Post by Vanessa Barker. Vanessa is Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University. Her latest book on borders, punishment and welfare states, Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order is now available in paperback. This is the first installment of Border Criminologies’ themed week on Dignity and immigration, organised by Vanessa. 

As part of the annual meetings of the Law & Society Association, Professor Maartje van der Woude of Leiden Law school and I co-organized a mini-plenary session on Dignity and Immigration. Dignity was the organizing theme of the conference and we wanted to connect this concept to global mobility, one of the defining issues of our time as evidenced by major social, political, cultural, and legal transformations taking place across the globe. Panelists included scholars with a range of disciplinary backgrounds, regional expertise and variation in subfields and included: Amada Armenta, UCLA; Jamie Longazel, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY; Thomas Spijkerboer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/Lund University; and Rupaleem Bhuyan, University of Toronto.

We asked panelists to critically engage with the concept, to see if it was useful or counterproductive in the field of migration. We asked them to look for connections in their own work and take a chance to set an agenda for immigration research. Presented in a somewhat hopeful manner within the program itself, the concept of dignity was defined as embracing ‘justice, rights, rule of law, respect for humanity and diversity as well as a commitment to human engagement’ (LSA Annual Meeting, Washington DC 2019). Our panelists, while not outright rejecting this view, provide much needed nuance, critical reflection and counter narratives based on their empirical research on immigration. Through their presentations and dialogue, panelists offered insights, fresh perspectives, and grounded theory. For example, Thomas Spijkerboer discussed the care civil servants took to process and account for mortalities at sea to uphold some form of dignity for migrants lost in the Mediterranean, while fully noting the lack of dignity many migrants face during the journey and upon entry. In her presentation and following blog post, Amada Armenta warns against the embrace of dignity as she sees it as a 'trap' that reproduces rather than levels social hierarchies of worth. In the three posts that follow, our panelists grapple with the concept and provide a starting point for a much broader discussion.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Barker, V. (2019) Themed Week on Dignity and Immigration. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2019/09/themed-week (Accessed [date])