Category Archives: border

Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth.

An impressive fat volume from the Centre for Research Architecture. Available here


Counter-Mapping Universities

Good to see Ex-Zeppelin and new Hamburg students take up the QM Counter Map:

From the QM collective interview:

What has been the reception to this project, as best you can tell. Have there been unexpected or unintended responses? Has it inspired kindred projects/mobilizations?
The reception has been good, and quite diverse. Some people like the map, some the game, and people stress different aspects of both. In general people really appreciate the fact that it looks very different from most activist and political material. A staff member at Queen Mary in the International Student Admissions Office asked for copies to help her explain to her British colleagues the issues faced by many international students. A presentation to a group of professors highlighted how little our own lecturers knew about the difficulties faced by their own international students.

The game has worked very well as a tool that forces people to discuss their own and others’ experiences of education and border crossings. We specifically designed it as a relational device to get the players to share their experiences and frustrations, and to imagine alternatives. The colourfulness and playfulness of the map has brightened up many a grey bureaucratic political meeting, and inspired others to invent similar tools of mapping, acting and organising in relation to other institutions. We’ve had requests for people to use our InDesign files for making their own maps (the ‘code’ of the map is open and free), and given workshops to other groups making their own maps of the university.

Meeting tomorrow morning (22nd) near Hamburg hafen:

During this meeting we will be focusing on counter mapping using a map project that John Hutnyk presented to us developed by Queen Mary University PhD students a couple of years ago. He has recommended us the following ‘literature’, which we would kindly ask you to prepare for Sunday in case you are interested in taking part.




Afterwards we are planning a small walk through the Hamburg Hafen with the focus on ‘contested spaces’ in order to link the breakfast session with Hamburg.

Billboard wars UK.


Border residue

Spaces of Migration, just published by Pavement Books returns me to the suggestion on this blog some time ago, and no doubt elsewhere, that the discussion of borders has a too easy conception of space. Borders can be aural, temporal, conceptual, and proliferating right here. Where? He-re.

The policy pronouncements of the border authority replicates authoritarianism across the body politic. The compliance of some with G4s or other privatised border tools makes border agents of us all.

Abject humanity subjected to austerity and its justifications, proliferation of pollutants met only with fake environmentalist concern, the persistence, and indeed global extension of workplace ‘alienation’ viewed as nostalgia, deskilling/desktop killing for everyone, not just the ruling class – all this seems to generalise a lumpen character.

Maintain the reserve army and keep us all in fatigues seems the only strategy capital has in this crisis. Besides scrambling for a cut of course, and a crazy generous cut at that. Snouts in the trough, but keeping us all in the sty. Some are more in the mud than others, some are bacon, most are fed on swill – oink oink. The uniformed ones collaborate with the omnipresent butcher. Some are tagged with an RFID chip on their ear. Higgledy po.

grenzlinien/borderlines book out and Frankfurt Book Fair (this is a big deal)

dear readers,
I am happy to announce that the publication of the “grenzlinien/borderlines” project will be released soon.
Even though on a short notice, I would be happy to see you in the heart of frankfurt.
The book (although mainly in German) is available via bookshops and via the publisher:
Next Exhibition/Presentation 14.11.13 – 15.01.14 in Giessen.
Further Info:
Raul Gschrey
frankfurt book fair | open books 2013
grenzlinien: von grenzen, grenzüberschreitungen und migration/// border lines: on borders, border crossings and migration

In over 40 artistic, documentary and academic contributions the book deals with the topic of borders, border lines and migration. The book, edited by Christine Taxer and Raul Gschrey, will be presented for the first time together with guests, among others Judith Kopp (Pro-Asyl).

Book presentation and reading | Thursday, 10.10.2013 | 20.00 h
Heussenstamm-Galerie | Braubachstraße 34 | 60311 Frankfurt/Main

buchmesse | open books 2013
grenzlinien | von grenzen, grenzüberschreitungen und migration

In über 40 künstlerischen, dokumentarischen und wissenschaftlichen Beiträgen setzt sich das Buch mit dem Themenbereich Grenzen, Grenzlinien und Migration auseinander, das von Christine Taxer und Raul Gschrey herausgegeben wurde und die zusammen mit ausgewählten Gästen – u.a. Judith Kopp von Pro Asyl – das Buch an diesem Abend zum ersten Mal vorstellen werden.

Buchvorstellung und Lesung | Donnerstag, 10.10.2013 | 20.00 Uhr
Heussenstamm-Galerie | Braubachstraße 34 | 60311 Frankfurt/Main


grenzlinien. von grenzen, grenzüberschreitungen und migration
Christine Taxer und Raul Gschrey (Hg.)
reihe mono | stereo | Band 5

Grenzen, Grenzüberschreitungen und Migration – diesem Themenbereich nähert sich die Publikation in über 40 Beiträgen verschiedenster Formen und Perspektiven. Versammelt sind literarische und politische, kultur- und politikwissenschaftliche Texte, Interviews, Reportagen und Berichte über künstlerische und wissenschaftliche Projekte. Gleichberechtigt daneben stehen dokumentarische und freie künstlerische Arbeiten: Collagen, Fotografien, Filme, Performances, Installationen und Videospiele, die in der begleitenden Ausstellungsreihe präsentiert und im Buch dokumentiert werden. Auf diese Weise liegt eine weit angelegte Auseinandersetzung vor, die sich durch die Verbindung der Felder Kunst, Wissenschaft und Politik von anderen, inhaltlich ähnlich ausgerichteten Projekten abhebt.

Der Ausgangspunkt der Beiträge ist das geografische Verständnis von »Grenze« als der Einfassung  eines Territoriums, die einen geografischen Bereich ausweist und einen staatlichen Machtanspruch zeigt. Diese Grenzlinie kann überschritten werden, aber nur unter bestimmten Bedingungen. Auf diese Weise sind Grenzen Ordnungen des Raumes, die Gegensätze produzieren: zwischen innen und außen, eigen und fremd, Einschluss und Ausschluss. Grenzlinien treten damit als manifeste Strukturen auf, ebenso jedoch als soziale Konstruktionen.

Zum einen analysieren und visualisieren die grenzlinien-Beiträge die Grenzen der Europäischen Union. Mit dem Schengen-Prozess mobil geworden, sind sie nicht mehr nur an den Rändern anzutreffen, sondern sowohl innerhalb als auch außerhalb des europäischen Territoriums: Wie beeinflussen sie die Realität der EU-Bürger, wie die der irregulären Migranten? Über den engeren geografischen Sinn hinausgehend, werden im Buch zum anderen die mit dem Ziehen von Grenzen verbundenen politischen, sozialen und kulturellen Prozesse thematisiert: Welche Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede werden definiert? Dabei gehen die Beiträge auch dem produktiven Potential von Grenzen und Grenzüberschreitungen nach, das etwa die Konstruktion von Identitäten und Wahrnehmungsweisen bewirkt.

