Past Events


Rebellious Movements and Their Control: A Comparative View

Violent Borders, Carceral Seas

Syria, Refugees, and Borders: A Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Border Studies Week (Individual Events Listed Below)

The Armed Border: Gender, Sexuality, Biopolitics, Violence


An informal sharing of theatrical moments generated through an interdisciplinary collaboration between students and professors in anthropology and performance studies.

“Un-stories” addresses the immigration “crisis” in Italy and the Mediterranean.


Rebellious Movements and Their Control: A Comparative View



Caterina Giusa:

“Tunisians from Lampedusa in Paris”: Burning the Borders in Times of Revolution

25,000 to 35,000 Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa after the fall of the Ben Ali regime in 2011. Some of the slogans heard in Lampedusa at that time were: “Ben Ali is gone and us too,” “We have done the revolution to be free, and to be free is also to be free to leave.” For some of those young Tunisian harragas migrating, the notion of “burning the borders” was  a way of expressing the social, economic and political claims made during the revolution. My analysis of the links between migration and revolution in the Tunisian context is based on fieldwork I conducted since 2012 in Tunisia, Italy and France, following these migrants’ trajectories. I explore their perception of both migration and revolution, the mobilisation of different actors in France after their arrival, as well as the reconfiguration of the “migration issue” in post-revolution Tunisia.

Jana Haeberlein:

The Vitality of Borders: Bordering Practices in Contemporary Switzerland

The management of borders in Europe is commonly described as having undergone a large-scale shift and “externalization” since the emergence of the Schengen area. Border control posts have been abolished between EU member states and controls were discontinued some time ago. While the “long summer of migration” in 2015 exemplified how and where European borders have been externalized, this externalization only partly accounts for the situation in Switzerland, which upholds the Schengen border regime in a number of ways in global spaces. The case of Switzerland also differs from that of other Schengen members in that it is not a member in the EU Customs Union which has abolished internal customs controls. Thus, Switzerland is still faced with a more or less locatable, material (customs) border that is crossed by various bodies, vehicles and goods, and this border has not ceased to be controlled. I will take these considerations as A starting point to reflect upon the Swiss border as a site of inclusion and exclusion of migrants and discuss current practices of border control of the Swiss Border Guard from an ethnographic perspective.

Barbara Lüthi:

Freedom Riders and the Dilemma of Mobility in 20th and 21st Century U.S.A., Australia and Israel/Palestine: A Transnational Study

This paper is based on a project that provides a historical analysis of the Freedom Rides between the 1960s and the present from a transnational perspective and with special attention to constellations of mobility. Using the example of the Freedom Rides, this project speaks, firstly,  to the pressing questions of the past and present concerning the politics and inequalities of mobilities impacting different social groups in different ways. Secondly, it addresses the increasing interest in questions of the dynamics and social mobilization of social movements in a globalized environment. As an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement in the US, The Freedom Riders of 1961 impacted similar struggles on a global scale in the following decades, which campaigned for the “freedom to move” and against racial discrimination. Movements inspired by the U.S. Freedom Rides occurred in Australia in 1965 and in Israel and Palestine since 2011. So far there has not been a transnational history of the Freedom Rides as a social movement nor have there been any groundbreaking contributions by historians in the field of mobility studies. This project aims to bridge these historiographical gaps. Using a transnational perspective I will explore how the social movement of the Freedom Riders in the United States was adapted, translated, and moved across time and space. I will also investigate the specific constellations of mobility as historically and geographically specific formations of movement.

Violent Borders, Carceral Seas


Reece Jones
“Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move”
Over 7500 people died attempting to cross a border in 2016. This presentation argues that the violent restrictions on the movement of the poor today are not new or unique, but rather are part of long history of protecting privilege through legal restrictions on the movement of the poor backed up by violence.

Laleh Khalili

“Carceral Seas”

In this presentation, I consider the militarisation of the seas and carceral practices at sea. Though brigs have long been a feature of state carceral practices, I will focus on two other modes of carcerality at sea whose relationship to states and entrepreneurs of violence are more indeterminate: these are ghost ships –unseaworthy ships–transporting migrants across the Mediterranean, and ships and seafarers captured by pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. These modalities of carcerality reveal the grey zone of parastatal operations, and the fractures and fissures in international laws regulating, and heavy securitisation of, migration and trade.


