What’s the Use of Race in Migration Studies?

During my recent stay at the Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, as a guest of the RaceFaceID project, led my Professor Amade M’charek, I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak about the silence about race in migration studies at Spui 25.

Event description

Migration and its problems are often understood through categories of the nation, or culture. But can we better understand migration through the lens of race, racialization and racism? Why are these categories so little addressed in studies about, say the ‘refugee crisis’, or ‘integration’? And what could be the use of race in migration studies?

The refugee crisis has not only been subject to intense and at times inflammatory public debates; it has also provided the field of migration studies with a renewed impetus to come to understand the political, economic, and cultural dynamics and consequences of people on the move. At the same time, both public and academic debates about the mobility of refugees have tended to draw on notions such as ethnicity or culture, while the concepts of race, racialization and racism have yet to inform our understanding of migration. This is a curious lacuna, for race as a particular technique of ordering bodies, experiences, and spaces, is a concept uniquely suited to understand the effects of bordering, movement, and circulations. In this workshop, we want to use the lens of race in order to shed light on dimensions of migration that may otherwise go unnoticed.

How does the phenotype make a return in practices of border policing and control? How do technologies of making certain bodies visible, governable, and traceable enact race? How does the body feature as a marker of difference in contemporary understandings of migration? How do and where does other registers of difference – sexuality, gender, class, and so on – inform and intersect with the way bodies are allowed to move (or not), allowed to stay put (or not)?

In this workshop, professor of cultural and social analysis Alana Lentin will discuss these concepts, while short provocations to debate will be provided by political scientists Darshan Vigneswaran and Saskia Bonjour and anthropologist Amade M’charek.

About the speakers

Alana Lentin is Associate Professor in Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University. She works on the critical theorization of race, racism and antiracism. She is co-editor of the Rowman and Littlefield International book series, Challenging Migration Studies, and the President of the Australian Critical Race & Whiteness Studies Association. Her latest books are Racism and Sociology (with Wulf D. Hund) and The Crisis of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age (with Gavan Titley).

Saskia Bonjour is assistant professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the politics of migration and citizenship in the Netherlands and in Europe. She is especially interested in family migration, civic integration, gender and migration, and Europeanisation.

Darshan Vigneswaran is the Co-Director of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies and Assistant Professor at the UvA Department of Political Science. He aims to understand and explain deep changes in the structure of international politics. In his work, he focuses on how the state’s claim to territory has been reconfigured in response to changing patterns of human mobility and settlement.

Amade M’charek is Professor of Anthropology of Science at the UvA’s department of. She is the principal investigator of the RaceFaceID project, an ERC consolidator project on face and race in forensic investigations.


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