Comparative Border Studies


This Initiative will focus on promoting interdisciplinary, comparative research on the making, unmaking, crossing, and fortification of borders – national, colonial, regional, and continental. Our central thematics are organized as follows, broken down by year: 1) Human rights, citizenship, and racialized belonging (Year 1, 2015-2016); 2) Mobility, militarization, and containment (Year 2, 2016-2017); 3) Protest cultures and transnational solidarities (Year 3, 2017-2018). Please see our Mission Statement to learn more about our guiding research questions and objectives.

Mellon Initiative Team 2017-18

Co-Principal Investigators:

  • Sunaina Maira
  • Robert Irwin

Mellon Visiting Assistant Professors:

  • Maurice Stierl (July 2015 – June 2017)
  • Cristina Jo Pérez (July 2016 – June 2018)

Mellon Graduate Fellow:

  • Zunaira Komal
  • John Guzmán

Upcoming Events

For more information, see our Upcoming Events page.

1. ¿Welcome?
Manetti Shrem Museum of Art
February 1 – June 17, 2018 (note: Museum will be closed May 14-29)
Art Exhition curated by Susette Min (UCD Asian American Studies)

  • This exhibition explores the double-edged nature of hospitality – the desires and fears of enacting and receiving the act of hospitality. Featured artists include Andrea Bowers, Daniel Martinez, Dan Perjovschi, Kameelah Jana Rasheed, and Jin-me Yoon

2. “Refugees and Transnational Activism”
April 10, 4:00-5:30 pm
Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

  • “Precarious Homeland Activism: The Canary Out of the Cage”
    Susan Banki, University of Sydney (Sociology)
  • “The Key to It All? Palestinian Diaspora Activism and the Impossibility of Return”
    Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis (Asian American Studies)

3. “Crossings”
April 24, 4:10-5:30 pm
Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

  • “Disparate Crossings, Desperate Crossings: Interrogating the Racialized Dimensions of Migration in Europe”
    Eliza Joy White, University of California, Davis (African American and African Studies)
  • “Bodies on the Line: Performance of Transparency at the Border Industrial Complex”
    Cristina Jo Pérez, University of California, Davis (Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies)

4. “Undocumented Art and Activism: A Dialogue with Natalia Deeb-Sossa and Aida Lizalde”
May 09, 4:30-6:00 pm
Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

5. “Humanizing Deportation”
April 7-May 2
Sol Collective
2574 21st Street, Sacramento

  • Interactive installation and community workshops.


As the members of the UC Davis Comparative Border Studies Mellon Initiative:

  • We oppose Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning Syrian refugees indefinitely, and temporarily banning all, including Central American, refugees from entering the US. As exclusion of and restrictions on migrants and refugees of color from societies devastated by US military and economic interventions have a long history in the US, we denounce the recent ban on travel by Arab and African nationals from seven Muslim majority countries as a racist and Islamophobic act. While the ban may be temporarily withdrawn, it is clear that it is part of Trump’s ongoing criminalization of Muslim, Arab, and Latinx immigrants and communities and his xenophobic policies of border control.
  • We condemn the new administration’s attacks on undocumented and Mexican migrants and its plans to continue the long history of border fortification and militarization at the southern US border. We strongly oppose the administration’s insistence on expanding the existing border wall, tripling the number of ICE agents, expanding the category of “criminal” to include those migrants who have never been convicted of a crime, and drastically accelerating the violent detention and deportation of undocumented migrants. The US border regime is fundamentally racist and the administration stokes a politics of fear based on mobilizing xenophobia and the garrison mentality of a settler colonial state.
  • We refuse calls to “take back control of our borders and our country” as they elide indigenous sovereignty, paving the way for this administration to further prioritize corporate profit over the self-determination and survival of Indigenous communities. This refusal to acknowledge indigenous concerns is evident in the recent approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline in opposition to the demands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  • As border studies scholars, we are deeply troubled by the expansion of the military- and prison-industrial complexes into the domain of border policing. We strongly oppose the privatization of border enforcement as part of a system that allows security corporations to profit from the violent detention of migrants and refugees as well as the outsourcing of border surveillance and policing to US and international corporations.
  • We recognize that the US border regime is only one of many that shares technologies and strategies of containment, exclusion, counterterrorism, surveillance, policing, and racial violence around the world. This larger network of migration control has had detrimental consequences for the freedom of movement and for migrant rights around the world. We condemn the imperial, racialized, and violent exclusion of migrants globally, as starkly visible in places such as Israel, Australia, the European Union, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, India, and elsewhere.
  • We support political resistance to intensified border control regimes in the US and globally and we stand in solidarity with those who continue to transgress violent border obstacles or refuse to be removed, as well as those who are building movements for sanctuary everywhere.


  • Announcing UCD’s new UC Davis Migration Studies
    This site includes everything going on in Migration Studies across campus, including items related to research, policy, events, news, and other activities.
    If you have any postings or updates for this site, please contact Holly Lefebvre:
  • Congratulations to Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor Maurice Stierl, whose appointment at UC Davis concluded in June, 2017, and who has been awarded the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in the UK, which allows him to conduct research on his project “The EU’s Contested Forms of Border Governance in the Mediterranean Sea” for three years. He will be hosted at the University of Warwick and has decided to take up the award in May 2018.

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