Terry Park 
“Please Believe Us With All Your Heart”: The Nonpatriated Asian Prisoner of the Korean War, the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and US Liberal Empire, 1947-1953″

My talk focuses on the production and representation of the nonpatriated Asian POW through his “voluntary” emancipation in the “neutral” space of the Korean DMZ. I examine the US’s adoption of “inspired defection” as Cold War policy and the emergence of a new legal, cultural, and political figure—the “escapee”— a predecessor of the Korean War figure of the nonpatriated Asian POW. The sentimentalizing construction of this figure triggered a shift in the US imagination that branded the Cold War as a humanitarian, cosmopolitan project, which involved partnerships with non-aligned nations like India. I interrogate the camouflaging labor performed by the words “neutral” and “demilitarization” and the ways in which US Cold War empire neutralized and realigned perceived threats through pedagogical campaigns and non-aligned entities. This grammar of the Korean DMZ, which cohered around the incarcerated figure of the nonpatriated Asian POW, helped engineer the emergence of US liberal empire from the barbed-wire, dissected belly of Cold War Asia.


Syria, Refugees, and Borders: A Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Screening of documentary film, On the Bride’s Side ( with discussion moderated by Cristiana Giordano (Associate Professor, Anthropology)

Presentations by Alia Malek and Bassam Haddad, followed by Q&A moderated by Maurice Stierl, Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Border Studies

“Understanding the Syrian Tragedy” Bassam Haddad

Much of our understanding of Syria has been presented through various political lenses, obfuscating some very basic facts and factors related to Syria itself and its relations with regional and international players. This talk attempt to unpack the oft-cited complexity and clear the exaggerated fog that has been cast over most discussions and developments related to Syria, with current prospects in mind.
“The Road To Germany: $2400” Alia Malek

Border Studies Week (Individual Events Listed Below)


The Armed Border: Gender, Sexuality, Biopolitics, Violence

Friday, October 28, 12:00-2:00, Student Community Center, Multipurpose Room

Mona Bhan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. She has been bhan-photoconducting ethnographic fieldwork in the occupied territory of Kashmir since 1999. Her book entitled Counterinsurgency, Democracy, and the Politics of Identity in India: From Warfare to Welfare? examined the ways in which the logic of “incipient terrorism” guides Indian military’s counterinsurgency operations among border communities who are seen as potential threats to Indian security and sovereignty. In addition, she has published articles on gender and racial tourism, representational democracy, climate change in the Himalayas, border subjectivities. She recently finished a co-authored manuscript with an archeologist, tentatively titled “Climate without Nature: A Critical Anthropology of the Anthropocene.” The work analyzes the implications and politics of the designation Anthropocene and the role of Anthropology in historicizing and politicizing climate change.


Sayak Valencia is a professor in the Deparment of Cultural Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Tijuavalencia-fotona, México). She is author of Capitalismo Gore (Paidós, México, 2016/ Melusina, Barcelona, 2010), and of numerous articles including “Tijuana Cuir” (Denmark, 2014), “Capitalismo gore y necropolítica en México contemporáneo” (UAM, Madrid, 2012), “Capitalismo gore: narcomáquina y performance de género” (HEMI-NYU, 2011). Her research interests are: Feminism/transfeminism, decolonial and queer/cuir perspectives, bio and necropolitics and border issues.




You are invited to read the following articles by our invited speakers prior to the event:

Mona Bhan: “Morality and Martyrdom: Dams, Dharma, and the Cultural Politics of Work in Indian-Occupied Kashmir”

Sayak Valencia: “Tijuana Cuir”

Borders, (Im)mobility, Youth: Photo-Testimonies of Youth From Knights Landing Fronteras, (In)movilidad, Juventud: Foto-Testimonios de Jóvenes Desde Knights Landing


October 20, 2016, 6-7:30 pm
Knights Landing Yolo Center for Families/Family Resource Center
9586 Mill Street, Knights Landing CA 95645
Exhibit of photo-testimonies and presentation by Las Ramonas & Pueblo Unido
Exhibición de foto-testimonios y presentación por Las Ramonas & Pueblo Unido

November 2, 2016
3-5 pm, 3114 Hart Hall
Presentation by Las Ramonas & Pueblo Unido
Presentacion por Las Ramonas & Pueblo Unido

Chicana/o Studies Department’s Hallway (2nd floor)
Pasillo del Departamento de Chicana/o Studies
Hart Hall, UC Davis
Exhibit of photo-testimonies
Exhibición de foto-testimonios

*** Both events are free and open to the public ***
Ambos eventos son gratis y abiertos al público

Las Ramonas and Pueblo Unido are youth groups whose mission is to empower themselves and their community through gaining awareness and knowledge of how to make Knights Landing a safe space for all.

