanitarian ideals, pushing its readers to see transnational flows of people away from the clear-cut juxtapositions of citizen/stranger, land/water and victim/threat. This makes the book an important and interesting read for a broad audience. The overarching concern of the contributing authors for human life and dignity, and their efforts in challenging indifference lend both urgency and timeliness to the text and make it a must read for anyone working on, or interested in, issues on migration and borders. Whereas the previously mentioned theoretical and methodological richness might be predominantly of interest to a more scholarly crowd of both students and researchers, the book and its different essays will also engage non-scholarly audiences of migrants, policy makers and the general public.
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style)
van der Woude, M. (2018) Book Review: Migration by Boat: Discourses of Trauma, Exclusion and Survival. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/03/book-review-0 (Accessed [date]).