Two Lectures by Professor Ranabir Samaddar

Photo: Jan Boeve / ECF

Upcoming Lectures By Professor Ranabir Samaddar


Date: 6 March 2019.  3.15 PM – 5.00 PM
Venue: Uppsala University, Engelska Parken, Room 2-0076.
(Co-organized by Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre)


Date: 7 March 2019.  2.00 PM – 4.00 PM
Venue: Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Decolonizing Architecture studio (second floor)
(Co-organized by Royal Institute of Art)

Stephen Castles and his co-authors famously introduced the question of age in their book, The Age of Migration. The first edition of the book came out in 1993. The last – fifth edition – was published in 2014. At one level the term age seems to justify its presence in the title of this extremely well-known book, which is based on analyses of contemporary migration systems, rationally written, compact, sensitive to rights, and is aware of the global nature of the issue. Yet, at another level, there seems something fundamental missing. It is not just the postcolonial reality which is missing, but the age is also viewed through Northern optics – shaped by the experiences of the receiving countries of the North. More troubling is that fact that Castles and his co-authors and along with them an overwhelming number of researchers in migration and forced migration studies do not sufficiently engage with the fact that if this is an age of migration, it is because this age is postcolonial. It is a global age when globalization and the postcolonial realities densely interact and at times become indistinguishable from each other.

The so-called “local” issues of migration – trans-border flows among countries of the South, migratory movements of the internally displaced, growing statelessness leading to forced population movements, border violence, partitioned refugees, borderland existences, customary practices and local protection arrangements, bilateral agreements on protection, the juridical discourses of care and power, the protracted nature of displacement, labour flows, and the gamut of relationships between globalization, nationalism, citizenship, and migration in postcolonial regions – constitute the global. These define our global age of migration.

From this point of view the talk on the postcolonial age of migration aims to interrogate the age. It will argue that the once-colonial relations are being produced and reproduced in global migratory flows. The postcolonial age of migration thus not only indicates a geopolitical and geo-economic division of the globe between countries of the North and those of the South with population flows passing from the latter to the former, but also the production of these relations within and among the countries of the North. Migration (along with forced migration) therefore indicates a relation. Today it indicates above all some of the ways in which (a) precarious, migrant labour is produced for global commodity supply chains; (b) migration is perceived as a global crisis; and (c) administrative regulations and laws play with each other in imposing a control regime that can also claim to be humanitarian and at the same time efficient. Hence governance of mobility has to continuously improvise. This delicate mission of global governance can be seen best in marginal situations, which act as laboratories of neoliberalism. They speak of certain relations in global economy and politics, which are combinations of the postcolonial and the neoliberal.

The talk will examine the dynamics of the protection of refugees and migrants from this angle. It will show how care and power are integral to each other.


Ranabir Samaddar is the Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group, India. He belongs to the critical school of thinking and is considered as one of the foremost theorists in the field of migration and forced migration studies. His writings on the nation state, migration, labour, and urbanization have signaled a new turn in critical post-colonial thinking. Among his influential works are: Memory, Identity, Power: Politics in the Junglemahals, 1890-1950 (Orient Longman, 1998), The Marginal Nation: Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal (Sage, 1999), and (co-authored) Beyond Kolkata: Rajarhat and the Dystopia of Urban Imagination (Routledge, 2014). His latest work is Karl Marx and the Postcolonial Age (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017).

The Design Politics of the Passport: A Conversation between Mahmoud Keshavarz and Stefan Jonsson

Date: Thursday 7 March 2019
Time: 5.30 pm
Place: The Swedish Arts Grants Committee, The Project Room
Address: Maria skolgata 83, Stockholm, Sweden
Language: English 

The Design Politics of the Passport: Materiality, Immobility, and Dissent is a recently published book by design scholar Mahmoud Keshavarz. It’s an innovative study of the passport and its associated social, political and material practices as a means of uncovering the workings of ‘design politics’. It traces the histories, technologies, power relations and contestations around this small but powerful artefact to establish a framework for understanding how design is always enmeshed in the political, and how politics can be understood in terms of material objects.