Mit Beiträgen von:

Ximena Aburto Felis : Winfried Baumann : Melanie Gärtner : gold extra : Raul Gschrey : Özlem Günyol : Marie-Hélène Gutberlet : Maike Häusling : Tom Holert : John Hutnyk : Dietmar Kammerer : Bernd Kasparek : Thomas Kilpper : Anna Knappe : Judith kopp : Karl Kopp : Mustafa Kunt : Chus Lopez Vidal : Bounama Magassa : Luise Marbach : Bernd Metz : Pekka Niskanen : Wolf Perina : Timo Piikkilä : Lisl Ponger : Jaana Ristola : Marcus Roloff : Heiko Schäfer : Ursula Schmidt : Jula-Kim Sieber : Katrin Ströbel : Christine Taxer : Mark Terkessidis : Michael Wagener : Norbert Wagener : Alex Wolf : Marc Wrasse

192 Seiten, zahlr. Abb., br., 24 x 17 cm, dt., Euro 25,00
ISBN 978-3-936826-58-6
Erscheint: 1. Oktober 2013 | © gutleut verlag 2013
Erhältlich im Buchhandel und über


Talk in Giessen, Germany 21.11.2013 18:00-20:00

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 23.54.44


Note: The same day as this

Spaces in Migration – Film Screening and Book Launch 14.10.2013

From Limit Experience:

14 October, 6pm Onwards. Cinema, RHB, Goldsmiths

An evening of film screenings, discussion examining the experiences of Tunisian migrants during and after the Arab Spring of 2011. The event which includes a drinks reception will celebrate the launch of Spaces in Migration: Postcards of a Revolution edited by Glenda Garelli, Federica Sossi and Martina Tazzioli (Pavement Books, 2013).


Two films looking at life in the refugee camp at Choucha located on the Tunisian-Libyan border will be screened:

The first, a short made by the editors of Spaces in Migration during their visit to the camp in 2013. This will be followed by a brief discussion and introduction to the book which features interviews with those living in the camp alongside critical, philosophical reflections on the implications of various migrations and responses of European border control agencies which occurred in the wake of the Tunisian revolution together with the war in Libya. There will also be a skype link-up with Tunisian activists.


Babylon (Exit Productions, 2012) won the top prize at the FIDMarseille festival in 2012. Directed by ismaël, Youssef Chebbi, Ala Eddine Slim, the film eschews subtitles, pushing viewers to focus their attention on the cacophony of languages and sounds encountered in the camp together with the visual, physical forms of communication which accompany and supplement oral communication.


Attendance is free. All Welcome.

14 October 2013, 6pm.

The Cinema (small hall), Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths,

University of London.

Copies of Spaces in Migration: Postcards of a Revolution will be on sale at the discount price of £10 (list price £15.99).

supervision’s last tape (possibly should have been first bit of advice)

I guess the only other things to think about are the last minute alternate readings of the thesis scenario, where you anticipate possible objections by trying to guess what someone may ask in a viva – so, what is the key idea that is left out? is there a theoretical frame or metaphor or allegory that demands to be noticed that you might have ignored? Is there a theorist whose work would be really useful for this that probably should be used to bookend the whole thing? Would something else in cultural studies, say the concept of hegemony, gift, ideology, critique, symbolic, affect, ontology or memory, recast anything you are doing (just asking – none of these terms actually grabs me in any way that I think you need to deal with). Second set of doubts – is there an idea that could usefully recast the core thesis – ie, is the border usefully thought of as spectral (pace Derrida)? [i think not]. Is it about paranoia? [maybe]. Is it impacted by time? Modernity? Individualism? What do you think of the difference between critiques of racism/white supremacy and critiques of national chauvinism? Does this matter for border studies? Is there a border studies if the border is non-geographic? Does it make sense to talk of border at all?

echoes of this, this and this [should of course take my own advice, but it's never easy to see in your own writing]

Sonic Border talk notes 2008

notes on the global sweatbox (2008 talk in Malmo)


sb2 sb3 sb4 sb5 sb6 sb117 sb118 sb119 sb1191 SB1192 sb1193 SB1195




(ha! REF that if you can employers. Sadly, this never got typed up nor even given over to the mice to gnaw on)

Docklands Cinema Club with CCS sun 26.5.2013

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Sun 26 May, 2-4pm (15)
Winner of the Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards at Cannes 2005, Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut follows the story of Pete Perkins,
a ranch foreman in the high desert of west Texas who undertakes a dangerous and quixotic journey into Mexico.

© BBC Film Council / The Kobal Collection

Venue Museum of London Docklands see here.

The Malignancy – newspaper piece for The Citizen Artist News (below the fold on page 1).

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 23.01.06



Education at the Border – Edu Commission #2 #border #education

Here, the good oil… click image to download the report

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 11.02.38


Docklands Cinema Club – first screening 24.2.13

Watch a great film every month screened in our Grade I listed Georgian warehouse. Enjoy drinks, popcorn and film introductions by leading writers, directors, critics and fans.

CCS Border Film Series

With the Museum of London Docklands based at the site of a former port, where better to explore the divisive issue of the policing of national borders. With introductions and panel discussions by independent film makers, leading academics and activists.
All screenings are FREE

© Blindside Productions

Border Shorts
Sun 24 Feb, 2-4pm (15)
The border film series opens with four shorts by two highly acclaimed directors. Ursula Biemann’s Performing the Border (1999) and Europlex (2003) explore the borders of Mexico, Europe and Africa, whilst Tim Travers Hawkins’ 1000 Voices (2009) features answerphone messages from people held in a detention center in the UK, and Surpriseville (2010) reveals the daily lives of a gated community in Arizona.

© Smoking Dogs Films / The Kobal Collection

The Nine Muses (2010)
Sun 17 Mar, 2-4pm (PG)
Part documentary, part personal essay, this experimental film by John Akomfrah offers an existentialist rumination on the experience of migration to post-war Britain.

© BBC Film Council / The Kobal Collection

Ghosts (2006)
Sun 21 Apr, 2-4pm (15)
Based on the true story of the Morcambe Bay cockle-picking disaster of 2004, Nick Broomfield’s film follows Chinese undocumented immigrant Ai Qin to reveal the dangerous exploitation of migrant labour in the UK.

© Europa Corpsony / The Kobal Collection

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Sun 26 May, 2-4pm (15)
Winner of the Best Actor and Best Screenplay awards at Cannes 2005, Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut follows the story of Pete Perkins,
a ranch foreman in the high desert of west Texas who undertakes a dangerous and quixotic journey into Mexico.

© BBC Film Council / The Kobal Collection

In This World (2002)
Sun 23 Jun, 2-4pm (15)
This semi-fictional docu-drama follows the attempted escape of two Afghan refugees along the ‘silk road’ through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey towards London. Directed by Michael Winterbottom.

© Key Creatives / The Kobal Collection

District 9 (2009)
Sun 21 Jul, 2-4pm (15)
The Academy Award nominated sci-fi thriller set in a militarized refugee camp in Johannesburg, South Africa, drawing on real life events from the apartheid era.



Museum of London Docklands
West India Quay
Canary Wharf
London E14 4AL

The Museum entrance is two minutes walk from West India Quay.
See Museum of London Docklands on a map

DLR icon By DLR: West India Quay
Tube icon By Tube: Canary Wharf
Bus icon By Bus: D3, D7, D8, 277, N50, D6, 15, 115, 135
DLR icon By River: Thames Clippers
10-15 minute journey on a Thames Clipper riverboat from Bankside or Maritime Greenwich Pier to Canary Wharf Pier. Call 0870 781 5049 for times and prices.


