Deadline passed - Sun 7 Oct 2018

Open Call

Art & Migration. Re-Making the World: Human Mobility, Border Violence, and Security Markets

From the genocidal mass expulsion of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as refugees into Bangladesh, to the mass exodus of Syrians from the devastating civil war in their country across numerous borders from Lebanon and Turkey to Germany and Sweden, to the heterogeneous mobilities of migrants and refugees across much of the globe — we have witnessed over recent years a remarkable proliferation of new formations of human cross-border mobility, to an important degree always exuding some combination of autonomous subjective aspirations and desires.  In response, we have likewise seen these same social formations of mobility come to be branded as officially “unauthorized” and plainly illegalized if not criminalized, and consequently there have arisen a multiplication of extra-legal infrastructures dedicated to facilitating these illegalized mobilities (widely criminalized as “smuggling” networks) as well as the diverse reaction formations dedicated to enforcing and reinforcing borders. These border formations predictably include an escalation in physical barricades, militarized policing, detention camps, and deportation dragnets, as well as the increasing implementation of new tactics and technologies of securitization and surveillance.  At times, these border securitization measures have involved a remarkable blurring of militarized expressions of border policing with humanitarian mandates for “rescue” as migrants and refugees have been driven into ever more risky and lethal forms and pathways of border crossing. Likewise, among numerous contenders for sovereign power in the world’s increasingly complex, transnational, and geographically extended border zones, many regimes of bordering are now externalized, outsourcing border enforcement to multiple nation-states and also routinely incorporating privatized security contractors, technology firms, and think tanks to implement various features of border, migration, and asylum enforcement. Knowledge, practices, and products related to border enforcement have become a global marketplace, and even academic research or artistic representations of these phenomena are challenged anew to take account of their own possible complicities with this larger marketization of borders. From Australia’s notorious Pacific Solution, which has involved the coercive and indefinite offshoring of asylum-seekers on remote island detention camps dispersed across the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, to the arrest, detention, and deportation of migrants and refugees across Africa as presumed “illegal immigrants” to Europe, to the diffuse and layered violence of the extended migratory corridor that reaches from the US-Mexico border all the way across Central America and into South America, to the heightened securitization and surveillance of everyday life in the urban spaces of the Global North — contemporary bordering practices involve radical experiments with materials, technologies, space, time, and power.

Consequently, as migration is re-making our world, borders and more diffuse zones of bordering have become key sites of struggle, where the encounters and conflicts among human mobility, state power, and global capital are abundantly manifest, or alternately, where they are overdue for investigation and exposure as a result of their dissimulation or concealment. Therefore, despite alarmist and over-simplified discourses regarding a “crisis” of borders, migration, and refugee movements, these poignant sociopolitical transformations indisputably signal what is genuinely a crisis of representation. Material, performative and visual practices configured through various artistic works, design propositions, textual fictions, cartographical imaginations, and other strategies of geo-spatial visualization have a vital role to play, not only in honing our critical faculties, sensitivities, and sensibilities to the conceptual and affective work of engaging with this incipient world that is being constantly re-made by human mobility, but also in providing alternative tools and solutions to the perplexities of mobility in a world of borders.

This PARSE research trajectory focuses on these complex entanglements and confrontations of human mobility (especially that of migrants and refugees) with states and the proliferation of market-based actors (from “smugglers” to private security enterprises), and how these encounters both facilitate and restrict the mobilities of people and their knowledge and values.  It specifically wishes to inquire into the embodied, affective, performative, material, visual, and spatial politics of human mobility, and how the material, territorial, and corporeal dimensions of border violence and securitization related to migration are experienced or mediated by differently positioned perceiving and sensing bodies. Furthermore, we seek to inquire into how such practices affect subject formation and forms of critique and dissent through their discrepant performative, embodied, and sensate dimensions.  Thus, we are simultaneously interested in the visual, narrative, and auditory/acoustic/musical manifestations, expressions, configurations, and representations of these experiences, as well as the conceptual and theoretical articulations and formulations that seek to apprehend or communicate them, particularly as they are expressed through the arts, design, and craft, but also as they challenge conventional academic disciplines and other domains of representation and knowledge, such as global/regional cartography and geo-spatial visualization.  Ideally, we expect work that engages with the materialities, performativities, and/or complicities of human mobilities and bordering, along the extended global routes and corridors of these formations of cross-border movement and the border regimes that take shape in response to them.

Among many other conceivable avenues of inquiry, we invite contributions engaged with such questions as:

  • How are lived experiences and concepts of border policing and securitization and immigration and asylum controls (including detention and deportation) understood by differently positioned people as expressed in the visual arts, activism, design, theater, music, literature, or migration studies and other academic disciplines?
  • What are productive ways of making visible or interrogating border violence and the intensification of state and extra-state forms of border securitization?
  • How do private firms shape today’s migration policies by designing and marketing social-material conditions, techniques, and technologies that aim to control the mobility of people, knowledge, and goods?
  • How are people counteracting, circumventing, subverting, or resisting the everyday production and enactment of border and immigration control technologies and practices?
  • How can artists, academics, activist networks, and other civil society groups work together to challenge new forms of bordering and border violence in ways that are of societal as well as intellectual relevance?


Erling Björgvinsson, Professor of Design, HDK/Academy of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg.
Nicholas De Genova, Scholar of migration, borders, citizenship, race and labour, Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Houston.
Mahmoud Keshavarz, Design scholar and post-doctoral fellow at the Engaging Vulnerability Research Program, Uppsala University.
Tintin Wulia, Artist and post-doctoral fellow at HDK/Academy of Design and Crafts and School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg.


Complete works should be submitted via the form here. Please add an abstract in the notes section of the form.

Parse encourages experimental forms of research publication including artistic research and practice led research. We invite academic research articles (6000 – 8000 words), essays, creative writing, all forms of graphic visualization, photography, audio work, videos, interactive work, and other creative works. Contributions will be published online. All contributions will pass through an open peer review process.

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