Combining design studies with critical border studies, alongside ethnographic work among undocumented migrants, border transgressors and passport forgers, this book shows how a world made and designed as open and hospitable to some is strictly enclosed, confined and demarcated for many others – and how those affected by such injustices dissent from the immobilities imposed on them through the same capacity of design and artifice.

Stefan Jonsson is a writer, critic and professor at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), Linköping University. He has written widely on European modernism and modernity, as well as on racism and on colonial and postcolonial cultures and aesthetics. His recent books include Crowds and Democracy (2013) and Eurafrica: The Untold History of European Integration and Colonialism (2015, with Peo Hansen). He worked with Pia Arke on Stories from Scoresbysund: Photography, Colonisation and Mapping.

Mahmoud Keshavarz is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Engaging Vulnerability Research Program, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University. His work sits at the intersection of design studies and politics of movement and migration. He is the co-founder of Decolonizing Design Group and since 2019, co-editor-in-chief of the journal Design and Culture.


The Design Politics of the Passport: Materiality, Immobility and Dissent is introducing a new public events’ program at Iaspis, looking at how socially engaged practice within design, craft and architecture engages in relation to urgent contemporary societal issues. The program unfolds through various themes and formats from the autumn 2019. The first, entitled Vulnerability by Design explores the intersections of what forms of human, animal and environmental vulnerabilities are produced by design and designing and how the vulnerability, partiality and limits of design and designing are exposed through various tactics and techniques. Through three main themes: borders, environments and bodies these issues will be highlighted and discussed in a series of seminars with Swedish and international guests. Vulnerability by Design is developed by Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s international programme for Visual and Applied Artists together with Mahmoud Keshavarz.

Seeing: The Problem. A Lecture by Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Date: 23 October 2018. 15.00-17.00

Venue: Ihresalen, Uppsala University, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3

“What if photographs depict what should not have been?” –Jacqueline Goldsby

I have been inconsistent in my relationship with and treatment of moving and still photographic images that depict what should not have been. In this lecture I will first briefly describe two projects in which visual documentation of premature violent death played a central role in the effort to organize evidence for political persuasion. Then, after showing the fragility of the projects’ underlying assumptions, I will explore social features and uses that shaped and shadowed the democratization of photographic image-making. Finally I will offer the outlines of a counter-narrative to highlight how we might usefully consider the co-constitutive interdependencies of consciousness, historical geography, and the machine, in the process of materializing objects that inspire subjects in struggle.

Continue reading Seeing: The Problem. A Lecture by Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Open Call: “Art & Migration. Re-Making the World: Human Mobility, Border Violence, and Security Markets”

Tintin Wulia, “Fallen”, 2011. Single-channel video. Still image courtesy of the artist.

PARSE research trajectory on Art & Migration based at the University of Gothenburg calls for contributions that inquire into the embodied, affective, performative, material, visual, and spatial politics of cross-border human mobilities, through arts/crafts/design as well as other disciplines and practices. It concerns all the actors involved in these mobilities: the remarkable proliferation over recent years of heterogeneous human migration formations, including labour migrants and people seeking asylum, the border enforcement infrastructures that arise in response to these mobilities, as well as how these infrastructures incorporate market-based/migration industry actors.

We are interested in works that seek to apprehend or interrogate these complex alliances, antagonisms, and complicities, analysing or interpreting conditions where (nation-)states’ official infrastructures for border control coexist with migration industry infrastructures for border-crossing and market-based enterprises for border enforcement. These include border control through proliferating physical barricades, militarised policing, multilateral border cooperation, detention camps, deportation dragnets, and new strategies of surveillance; both formal and informal migration industry infrastructures (e.g. the outsourcing of migration visa processing, labour migrant recruitment agencies, remittance services, the rise of transit spaces along migration corridors, forged passport markets, migrant smuggling, amongst others); and private security contractors for offshore detention centres. Continue reading Open Call: “Art & Migration. Re-Making the World: Human Mobility, Border Violence, and Security Markets”

Seminar: Snapshots of the Border Walls

Date: 17 September 2018. 15.00-17.00
Venue: Spelbomskan. Aula Magna, Stockholm University

With Minimal Force
Adania Shibli (Writer/Birzeit University)

In light of the political, economic, spatial, and social realms in Palestine/Israel, many art works that were created over the last two decade, had been shaped by colonial and power techniques implemented by the Israeli authorities and military. Such techniques are in particular targeting the movement of Palestinians, and introduced either as daily routine or collective punishment. This seminar will bring discuss examples from the field of art, and how visual art works and even literary texts do interact with such techniques and subvert the very relations they generate by redefining individuals’ positions.