Border Films and Discussion once a month on sundays at Museum of London Docklands (free) from 24.2.2013

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 15.09.07

24 Feb: Short Film Nite - four short films about the border
A screening of the films Performing The Border (1999) and Europlex (2003) by Ursula Biemann. In these two short films, Biemann tracks the activities that enact the border. In the first, we see the feminisation of the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and in the second the repeated crossings that link Europe and Africa. Also a screening and discussion with filmmaker Tim Travers Hawkins, creator of 1000 Voices (2009) an animated film featuring answer phone messages from people held in a detention centre in the UK, and Surpriseville (2010) a documentary about the gated community residents of Surprise, Arizona and their attempts to make themselves as safe as possible.
17 March: The Nine Muses - John Akomfrah – 2010 
Akomfrah offers an existentialist rumination on the experience of migration to post-war Britain in this docu-essay that intertwines archival images and original footage shot in Alaska; accompanied by voice-over readings of texts by Shakespeare, Beckett, Milton and Nietzsche, and music by Schubert, Wagner and Arvo Part.
21 April: Ghosts - Nick Broomfield – 2006
Based on the true story of the Morcambe Bay cockle-picking disaster of 2004, this film follows Chinese undocumented immigrant Ai Qin to Europe and reveals the dangerous exploitation of migrant labour in the UK.
26 May: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada – Tommy Lee Jones – 2005
Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut is a story of friendship, vengence, and one man’s commitment to fulfill a promise for his friend that sees him crossing the Rio Grande pursued by police and Border Patrol.
23 June: In This World - Michael Winterbottom – 2002
Using small handheld digital video cameras and non-professional actors, this semi-fictional docu-drama tracks two asylum seekers on their journey from a refugee camp in Peshawar to the UK, following the “silk road” through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey towards London.
21 July: District 9 – Neill Blomkamp – 2009
A camp in Johannesburg, South Africa is the setting of this science fiction body-horror drama in which an alien population of refugees is faced with eviction from the militarized ghetto where they are confined and exploited.
(with thanks to Rachel Palmer, Leila Whitley, and Maria Jose Pantoja who will, (variously/sometimes vicariously), be in discussion with John Hutnyk after the screenings).

Rachel Rye Convergence

A great abstract for an upcoming must see talk by Rachel (jan 2013, goldsmiths – stay tuned), posted (with permission) because it sums up some of the best that CCS does. The sort of thing that also was described here.

In February 2012 No Borders London, along with students and academics, held a week-long Convergence at Goldsmiths. The aim was to share knowledge and experiences relating to trans-national migrant and activist struggles against the border regime. Numerous discussions by activists, academics, migrants rights groups and organisations took place, direct actions occurred simultaneously at various sites away from the Convergence, films were screened, stories were told, food was cooked, childcare was provided, plans were made, friendships and alliances were formed, debates, disagreements and grievances were aired. My proposal is to present for discussion some reflections on what happened when No Borders converged within the academic space of the university. These reflections are based on my own close involvement as an organiser throughout both the planning stages and the actual week of events. I will consider the event in relation to previous border camps to highlight both the advantages and disadvantages of staging such a meeting at a university campus.

The 2012 No Borders Convergence offered a valuable opportunity to examine the challenges of bringing scholars and militant activists together within the institutional space of the university. As an event, the Convergence attempted and – to some extent – succeeded in creating a productive clash of activist struggles with critical academic scholarly research. In my presentation I will argue that a one-off event is not enough to bridge divides across research and activist practice and that the challenge now is to discuss how, when and where to stage the next Convergence-style event. How might it be possible to bring scholars, activists, migrants, humanitarian and charity workers together into productive connection again? Should such events be a priority in other institutions where researchers are working on the issue of migration and migrant activism? Is there really such a divide between the militant activist and the academic, or are many in No Borders in fact more closely connected to academic research than it might first appear? What does it mean to assume the ‘activist identity’ and how can this role be usefully problematised?

Rachel Rye

PhD student, Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths

Snitching about…

was sent this by the folk at V.I.S.A. (Victorious International Student Army):


Stop the Snitching: What We Mean By Non-compliance


The pastoral idyll is dead. It was bulldozed long ago only to be overlain with a grid of barbed wire. If it ever had any real existence, it is now best described as a border fence, an internment camp, an interrogation room at the dock or airport. What we mean by this, is that the argument that attendance records – from lectures, classes, tutorials – need to be kept for pastoral reasons is now untenable. It needs to be jettisoned, however much nostalgia or regret we may feel in doing so. It is no longer safe or strategic to record attendance, for whatever reason, now that the border crosses us in our places of work and learning.


If the border is a social relation and not a thing, then we must pay attention to the ways in which we are reproducing, enabling and enforcing that border in our day-to-day lives. The most obvious way we might do this is, of course, the demand that teaching staff act as border agents by forwarding attendance records to the UKBA. Three missing strikes and you’re a terrorist. Goldsmiths UCU were quick to adopt a position of non-compliance, and has re-affirmed this stance in a recent statement. We need to be clear, however, about exactly what we mean by non-compliance, and alert to those who might be in a weaker position, from which non-compliance becomes more difficult to uphold.


Regarding the latter, two groups immediately spring to mind: administrative staff, and international students themselves. Admin staff are easier for management to single out, scapegoat, and threaten with punitive measures. Even a well-meaning attendance record kept for pastoral purposes can become a border snitch if intercepted once in administrative hands. Alternatively, lying on attendance registers makes teaching staff liable. To co-opt a reasonably repugnant, and thankfully now redundant, phrase from the US military, the best policy with regard to non-compliance is: don’t ask, don’t tell. If the data is never recorded, it can’t be passed on. Simple.


Management will, however, undoubtedly try to fulfill the UKBA’s demands whilst at the same time seeking to sidestep hostilities from staff and students. ‘Light touch’ is management-speak for this covert-cavity-search-on-campus approach. If they are unable to get the information they need from teaching or admin staff, rest assured they will exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in the precarious status of international students directly. We need to make it clear – strikes, occupations, public refusal – that any requirement or request that demands international students act as their own border agent, or assumes them to be criminal or terrorist until proven otherwise, is in blatant contradiction of our position of non-compliance. We need to make sure our non-compliance doesn’t leak. Stop the snitching – solidarity across the board and the border.


Love and rage,


Goldsmiths Migration Solidarity

The Education Commission. :: a militant inquiry into privatisation and immigration controls in education ::

Students, lecturers, admin workers and anybody else interested in education are invited to join a new group aiming to research and take action around the current conditions in the education sector.  In the wake of the UK Border Agency’s revocation of London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor Status and consequent plans to deport potentially thousands of international students along with further plans for privatisation across the sector, we propose to investigate and take action around the changing nature of the education in the UK since the abolition of the EMA and mass increase of university tuition fees in 2010. We aim to draw together student, parent, and education workers’ experiences as well as available data in order to produce and disseminate as accurate a picture as possible of the current state and trends in higher education in the UK.  We do so in support of and solidarity with current and future struggles in education. Our next meeting is on Wednesday 26th September at 6.30pm at London Met Holloway Road campus (the tower building next to Holloway Road tube station). Here is a link:

Anybody interested in participating should contact:[at] This project has been initiated by Plan C London, it is however open to individuals and groups to get involved.

More UKBA crap

This is despicable:

‘There is drug-taking here’ – UKBA round-up of Punjabis in Hounslow

Well well, profiled as welfare scrounger drug addict illegal Indian layabouts. The sensitive and thoughtful UKBA (DisUnited kingdom border agency) again doing its utmost to reveal the seamier side of enforced poverty in the so-called welfare state. ‘We are all in this together’ – so detain and deport. Its pogrom-bait. I don’t recall, say, Alex from Blur, getting done for drug-use (‘cheese’ is just a metaphor) and of course am so enamored by the even-handed approach to other students, like the Internationals at the MET. Clearly this item is a teaser to set another theme for the PROTEST AGAINST THE UKBA on friday.

Rest of the story from the BBC with video here.


