Migration Infrastructure: Mapping the European Border Regime

University of Basel

The University of Basel offers its third Critical Urbanisms Winter School with an interdisciplinary focus on the European border regime. This course introduces students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to urban studies by providing them with explorative skills in spatial analysis and critical thinking on the politics of migration.

At the time of writing, newspapers reports warn of catastrophe resulting from the increasingly untenable, dehumanizing conditions under which people are trapped in vastly overcrowded camps on Greek islands and in Libyan prisons on the southern shores. Meanwhile, the EU tackles the so-called “migration crisis” by sealing its land and sea borders, criminalizing assistance to migrants in distress, and striving to re-distribute refugees and asylum seekers among its member states. How did migration become Europe’s existential question, and how do its policies to stem migration shape lived realities on the ground across Europe, the Mediterranean region, and far beyond?

This course contextualizes these contemporary conditions and political uncertainties in the longer history of population displacement, refugee policies, migration management, and the transformation of borders. It explores the increasing entanglement between humanitarian intervention and securitization, and how this entanglement spurs both the illegalization of migrants and the systematic violation of their human rights. Of particular interest in this regard is the role of infrastructure, architecture, and planning in shaping migration policies and their implementation. Using a range of methods from mapping to media analysis, this course trains students to study the concrete spaces, physical infrastructures, and technical procedures by which state institutions and a range of other actors govern migration. Over the course of five intensive days, students will be led through a series of lectures, seminars, and workshops that equip them with foundational analytical skills in urban studies.