Co-sponsored by Chicana/o Studies Department.

On Containment and Coyotaje: Critical Approaches to Human Smuggling

Thursday, November 3, 10:00-12:00, Voorhies 126

border-profileGabriella Sánchez (PhD, Arizona State University) is a socio-cultural anthropologist who specializes in transnational, transborder underground and illicit economies. Her research – informed by indigenous, post-colonial and feminist methodologies – focuses on the social organization of human smuggling and trafficking along borders, and the criminalization of these practices by the nation-state. Her book Human Smuggling and Border Crossings (Routledge 2015) draws from her ethnographic fieldwork and legal case research on coyotes (human smuggling facilitators) and their clients along the US Mexico Border. She has conducted fieldwork in Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East and Australia and is the convener, alongside Luigi Achilli, of a global collective on smuggling research. A US State Department Fulbright and Boren scholar, she has held positions at the University of Maryland, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Wellesley College, and Monash University in Australia. She is currently the Associate Director for Research at the National Security Studies Institute at the University of Texas in El Paso.

achilliLuigi Achilli is Research Associate at the Migration Policy Centre at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, in Florence, Italy. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS Univiersity of London). He taught at Cambridge, SOAS, and various universities in the Middle East. His research and writing focus on irregular migration and smuggling networks, refugee studies, political engagement and nationalism in the Middle East, and conflict in Palestinian. His last research project has culminated with the publication of a book about the significance of the “ordinary” in the process of political self-fashioning in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Palestinian Refugees and Identity: Nationalism, Politics and the Everyday (I.B. Tauris, 2015).

You are invited to read the following articles by our invited speakers prior to the event:

Gabriella Sánchez: “Women’s Participation in the Facilitation of Human Smuggling: The Case of the US Southwest”

Luigi Achilli: “The Smuggler: Hero or Felon?”

Spring 2016 Symposium

The Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies presents a Spring Symposium on

“Borders: What’s Up With That?” Displacements, Belongings, Rights

Friday, April 15, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis



9:30-10:00 – Welcome

10:00-11:00 – Keynote talk
Nicholas De Genova, Chair of the Spatial Politics Research Group, King’s College London:
“Theorizing the “Crisis” of Borders and Migration”

11:00-12:15 – Boundaries, Citizenships, Solidarities
Shahzad Bashir, Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University:
“In Time’s Margins: Borderlands Identities and Rights in Historical Imagination”
Kim Rygiel, Associate Professor, Political Science, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada:
“Between Violence and Solidarity: The Politics of Citizenship and Rights to Movement”

12:15-1:15 – Lunch

1:15-2:45 – Colonization, Racialized Exclusion, and Sexualized Inclusion
Magid Shihade, Assistant Professor, Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, Birzeit University, Palestine:
“Zionism and Israel Beyond Borders: Citizenship, Belonging, and Exclusion”
Lorgia García Peña, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of History and Literature, Harvard University:
“Black in English: Global Translations of Citizenship in Contemporary Italy”
Randall Williams, Independent Researcher/International Transport Workers’ Federation, London:
“From Queer Militancy to Homonationalism: Reflections on the Post-Cold War Reification of (Trans)national Cultural Borders Through the Neoliberal Quest for Sexual Rights”

2:45-3:00 – Break

3:00-4:00 – Keynote talk
Sherene Razack, Distinguished Professor in Critical Race, Gender and Citizenship studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada:
“A Sight/site We Cannot Bear: The Eviction from Public Space of Women Wearing the Niqab”

4:00-4:30 Wrap-up discussion

Click here for bios and abstracts

Please feel free to bring a brown bag lunch. Coffee and refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact or


Cultural Studies Colloquium -April

“Representations of Palestinian Transit as Decolonization”

April 21, 2016, 4:00-5:30, 3201 Hart Hall
Maryam Griffin, Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Asian American Studies, UC Davis