London Met Demo Friday 28 Sept 2012

From London Met UCU:

London Met – Defend Our Students – London Demonstration Friday 28/9

Dear all,

London Met UCU, London Met Unison, and London Met SU have called a London-wide mobilisation and march from ULU (Malet Street) to the Home Office (Marsham Street, Victoria) for Friday 28th Sept. Assembling at Malet Street for 1pm. Under the banner: ‘Amnesty Now – Save London Met – No to Privatisation’. This initiative is supported by London Region UCU, and University of London Union (ULU).

This Friday (21/9) the High Court will consider granting an immediate injunction (an effective ‘stay’) in favour of London Met Uni and against the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Such an injunction should allow for a full Judicial Review of the UKBA’s decision to revoke London Met’s Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) Tier-4 licence – an action that has condemned over 2,500 of our students to either forced university transfer or deportation.

However, even if an injunction is granted it will only be a temporary reprieve until the outcome of the Judicial Review itself – which is expected to take at least several months to be heard. Meanwhile, our license to recruit international students is still suspended, our current international students are still in limbo – particularly if they have more than this academic year to complete, and our courses/jobs still threatened.

If an injunction is not granted then we will be in the fight of our lives – not only for all our international students against an immediate and very real deportation threat but for the very survival of London Met as a public university.

We are refusing to sit on the sidelines and by mere observers of our destiny as others shape it. We are therefore fighting as hard as we can for our students, our university, and for real justice. We will have much more chance of winning that fight with your support and solidarity – as wonderfully expressed during last Friday’s UK-wide solidarity events.

Last week’s TUC Congress in Brighton unanimously supported the call for an immediate amnesty for our students

We now need your support once more – particularly, if you are based in London. We want as many trade union banners as possible on next week’s march/demonstration – along with as many colleagues as you can bring. This is not just a fight for London Met – this is a fight for public education as a whole.

Please send messages of support to mark.campbell_home [at]

In solidarity

Mark Campbell
London Metropolitan University UCU (Chair)
UCU National Executive Committee (London and the East HE)
SERTUC Public Services Committee (Vice-Chair)

New Scanner for Student monitoring to be introduced (by your border-agent-tutor)

Trinketization must-have item of the week! this new electronic gadget from Opticon: website is a barcode scanner about to be rolled out at Queen Mary, to be used by seminar leaders to register attendance at seminars by scanning students’ ID cards.

[i am reliably informed from deep inside the administrative apparatus]

forget the new iphone five, this is the trinket you need for the proper management of scholarship in the knowledge economy

its sleek design makes it an oh so slick silver status object, with curved corners™

first an arm and a leg in fees, then electronic tagging as the staff are made agents of UKBA. FFS.

A reminder of the Centre for Cultural Studies position against being agents of the Border regime here.


—– Forwarded Message —–

MESSAGE FROM CCLS Director and Head of Dept, Laws

Dear all,

As a result of the tightening of immigration rules, from this academic year
onwards all universities must monitor students’ lecture attendance on an
ongoing basis. This encompasses students from all postgraduate taught
programmes. The attendance monitoring exercise will require the assistance
of academic staff members and guest speakers teaching postgraduate modules.
We have purchased scanners that read students ID cards. There is one scanner
per module. Each module convener must ensure that the person responsible
for the weekly lecture brings the scanner into the class, gives it to
students to record their attendance and brings it back to CCLS/Mile End
reception as appropriate.

It is VITAL that this is done every week as continuity is required when
checking for absence.

Scanner control

Modules taught at LIF OR CH SQ can collect and return scanners to LIF
Modules taught at Mile End OR at IALS by department staff can collect and
return scaners to Mile End Law Reception

We will start the monitoring exercise from week one, although for the first
two weeks it is trial run as class lists are not yet known. Your help in
implementing this is very important. As you know, foreign students are vital
for us and we must do what is required by the authorities to ensure our
right to sponsor student visas is not affected.

If you have any queries please contact Aqib (Ext. 8091 or
Wendy Ext 8104

There are some basic guidance notes attached -

Many thanks in advance for your collaboration with this task.

Kind regards,

Spyros and Valsamis

Australia tries out new cleansing immigration form…

A friend is applying for residency in Australia – the glorious points based immigration system.

She writes:

“I included a picture of this because I could not stop laughing when I saw this,  the government requires a “character assessment” to insure that you are “of good character”.  They have you get police reports for the last 10 years, and all sorts of nonsense.  Among the biggest pieces of nonsense is the form itself.  Question number 6,  after name, gender,DOB, and  the like is “Are you of Arabic descent?”.  RIght after asking you if you are a Chinese businessman.  Whether or not you are of Arabic descent is apparently crucial for the Australian government to determine if you are of good character”


Here is the relevant page of the form:

Beyond Borders – order here

Berlin detention centre march 8.9.12

Refugees and asylum seekers in several German detention camps have gone on
strike in order to draw attention to and protest the inhumane predicament
they have found themselves in. 8 September 2012 marks the
beginning of their march from the detention center in Wuerzburg to Berlin.

Beyond Borders

With Jon Sack and Ewa Jasiewicz, authors of the graphic chapter in our Beyond Borders book – out now:…

Comply – UKBA job is very well named

We wrote Beyond Borders against this:

here for full add

Job Details
UKBA Compliance Officer
Location: New Cross, London
Contract type: Permanent
Salary: £34,607 to £38,597 pa incl
Date posted: 02 August 2012
UKBA Compliance Officer
£34,607 to £38,597 pa incl New Cross, London Working within the Quality, Planning and Academic Governance Department, you will be responsible for ensuring that Goldsmiths maintains its status as a Highly Trusted Sponsor under Tiers 2, 4 and 5 of the United Kingdom Border Agency’s Points Based System. Key tasks will include advising academic, professional and administrative staff across the institution on Tier 2 and Tier 4 PBS sponsorship duties, reporting and auditing requirements, and working with senior managers to ensure that appropriate systems and processes are developed and that the day-to-day operational activities at Goldsmiths comply with all relevant aspects of UK Government legislation in relation to international student and staff recruitment.

You will have a detailed knowledge of UKBA sponsor guidance requirements, excellent written, oral communication and influencing skills, an analytical approach to evaluating processes and policies, and will possess the initiative to work without close supervision.

Interested in this job?

Go to the GOLDSMITHS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON website to view more details about this job.

UKBA Compliance Officer jobs, New Cross, London
Apply for UKBA Compliance Officer in New Cross, London on Guardian Jobs.
Full Time position working for GOLDSMITHS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON.

Beyond Borders book cover (book available soon)

and discount pre-order here.

book blurb and contents list here:

Beyond Borders book in the shops soon… here is the postcard.

Immigration themed Op Ed from India that should be noticed.

This Op Ed appeared in The Statesman newspaper in Kolkata, and skewers the madness of Tory immigration/xenophobia/economic jingoism on this boggy Isle. The writer is a staffer on that paper – jolly good to see that the rest of the world notices your crap Cameron. ‘Independent ethics advisor’ my arse – he is called Sir, which means he’s hardly independent, nor ethical. And anyway, as an advisor, his job is to tell Cameron what he can and can’t get away with. Not a brake, more an alibi.

The moral netherland

2 June 2012

UK’s increasing non-EU visa restrictions and requirements are symptomatic of a country that has not yet found the means or the will to articulate its ever-decreasing position in the world pecking order, writes lara choksey

Of all the things that the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of British Press has exposed, perhaps one of the most remarkable is that British Prime Minister David Cameron has an ethics advisor. Responding to the possibility of being called up in front of the Inquiry, Mr Cameron said that should any evidence against him suggest the breaking of ministerial codes, he will call in Sir Alex Allan ~ his independent ethics advisor ~ for consultation.

