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Border Policing in and through the Social Service Sector: Perspectives from the Nordic Welfare States - CfP


Call for papers for Research symposium at Malmö University, May 15 on "Border Policing in and through the Social Service Sector: Perspectives from the Nordic Welfare States".

For this symposium, we are interested in analysing the nexus of border policing and social service provision in the Nordic welfare states.

Following the 2015 ‘summer of migration’, several of the Nordic states introduced new measures to deter immigration, further restricting the rights of asylum-seekers and escalating the policing of irregular migrants (Crouch, 2015). This seems to have precipitated a process of ‘NGOisation’ with non-governmental organisations stepping in to provide some of the social services that used to be guaranteed by state authorities.

Meanwhile, a number of recent incidents suggest that the social service sector, including but not limited to NGOs, has become an increasingly important site for border policing. Social service providers, both public and private, have become targets for, and sometimes active participants in, attempts to monitor and police asylum-seekers and other migrants with some organisations collaborating with the migration authorities to aid in the return of irregular migrants.

Examples range from a decision of the Swedish Border Police to raid a summer camp for irregular migrant families organised by the Church of Sweden, via requirements placed on municipal social services to provide the Border Police with the home addresses of irregular migrants, to the active collaboration between the migration authorities and NGOs to motivate migrant street children to ‘voluntarily’ return to their countries of origin.

This symposium is an attempt to open up a discussion on the complex relationship between border policing and social service provision. We enter into these debates informed by recent and emerging critical work within the fields of geography, migration-, welfare- and social work studies that call into question incremental and everyday forms of migration management.

We hope that the focus on the Nordic countries will help foster debate among practitioners, policymakers and the broder public. As migration policy tends to travel quickly we also believe that comparisons between the Nordic countries could be productive: comparisons across states might reveal tendencies and trends in politics and policies that go beyond each respective state.

Potential contributions

We invite scholars as well as those engaged in related research and activism to submit abstracts. Potential themes may involve, but need not be limited to the following:

• Mapping the complex relationship(s) between border policing and social service provision. How precisely are these relationships configured, what actors are involved and what roles do they play? This might involve analysing ‘firewalls’ (ECRI, 2016) between social service providers and the border police, and problematizing the notion of ‘collaboration’ between state actors and NGOs.

• Exploring the underlying – and perhaps conflicting – rationalities at play in the policing of migrants in and through the social service sector. This might also involve exploring the ethical and political questions and challenges that emerge at the nexus of policing and social service provision.

• Understanding the, potential or real, short and long terms effects for variously categorized residents in the Nordic countries and beyond (irregular as well as regular migrants, non-citizens as well as citizens) and their access to social rights.

• Contextualising and historicising current developments in relation to a longer history of exclusionary and disciplinary social service provision.


Please send abstracts of maximum 250 words and a brief academic bionote to Maria Persdotter and Jacob Lind at Malmö University no later than Jan 30th (accepted formats: doc, docx, pdf).

Notifications of accepted paper presentations will be sent out by mid-February. We encourage participants to submit their draft papers by May 4th.

About the symposium

The symposium will take place on Tuesday the 15th of May at Malmö University. The day will include a public keynote speech by Vanessa Barker, Stockholm University (see below) and a number of workshop-sessions where participants who have been invited will present their ideas for papers.

The aim of the symposium is that it will result in a Special Issue in a migration studies journal.

For any inquiries about the symposium, please contact Maria and Jacob.

About the Keynote Speaker

Vanessa Barker is Associate Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University and Associate Director of the research group Border Criminologies at the University of Oxford. Barker’s research focuses on questions of democracy and penal order, the welfare state and border control, the criminalization and penalization of migrants, and the role of civil society in penal reform.

Her new book "Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order: Walling the Welfare State" examines the border closing in Sweden during the height of the refugee crisis and the rise of penal nationalism in response to mass mobility.