Privilege, Space and Art at the US-Mexico Border
Markus Heide (Uppsala University)

I will introduce sites at the US-Mexico borderline that provide space for the performance of activities of social privilege, such as tourism, international trade, sports, and the arts. These places, in their distinct ways, create an atmosphere of being removed from the immediate perils and evils of the borderlands: illegal trade and undocumented immigration. At the same time the three places are shaped by the militarization of the U.S.’ Southern border since the 1990s and the post-9/11 security regime: The closed and guarded fence and border patrol agents are visible and mark the places as part of the border blockade. Although the three distinct places contribute to cross-border contacts and exchange, they, as well as their use by border people and visitors, contribute to bordering practices and to normalizing the militarized border. How are forms of mobility constructed in the borderlands? What kind of mobilities are welcome by the border regimes? What kind of hierarchies of mobility do the controlled borderlands create?

Symposium: Seeing Like a Smuggler

In a world with an increasing asymmetrical access to freedom of movement in particular and to unequal access to labour, health care and education in general, those who find themselves in vulnerable conditions, rely on irregular services of accessing these rights. Whether for those migrants and refugees whose possibilities to claim asylum and residence have been drastically shrunk since early 1990s, or for border porters who carry heavy package of goods on their back across borders to earn an income, smuggling has been a social, political and economic endeavour that grows alongside the state and its border politics. Continue reading Symposium: Seeing Like a Smuggler

Managing Animal Movements And Quarantine across The Mediterranean: Outline of a Parallel Border Regime

 Professor Sarah Green (University of Helsinki)

People have designed procedures and techniques to control the movement of living animals and, as importantly, to control the movement and spread of animal diseases, across space for centuries. Yet, while the borders that manage and attempt to control the movement of people have received enormous attention from researchers, including anthropologists, the parallel system that manages the movement of animals appears to be virtually invisible – except when the French President wants to send a horse to the Chinese President; or, occasionally, when animal activists get headlines in their ongoing attempts to prevent the long-distance transportation of livestock; or, more often, when an infectious disease breaks out (foot and mouth, bird influenza, swine flu, BSE, etc). Even when these stories appear in the media, little is said about the border regimes that are supposed to regulate the movement of live animals and attempted control over the spread of their diseases. Continue reading Managing Animal Movements And Quarantine across The Mediterranean: Outline of a Parallel Border Regime

Border Methodologies – Panel Session at the 2nd ABS World Conference

10-14 July 2018, Vienna & Budapest

There is an increased interdisciplinary interest in the topic of borders and borderlands. Correspondingly, the field of border studies was growing quite fast in the last years. Despite the increasing number of case studies on different borders across the world and the deepening of theoretical and conceptual thoughts on borders and bordering, there is a significant lack of systematic and comparative reflections on the methodological foundations and consequences of border studies. In our understanding, methodologies link theoretical and empirical accounts as they gather the relationship of epistemological perspectives, choice of research methods and reflections on their scope, reflections on the research process and the role of the researchers, assumptions about the heuristic use of theories, reflections on types of data and their explanatory power etc. Continue reading Border Methodologies – Panel Session at the 2nd ABS World Conference

Crisis of Images

Please pay attention that the time of the event is 17.00-18.30 


Crisis of Images

The figure of refugee is formed by visual representations in the form of abundant images in the press, on TV, in documentaries, cinema, and even in coffee-table books. In some images we see defaced people packed on boats, in others we see de-named faces of suffering men and women. The visual representation visiblizes and invisiblizes them at the same time. What do these images tell us about our fantasies/imagination, the present economy of psychosocial and political (in)visibility? And about the politics of fear shadowing the current European refugee regime of subtle but effective dehumanization? What are the ethical implications? And how the refugee can disrupt this regime of representation and stop being seen as “problem people”? These questions and other related questions will be discussed by scholars, artists, and filmmakers.

Continue reading Crisis of Images