On one level it seems sensible to have someone in or around Downing Street who can determine the ethical dimensions of political quandaries. On another, it is disturbing that the leader of a country that has not ceased promoting itself as a moral leader in the world needs someone else to distinguish between right and wrong.

In terms of the international Press, there are two stories dominating discussions of the UK. The first is the Leveson Inquiry, which started off as a simple matter of investigating the hacking of celebrity phones by itinerant news agencies, and which has now begun to expose the sordid nature of Downing Street’s relationship with the Murdochs under the Cameron, Brown and Blair leaderships.

This in itself is nothing new; anyone who has watched an episode of Yes, Minister! would expect nothing more. But when placed parallel to the second story circulating across the globe ~ that of implemented and threatened restrictions on UK visas for those who do not meet specific economic requirements ~ the hypocrisy and shortsightedness at Westminster’s rotten core becomes ever clearer.

There are two issues at stake here. The first concerns Downing Street’s idea of Britain as a moral leader in global politics. The second concerns Downing Street’s idea of what constitutes Britain’s nationhood. The discursive frame through which Mr Cameron and his ministers frame Britain domestically and internationally reveals a central administration willfully ignoring the economic and cultural heterogeneity of the population under its control, as well as the hypocrisy of its justifying its actions to the rest of the world on the grounds of moral superiority.

Above any other nation ~ in terms of pure numbers ~ India is the country likely to be most affected by the UK’s increasing non-EU visa restrictions and requirements. According to the International Passenger Survey, Indian nationals made up the largest percentage (11.9 per cent) of immigrants granted entry to the UK in 2010-11. Of these Indian nationals, a large number entered the UK on student visas. Those entering in 2010 would have been granted a two-year post-study work visa.

Fast forward a year, and there has been more than a 30 per cent drop in the number of Indian nationals applying for student visas, with many choosing the United States, Australia and Canada as alternatives. This is partly because the post-study work visa was scrapped this April, and partly ~ according to some British university professors ~ due to the increasing hostility and suspicion shown by the UK border agency towards non-EU students, particularly those from South Asia. This observation is compounded by the fact that the total number of student visas granted by the UK to non-EU residents dropped by 62 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.

We could easily leap to charges of xenophobia, and speculate about a small island closing its borders as a four-year recession refuses to budge. The residual prejudices of post-9/11 homeland security become an increasingly convenient justification for reinforcing national borders. Yet, this logic ignores the pre-Olympic pro-investment road show that various British foreign diplomats have been charged with promoting in their respective countries over the last 12 months, encouraging non-EU businesses to invest in the UK.

In February, the UK immigration minister Mr Damien Green announced that from 2016, people not from the EU and not earning at least £35,000 will not be able to apply to be a permanent resident in the UK. The message is clear: the UK welcomes big business and high salaries, regardless of ideology or investment ethics. Diversity is embraced, as long as it comes with a thick cheque book. In return, multinational companies benefit from tax evasion and low borrowing costs on international financial markets. It is undeniably ~ at least for the moment ~ a mutually beneficial arrangement. Prosaic questions of ethics are put out of the window ~ Britain is in a recession, and dog will eat dog.

Why does this matter to India? Apart from the fact that Britain is still considered to be a desirable place to visit, study and live (although this view is undoubtedly changing), this matters because Britain is behind the times. Specifically in the context of India’s increasing importance on the world stage ~ both economically and diplomatically ~ Britain’s restrictions on non-EU immigration seem ridiculous. Such restrictions are symptomatic of a country that has not yet found the means or the will to articulate its ever-decreasing position in the world pecking order.

For the sake of argument, let us just speculate that Britain once had a right to claim moral superiority over other nations (we need not go very far back in history to look at the violence of such a claim). But as the Cameron government decimates the welfare structures that might have once allowed Britain to claim a certain moral superiority with regard to providing the infrastructure (if not always the materialisation) of holistic care for its population, the claim becomes increasingly fragile.  A national heath service, financial support for people at the bottom of the food chain, and ~ perhaps most pertinently in the context of the visa discussion ~ open borders for economic migrants and political refugees: these are some of the structures that might convincingly constitute the discourse of moral superiority.

Yet, in the last twenty years, these structures have become dirty words in Downing Street, replaced by privatisation, austerity and border security, seemingly in direct spite of the increasing scale of global poverty and warfare: so many people have never been so poor, and genocide has never been simpler. India should take heed: there is a fast-appearing vacancy in the global moral high-ground market that needs prompt filling. In an interview published in The Daily Telegraph on 25 May, 2012, British home secretary Ms Theresa May responded to a question on curbing immigration by saying: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.” We might ask, what constitutes an illegal migrant? The term suggests an international law preventing movement between countries. However, while the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights decrees that a country should grant entry to its own citizens, there is no international law that prevents a person from entering a country in the first place.

Immigration laws are national laws, coded by national interests and national understandings of who should be allowed entry. Thus, we learn much about the way in which a country understands itself by the way in which it categorises those who arrive on its shores. In the UK, the terms of ‘illegal migration’ are clear: it has everything to do with economic status. Those who are not considered fit to make a significant economic contribution to the UK, quite simply, become illegal ~ outside legitimacy ~ and vulnerable to any form of physical or mental subjugation. The right to claim access to Britain is based on purely economic terms: this is the new model of national belonging.

Downing Street has thrown off the mantle of social responsibility, both domestically and internationally. Internationally speaking, its participation in Libya on the grounds of humanitarian intervention is laughable when we consider that there is a British Ambassador ~ Nicholas Ray ~ permanently stationed in Khartoum, Sudan. His purpose is to perform diplomacy with the al Bashir government, an administration currently carrying out ethnic cleansing operations on its borders. Domestically, the British government’s claim to provide for its population (as opposed to its citizens) is being made forfeit by the systematic destruction of structures built on the ideas of a common right to life, and the responsibility of government to provide for its population. The Cameron government’s policies are regressive to a Dickensian degree, and increasing internal unrest ~ characterised by last year’s riots ~ will only be kept at bay by Jubilee morale boosting for so long.  With the removal of welfare structures, Downing Street would model Britain as nothing more than a vast, transnational bank, complete with hordes of the hungry standing outside. From an international perspective, this is the only form of diversity Cameron’s government is currently interested in promoting.
The writer is on the staff of The Statesman


[10.6.2012 Lara adds: Clarification: I take it for granted that ‘morals’ are socially-inscribed codes, whereas ethics – broadly speaking – are a means of defending concepts of right and wrong actions. My use of the phrase ‘moral superiority’ is therefore performative – the description or impression of a national discourse, as opposed to ‘ethical behaviour’. A longer piece might make this distinction clearer, but I did not feel it was necessary to point out the ethical importance of, for example, the NHS etc.

To clarify my argument and take it forward: firstly, that Britain’s claim to moral superiority is being made forfeit not because it ever had a right to make this claim in the first place, but because the infrastructure supporting this claim (class/gender/race equality and equal opportunities and so on) is being dismantled: the discourse, or performance, can no longer support itself.

Or so it would seem from one perspective. However, taking this forward, I would suggest that if Britain maintains its performance of ‘moral superiority’ on an international stage, then the discourse (and infrastructure) of ‘moral superiority’ is now based on codes of economic viability. To be ‘moral’, in the context of Downing Street’s national aspirations, one must be financially solvent. Foreign investors are invited to buy a stake in moral superiority.]

