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).