I’m giving a paper at the University of Sheffield next Tuesday for the Department of Geography as part of their Human Geography seminar series. The seminar is from 4.15 to 5.15 and will be in the Ron Johnston Research Room. The details of my paper are below:
The dynamic border: The shifting determinants of the UK immigration “control” system
Much of the literature on the UK immigration/border control system discusses how the system of control has expanded and entered into most aspects of society in the 21st century, with an emphasis on ‘control’ exacerbated by the securitisation of society promoted by the ‘war on terror’, creating what is popularly called ‘Fortress Britain’. This paper looks to historicise and problematise this common-held view of the immigration/border control system in three ways. Firstly, it argues that the pervasive nature of the border into all aspects of society, including into domestic British society and abroad, has a much longer history and stems from the sweeping powers given by the Immigration Act 1971. Secondly, the paper presents a notion that the border is not an impenetrable barrier that keeps out all those seeking to enter the UK, but a fluid and shifting entity which allows some people to enter in accordance with the changing desires of the British state – the gates of ‘Fortress Britain’ are often both open and closed at the same time. Thirdly, it tries to answer the question that if the border control system is not a barrier, then what does it ‘control’? It will propose that the border is forced to allow certain groups of people to enter the UK, but it will try to impose itself upon certain groups to “ensure” that people fit the desired criteria (often under great and unwarranted scrutiny) and to keep out other undesirable elements. Controls may not be as tough as the anti-immigration lobby desires, but they are certainly not weak either, and heavily impact upon those who have to negotiate the system.