Bangin’ on the walls

Commented to a friend: Faced with the dubious, bogus, offensive statements of Cameron and Theresa May on immigration yet again, can we insist that even left and activist types, learned professors many of then, not automatically use political asylum as a defence, when all migrants, including so-called opportunist economic and ‘poor’, should be free to move. If capital can cross borders at will, why not labour? Sure, the point is that this is a game of labour flow control, but there are also needs, wants and desires, and a hierarchy of exclusion that must be beaten down. ‘keep banging on the walls of Fortress Europe’ sing ADF. It was not so long ago that the UK was all open armed about commonwealth, or even Eastern European, workers. And the US used to have a slogan ‘give us your poor, tired, weak and hungry’. This was already hypocrisy, but to adopt the language of Labour Party and Con-Dems and talk of asylum rights is to cede the ground and only defend ‘legitimate refugees’ which then means its OK to lock up and deport all the others. It is not OK. As stressed by the anti-deportation campaigns and actions of the No Borders London group etc.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This quote comes from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, New Colossus, which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits. 

New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Forensic Oceanography

Please find below (and at the following link) the latest news release from Goldsmiths, University of London announcing a report from the Forensic Oceanography team which has shed light on the fate of the ‘left-to-die’ boat which saw 63 migrants die while trying to flee the war in Libya last year:

Goldsmiths research sheds light on ‘left-to-die’ boat tragedy

Research carried out by the Forensic Oceanography team at Goldsmiths, University of London has shed light on the fate of the ‘left-to-die’ boat which saw 63 migrants die while trying to flee the war in Libya last year.

The report was carried out by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani and Situ Studio, and is part of the European Research Council (ERC) project ‘Forensic Architecture’ carried out at Goldsmiths’ Centre for Research Architecture.

The report, which employs a wide range of emerging mapping and visualisation technologies, has been provided to a coalition of NGOs that have been demanding accountability for these deaths.

Today, with the support of these NGOs, several survivors of the ‘left-to-die’ boat have convened in Paris to file a legal case, supplemented by this report, against the French Army for non-assistance to people in distress at sea.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 1,500 people died in the Mediterranean while trying to leave Libya in 2011, and among these incidents the ‘left-to-die’ boat case, reported by the international press, provoked widespread public outrage.

A boat of 72 migrants fleeing Tripoli by boat in the early morning of 27 March 2011 ran out of fuel and was left to drift for 14 days until it landed back on the Libyan coast. A distress call was sent out via satellite telephone but the migrants were not rescued, and with no water or food on-board only nine of them survived.

Over the past four months, the Forensic Oceanography team provided technical expertise in the form of maps and visual material to Senator Tineke Strik, Rapporteur for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) who has released an in-depth report on the issue.

The Forensic Oceanography report that is being made public today supplements the written documents produced by these organisations by bringing a wide range of emergent technologies together. It focuses specifically on the spatial analysis of the ‘left-to-die’ case, combining the testimonies of the survivors with several different kinds of data including Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery, geospatial mapping, and drift modelling.

Lorenzo Pezzani, PhD candidate and Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, said: “The research included a series of visualisations and maps that reconstruct, as accurately as possible, what happened to the vessel, and assess the involvement of a number of parties the vessel encountered during the time it was at sea. Using digital tools that have seen limited applications in the field of international law and human rights advocacy suggests new possibilities for documenting violations of human rights at sea, and increases the likelihood for greater accountability in the future.”

Notes to editors:
       The report can be downloaded here:

       The link to the Forensic Oceanography page can be found here:

       The link to the Forensic Architecture website can be found here:

       Images available on request (images to be credited to Forensic Oceanography: Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, and Situ Studio. Part of the European Research Council Project ‘Forensic Architecture’, Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London).

No Borders Convergence

also here

The Border at Night

A vicious wound that demeans us all –  Enis alerts me to this image from the film Abendland (see the trailer here) – its the aptly named Frontex border at Ceuta, Spain (between the EU and Morocco)

Beyond Borders.

Possible blurb for the book on borders (edited volume, nearly done, press details soon)

Beyond Borders – ed, John Hutnyk

This collection of essays, graphics and theatre displaces our understandings of borders so that we cannot look the same way at that which invades our everyday, that which kills and excludes, that which sounds out across divides and that which connects and soothes. Addressing activism, philosophy, film, art and music, the book includes a graphic essay on the Gaza Flotilla and an original play The Detention Centre. Essays by prominent scholars and writers address citizenship, visa queues, the home economy, philanthropy, student fees, transportation, terror, camps, poetic license and more. The book makes a virtue of the chance encounter of creativity with structure so as to invent new angles on the politics of borders and movement, breaking with regulatory thinking and always looking to slip under or over the wire. The border effect is everywhere, even between our pages. We are for rampant transgressions – and an end to borders of death.


And a first stab at an even more abstract longer rave for it:


> The border is not only geography and vision – though a line on the map and the sign at immigration control are our most immediate experiences of control – the border is also a process, an order, an iteration, uneven, performative and aural. The border is not just at the edge or boundary, it is also in the street, in the post, in the pub. The border operates between people. The hand raised to silence the offer of the migrant DVD salesperson who interrupts your quiet enjoyment of a beer – that too is a brutal moment of border control. Although of course we can insist that state boundaries are also porous, continually bypassed, more and less easily, in so many different ways; immigration control still stands as a block to movement and mediation.

>> The resonance of the war and power is strong here – echoing with the sounds of silence, dispossession and death to which our eyes become deaf, our ears have become blind. If we recognize the border is not just the port, but the entire city, as in “everywhere, in everything we do”, in each interaction between people related, somehow somewhere to belonging – how violent this is – if we recognize the border as a wall between us all, then we might see reason to have to reconfigure the very idea of nation, boundary and movement that so distracts us. Here, the border is not just at the edge, but at any port, at the immigration office, in the postal service that delivers the visa, in the police checks, the detention procedure – in the everyday reactions of people to each other even as they stand and stare. So, if we think of the way sound and meaning travels across the border, might we start to develop ways of thinking critically against this geographic boundary – and the old models of nation, culture, race that the border secures. What would it be to ask critically about, and so reject, the way we have fixed the border through property, maps, geography – and so leave that space that has been deaf to other movements, transmissions, resonances. Would this work things differently, otherwise?

>> Is our boundary prejudice built into the structure of the border control? A logic of presence, geography and vision govern the strong sense of truth that belongs to knowledge. We say knowledge is divided into fields (geography) and seem most often to register knowing through a confident designation. We indicate truths by pointing (vision), there is presence in understanding. Now perhaps there is an alternative in the metaphoric code with which we name movement and sound. It may be possible to hear a more critical tone, to raise questions about the assertions of certitude – when critical we say we are not sure we agree, we doubt, we say we do not like the tone. Can thinking through travel, time and sound suggest new ways of linking across the borders between us all – as sound crosses the border in ways that tamper with visual and geographic blocks (pirate radio, music, language, the sound of falling bombs…). But we also say, when critical, that we cannot see the point. Ahh, with this last the too easy divide of metaphor into those that point and assert knowledge through vision and those that question and challenge through sound does finally break down. But perhaps there is something in sound that can suggest more, that allows us at least to listen to another possibility, temporarily opening up ears and minds.

>> But borders are also blocks. And we are complicit in this myopia. The management of the border is a mass participation project operated absentmindedly by all of us all day. Through an overkill of commentary and a shifting, churning hierarchy, the profiles, stereotypes and judgements that are constantly made yet so often denied are the guilty enactment of this regime. Border Police do their work – spot check, detention, deportation – all the better because our everywhere everyday distracted border operation is there in all we do.

