Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Anthropology of Borders

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Anthropological Sciences

DESCRIPTION Why are international borders important to contemporary societies and states? How are they constructed and contested by groups? Are borders and bordering practices simply territorial or are they part of broader social processes? Do migrants and trespassers transform borders?

By looking at key works, this unit will discuss these questions and others arising from the texts we will be studying. The unit draws on the interdisciplinary fields of border and migration studies, but gives special consideration to the questions and contributions that anthropologists have concerned with and contributed to these fields. A wide variety of scholarly work in fiction and non-fiction, and border studies will be considered. The empirical focus, for pedagogical reasons, will be primarily European and Mediterranean, but case studies will be also used.

Study-unit Aims:

- Theorise the border as a social construction shaped by historical, political, socio-economic and cultural contexts;
- Establish the structural conditions that push people to cross borders;
- Recognise the unique experiences and perspectives of border crossers.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- theorise the border as a social construction shaped by historical, political, socio-economic and cultural contexts;
- establish the structural conditions that push people to cross borders;
- recognise the unique experiences and perspectives of border crossers.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- read critically and selectively and make sense of a range of case studies in relation to key conceptual approaches in border studies;
- navigate with confidence online journal databases;
- develop their debating skills through their participation in lectures;
- write an essay with a clear structure that makes use of key concepts and theoretical knowledge to analyse case studies.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main readings

- Agier, M. (2016) Chapter 1: The Elementary Forms of the Border. In Michel
- Agier, Borderlands: Towards an Anthropology of the Cosmopolitan Condition. Cambridge: Polity Press
- Andersson, R. (2014) "Hunters and Prey: Patrolling Clandestine Migration in the Euro-African Borderlands. Anthropological Quarterly 87(1) 119-149
- Ben-Yehoyada, N. (2016) "'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men': the moral and political scales of migration in the Central Mediterranean. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22(1) 183-202
- Casati, N. (2017) How cities shape refugee centres: 'deservingness' and 'good aid' in a Sicilian town. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.
- DeBono, D. (2019) ‘Plastic hospitality: The empty signifier at the EU’s external border’. Migration Studies. Open Access. Advance copy available at:
- DeBono, D. (2019) Narrating the humanitarian border: Moral deliberations of territorial borderworkers on the EU’s Mediterranean border. Journal of Mediterranean Studies. 28(1)
- DeBono, D. (2017) "'Burning without fire' in Sweden: The paradox of the state's attempt to safeguard deportees' psychosocial wellbeing. In Z. Vathi and R.
- King (eds) Return Migration and Psychosocial Wellbeing: Discourses, Policy-Making and Outcomes for Migrants and Their Families. Oxon: Routledge
- Gutekunst, M. (2015) Language as a new instrument of border control: the regulation of marriage migration from Morocco to Spain. The Journal of North African Studies, 20(4) 540-552
- Khosravi, S. (2010) Illegal Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan
- Parker, N. and Vaughan-Williams, N. (2012) "Critical Border Studies: Deepening the 'Lines in the Sand' Agenda. Geopolitics. 17(4) 727-733
- Rumford, C. (2012) Towards a Multiperspectival Study of Borders. In Geopolitics, 17(4) 887-902

Supplementary readings:

- Cassar, A. (2009) Passport. (
- Wilson, T.M. & Donnan, H. (eds) (2012) A Companion to Border Studies. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Essay Yes 50%

LECTURER/S Daniela DeBono

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.