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

Cultural Studies Colloquium -May

“In and Out of Translation: The European ‘Refugee Crisis’ and Other Catastrophes”

May 5, 2016, 4:00-5:30, 3201 Hart Hall
Cristiana Giordano, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, UC Davis


Europe’s Failing Project: Migration Struggles, Border Violence and Solidarity Activism

Maurice Stierl, Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor  
African American and African Studies Brown Bag Lecture  
Wednesday, November 4th, 12:00 pm, 2215 Hart Hall
More than half a million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea and reached the territories of the EU in the first nine months of 2015. Estimates are that about 3000 travellers drowned at sea or died when seeking to overcome other border obstacles. As a reaction to maritime disasters and dramatically rising numbers of arrivals, as well as the continuously violent conflicts in places such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine, EU member states and institutions furthered their policies of deterrence, inter alia by declaring war on smuggler networks operating in Libya. Efforts to securitise borders, to deter and criminalise human movement seem increasingly desperate in the light of the stubborn will of millions to move toward central and northern Europe. Due to these unprecedented mobilities, the existing European system of population control has collapsed, leading EU member states to declare states of exception and resurrect and militarise national borders. While anti-migrant groups and right-wing populism are on the rise amongst European societies, we also witness political mobilisations in solidarity with people on the move. As a member of the activist network ‘Watch The Med Alarm Phone’ which created a ‘hotline’ for people in distress at sea, I will re-narrate some of the experience made in our first year of existence during which we were able to assist thousands of travellers in situations of acute emergency when attempting to cross the most deadly borderzone of the world.

Fall Quarter 2015 Launch: Roundtable on Borders, Rights, and Resistance

Friday November 13, 12-2 pm

This roundtable features a group of diverse scholars, activists, students, and artists discussing the key themes of our first year for the Mellon program in Comparative Border Studies. The forum will reflect on questions such as:

  • How is the border a human rights issue?
  • How are border issues connected to questions of citizenship and race, in different regions and for various communities?
  • What does solidarity related to borders and border violence look like?
  • How can we link struggles against border policing across national, regional, and continental boundaries?

The presentations will be followed by Q&A and discussion with the audience. For more information, please


ASPIRE: Pan-Asian undocumented immigrant led group, San Francisco:

Ricardo Dominguez, Associate Professor, Visual Arts, UC San Diego; b.a.n.g. Lab and Electronic Disturbance Theater:

Alejandro Espinoza, AB 540 Center, S.P.E.A.K., UC Davis

Lara Kiswani, Executive Director, Arab Resources and Organizing Center, San Francisco:

Isa Noyola, Transgender Law Center, Oakland:

Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Oakland:

Maurice Stierl, Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor, Comparative Border Studies, UCD

Photos courtesy Scott Tsuchitani

Winter 2016 Keynote Event

Feb52016 (2)
Friday, February 5th, 12-3 pm at the Art Annex 107
This event is cosponsored by the Social Science Research Council

Walter Mignolo: “What Does It Mean to Be Human in Western Civilization: A Decolonial Take”

Thousands of pages have been written on Human Rights. Most if not all of them focus on Rights. Starting from two previous articles (“Who speaks for the Human in Human Rights?” and “From Human ‘Rights’ to ‘Life’ Rights”) I will further query the concept of Human and Life, and who are endowed with Rights. I will argue that the discourse on “Rights” has put the cart in front of the horse. To advance in what Human and Life Rights intend to do it is necessary to put the horse in front of the cart: Human and Life come first, Rights second. The question is then what do we (whomever the we is) understand by Human and Life? Human and Life are epistemic fictions rather than ontological entities. To advance the conversation it is here necessary to focus on the enunciation of the (fictional) entities that are endowed with rights. That is what I mean by putting the horse in front of the cart or changing the terms of the conversation. I will conclude by suggesting that changing the terms of the conversation requires a complementary move: to shift from the priority of reasoning: arguing for Rights to the priority of motioning: decolonizing the ideas of Human and Life.

Engin Isin: “Doing Global Justice: How Activists Perform Rights Across Borders”

The rise of non-state, non-institutional transnational actors has dramatically altered the ways in which rights claims are made, global justice is sought and power is exercised in contemporary global politics. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the nation-state was arguably the exclusive authority for claiming and administering justice, with its inviolable sovereignty, indivisible territory and unified people. The 20th century witnessed the first challenges to the nation-state’s claim to sovereignty over its territory and people. The 21st century now appears a watershed moment in the decentring of the nation-state, at least as the locus of justice. Whether nation-state borders are disappearing or reappearing is not quite the question. Drawing on theories of performativity and acts, I examine how in and by performing rights across international borders and multiple legal orders activists have reconfigured how global justice is done.