> It is often thought, but we could be more precise – that movement across borders of all kinds is a good thing, breaking taboos and genre rules is an unmitigated good. Of course, cross disciplinarity is claimed as a boon (in cultural studies for sure), but clearly other crossings – of capital, of weapons, of imperial power – are not so welcome. Capital moves one way, surplus value extraction another. Cross-border global movement (music distribution, television news, democracy) might not always be a boon. No doubt pirate radio enjoys much approval, but communications media also have a less favourable heritage (radio as used, say, by the National Socialists in Germany) and present (the contemporary normative narrations of ‘democracy’ by the Voice of America, the BBC, or with the televisual uniformity of CNN). A more careful thinking that notes the metaphors of critique, distinguishes movement and sonic registers that affirm or disavow, works to undo that which destroys and divides, fosters that which unites, organises capacity to live otherwise with others…-

>> Beyond Borders is supported by an AHRC Beyond Text programme Network Grant and the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, and is edited volume with work by John Hutnyk, Leila Whitley, Enis Oktay, Angela, Rachel Palmer, Nabil Ahmed, Liz Thompson, Ben Rosenzweig, Ewa Jasiewicz, Raul Gschrey, Rico Reyes, María-José, Carla Mueller-Schulke, Kiwi Menrath, Rangan Chakravarty, Johannes Anyuru and Aleksander Moturri.>

Goldsmiths No Borders Group have put out a call for a NoBorders Convergence, London, 13 – 18 February 2012 23:17 — London NoBorders

London NoBorders, along with Goldsmiths students and other groups, are organising a week-long convergence to be held in London between 13 – 18 February 2012. The aim is to get together to share our knowledge and experiences in relation to people’s freedom of movement and the restrictions on it, and to share skills, network, strategise and take action. We seek to create a temporary space for the production of counter-narratives and practices to the very idea of governing people’s movement through border controls.

Why a convergence

As the global economic crisis deepens and runaway climate chaos and energy and food crises loom ever closer,the borders of Europe are being fortified even further to protect the interests of the privileged few at the expense of the rest of us. A range of worrying developments can be observed: discriminatory point-based visa systems for overseas students and migrant workers, increased use of detention and deportation in inhumane conditions, military-style operations in the Mediterranean sea to intercept migrant boats, often leading to deadly tragedies, high-tech surveillance and intelligence gathering, externalising Europe’s borders by bribing neighbouring countries to act as the EU’s border police, and so on and so forth. For most migrants from the global south, Europe is increasing looking like a fortress and a labour camp.

At the same time, there has been a wave of grassroots movements around the world demanding radical changes to the current economic and political system that is responsible for the suffering of the majority of the world’s population. From the Arab uprisings, through students’ and workers’ protests and riots, to anti-capitalist occupations across Western ‘democracies’, more and more people are realising that this mode is no longer tenable, and are taking things into their own hands. Migrants’ struggles are also part of this awakening and the very idea of Europe is being redefined as a result of these struggles and the new policy developments mentioned above.

Like capital, the nationals of the EU and other ‘first world’ countries are free to travel wherever they want. Yet those on the wrong side of artificially erected borders, whose countries are often torn apart by capitalist and imperial conquests, are illegalised, criminalised and prevented from doing what humans have done for thousands of years: moving in search of a better life, to escape poverty, abuse, discrimination, persecution, gender oppression, war and so on. The right of everyone to travel and live where they want is denied for those with the ‘wrong’ skin colour, passport or bank account.

This inherently racist system of border controls not only creates hierarchies of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migrants, useful and unwanted, it also subjects those rendered ‘illegal’ to repression and exploitation, legitimised by increasingly racist and right-wing political rhetoric and media coverage.

What, where, when

The No Borders Convergence, to be held in London between 13 – 18 February 2012, will include seminars and workshops on a wide range of topics, from immigration detention and forcible deportations, EU immigration policies and its border agency (Frontex), through institutional racism and social services provision, the exploitation of migrant workers and students, to No Border camps, radical solidarity, direct action and much more.

However, we don’t want to just talk; we hope that during this week people will also get together to plan and take action against various aspects of the border regime in London and the surrounding areas.

The convergence will be what people make of it, but we would like it to be a laboratory of radical thoughts, discussions and actions; a convergence of many different people brought together through a common struggle against borders, both external and internal.

Join us in London from 13th-18th February 2012. We will endeavour to provide a video link so that people who can not attend in person can still follow and participate in the discussions. More information and details here.

Freedom of movement and equal rights for all!

Gaza protest: Saturday 14 May 2011

Join the protest: Saturday 14 May

12 noon opposite Downing Street

Called by: Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Palestinian Forum in Britain

End the siege on Gaza Supported by: Amos Trust, Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK, Communications Workers Union (CWU), Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Friends of Lebanon, Friends of Al-Aqsa, GMB, The Green Party, ICAHD UK, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, Pax Christi, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Twinning with Palestine, UNISON, UNITE the Union, University & College Union (UCU), War on Want, Zaytoun
Support the Freedom Flotilla: Follow‘Britain 2 Gaza’ on Facebook or@britain2gaza on Twitter Britain to Gaza logo
To sign the petition to end the siege click here.
Join the PSC logo
‘Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’
— Nelson Mandela
PSC is campaigning to end the siege on Gaza, is demanding that the right of Palestinian self-determination is respected, and that Palestinians finally achieve freedom, peace and justice. Together, we can change the future. Join the PSC today!

What is the Weight of the Moon? 21.3.2011

Screening and discussion Nabil Ahmed: a response to the situation of over 50,000 Bengali students whose colleges are currently under investigation by the UK government to assess their legitimacy.

Monday 21 March RHB Cinema Goldsmiths, 6.30PM


Nabil Ahmed took the title for What is the Weight of the Moon? from The Middleman, a film by Satyajit Rai forming part of a cycle of films that reflects on the political implications of being a student in Calcutta during the 1970s. Ahmed’s project is a response to the situation of over 50,000 Bengali students whose colleges are currently under investigation by the UK government to assess their legitimacy. Through the medium of film, What is the Weight of the Moon? explores the low visibility of the colleges, which are often identified only by ambiguous-looking signboards in the east London area, and the near-invisibility of their students.

Originally conceived as a two-channel video installation consisting of a video essay and a set of edited interviews, Ahmed’s work places student interviewees outside the frame. The viewer is invited to become an active listener by controlling a three-channel audio mixer to hear field recordings and simultaneous translations of the interviews in Bengali and English.


UKBA Border @ Gold.

BROADHEAD RHB 356 (domestic/EU students please come too!)


As most of you already know, the Goldsmiths senior management team is
treating international students in a dispicable way.

*SMT are co-operating with UK Border Agency, rather than guaranteeing the
safety and security of Goldsmiths students.

*International students are required to use a defunct, pointless online
registration, which will be a regular requirement. (Students at Queen Mary
are required to gather in a room and have their passports checked, a
likely next step for Goldsmiths).

*Many students don’t know about this requirement, and didn’t submit the

*SMT has made a list of these students, and is threatening to pass their
details on to UKBA this Friday 11th March.

*Previously, lecturers were requested to pass on the names of any
international students who missed 3 or more classes, and this information
would then have been passed onto UKBA who could then legally deport these
students (GUCU were successful in their non-compliance with this request).

WE WON’T COMPLY WITH THIS! It would really mean a lot for international
students to have support and for this issue to be brought into the wider
education movement.

Merry Absurd Xmas Card – Scrooge and ‘Azure’!!

Some insane dialectics for xmas – time to think about those cash cards and all the pressure the commodity fest puts upon your wallet, then see also the beautiful blue sky and think of warmer places far away, and then remember this is England and the borders are secured by the UKBA. Massive conflicts here – blue sea, blue sky, narrow thinking, repressive apparatus.

Azure [ˈæʒə -ʒʊə ˈeɪ-]


1. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Colours) a deep blue, occasionally somewhat purple, similar to the colour of a clear blue sky
2.Poetic a clear blue sky

1. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Colours) of the colour azure; serene
2. (History / Heraldry) (usually postpositive)Heraldry of the colour blue 

[from Old French azur, from Old Spanish, from Arabic lāzaward lapis lazuli, from Persian lāzhuward]

So, having consulted the deep meaning of this lovely cultural festival and holiday time, and considered the Persion roots of the word of choice for describing the sky, it comes as no surprise that pleasure in the blue is corrupted and destroyed by institutional abuse and feckless Government wastage, compounded by an inability to consider humane ways of welcoming those ready to brave the cold hard graft of life in ‘blighty. While ‘For everything else there’s Mastercard’, for asylum seekers there’s just the insult and injury of the Azure card (Scrooge is alive and well in the UK):

A cashless society: the other side of the coin …

By Anne Singh

22 December 2010, 10:00pm

As the seasonal festivities get into full swing, campaign and support groups are stepping up their lobbying against the Azure card – a cashless payment system for asylum seekers – which leaves thousands in extreme poverty.

‘SECTION 4 support’, as set out in Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, provides for limited financial support to be provided to asylum seekers whose claim has been refused but who are still unable to return to their country of origin and who would otherwise be destitute. In order to receive this support, refused asylum seekers must move into accommodation provided by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). At the end of June 2010, 6,750 people plus their dependants were in receipt of Section 4 support.


A voucher scheme for refused asylum seekers was (re)introduced at the end of 2005. The vouchers were accepted in a limited number of stores to pay for ‘essential’ goods (food, toiletries) only, and could not be exchanged for cash. The principle behind the voucher scheme was to make failed asylum-seekers’ lives as intolerable as possible to ‘encourage’ their voluntary return.

The voucher system was heavily criticised by campaign and support groups as causing considerable hardship and distress as people had no cash to pay bus fares to see their legal representatives or attend health care appointments and were unable to buy food that met their dietary, religious, or cultural requirements.

In late 2009, the voucher system was abolished principally on the grounds that it represented poor value for money and, according to the UKBA, was open to ‘abuse and fraud’. The ‘abuse and fraud’ complained of by the UKBA was principally national and local charities and support groups – including the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) – who would exchange vouchers for cash to relieve the worst excesses of hardship.

The Azure card was introduced in November 2009 to replace the use of supermarket vouchers. It was introduced without any pilot but was proclaimed the definitive solution to the problems with vouchers. However, the Azure card has done very little to resolve these problems, continuing to restrict where and when people are able to shop, what they are able to buy, and often not working at all. From the start, the payment system was exposed as costly, inefficient and ineffective. The JRS highlighted this anticipating that, in addition to implementation costs, it would cost £200,000 per annum just to administer.

The Azure card is topped up ‘automatically’ each week by the UKBA and can be used in a limited number of supermarket outlets…

Read the rest of this article here:

CCS @ Clandestino Festival 9

Wanted: funding to document the Institute that does not exist/has already existed for almost ten years – Clandestino (notes for a funding proposal):

-       the research output is the Clandestino Institute itself, an ‘underground’ University of Sonic and Border Arts, a University that has no permanent presence, but can be understood in terms of documentation of experience as intangible heritage and intergenerational learning. A prospectus and associated materials.

-       Archiving of the ephemeral – undertaking documentation and study of a cross-border sound event – the Clandestino Festival in Gothenburg – means exploring new ways to present its ethos etc., The festival itself is the output, but a variety of means to document and preserve the overall experience, as intangible heritage, will be collected.

-       Sonic Heritage, in the context of preservation studies, what is Sonic Heritage and can Border Arts (as we explored in London, Berlin and Copenhagen – so for that matter not just sonic borders but also work that crosses borders in terms of audio-visual materials and performances) be considered as part of any Heritage programme (what special problems do we have when heritage is not part of a national project). This ‘output’ will be a position paper and archive defending this position, without positing or archiving – continually transformed and under erasure - a vanishing present. A virtual and verifiable sonic – cross border – performative and theatre ‘programme and policy’ document.

These are just notes for the Border, to cross the border, cross with borders, bored, boring, drilling, digging.

That is to say, looking forward to June 2011 Clandestino. Ideas welcome. (mark early June in your diary, head to Gothenburg. Summer, very long days, and, erm, hope for no rain this time please).

Nandita Dogra – postdoctoral researcher in CCS

The ‘Kingdom’ Strikes Twice- Double Whammy on Post-study Skilled Immigrants.

by Nandita Dogra

The Government of the United Kingdom expects a set of its immigrants already within UK to perform a special miracle – time travel. It has asked its skilled Post-study Work (PSW) visa-holders to go back in time and conjure up additional earnings for the preceding/current annual period in order to retrospectively fulfil two revisions in the conditions for Highly-Skilled Migration Programme (HSMP) brought in on 6 April 2010 and then again on 19 July 2010.

I am compelled to write this piece as I realise how uninformed people, especially my fellow ‘progressive’ middle classes who are forever claiming to be ‘pro-immigration’, ‘fairness’ and ‘human rights’ and usually focusing on the truly ‘needy’ amongst the immigrants, are about immigration. The immediate purpose is to highlight two recent instances of arbitrariness and sheer stealth and lawlessness- skilled PSWs already in the UK are being effectively and retrospectively capped out by not one but two sets of detrimental changes introduced within less than four months by both Labour and Conservative-LibDem governments, a fact which has found little space in the media. It is hoped that this piece would also be read in the legal and political circles who will act upon it to revoke these revisions thrust upon PSWs.

The moot question and one that is easily missed is- who are the immigrants? While the total number of migrants remains confusing with different figures being thrown up to prove any and every point, the statistics further blur the distinctions amongst immigrants to abet the war cries against immigrants. Media discourses and public opinion too tend to lump immigrants into broad, usually two, boxes of ‘white’ (Euro-American-Australian) and ‘non-white’ (‘Third World’).  The former do not really matter (read as we cannot see them as separate we do not want to know how, their usually opportunistic, comings and goings affect our economy- it must be a good thing, no question of asking them to prove their loyalty to ‘British’ values and nation- they are one of ‘us’). The whole debate on immigration is about the latter and the conflation of the myriad categories of these immigrants, defined both by the government and actually existing on the ground, results in generalisations, hysteria, mismanagement, perverse policies which often even harm Britain and her interests and, of course, untold problems for the immigrants.

The shrill voices against the ‘spongers’ of Britain and her welfare systems- asylum-seekers, family members of often working class first or second generation immigrant British citizens who tend to be ‘over-reproductive’ and add to the already-full nation- are the staple of many debates and  I do not want to add to the noise pollution. But what about that segment of ‘non-whites’ whom Britain, in its official rhetoric and policies, needs and actively seeks usually competing with other ‘developed’ nations who also claim to want them in their own countries? These are the skilled categories both in education and employment. It is time to highlight some key issues about them and the Points-based System (PBS) they fall under. I will not provide complete details of this system not only because anyone really interested can easily access them through the relevant government websites but because they are a virtual minefield of ever-changing legalese and government-speak that only the brave (or the stuck immigrants) can wade through. I will merely highlight the main rules under this system, especially of the Highly-skilled Migration Programme (HSMP) and some individual stories of the lost children of this system to make the readers aware of what exactly the system allows and expects and to judge for themselves the policies of governments and underlying ideologies they reflect.

Regarding students, the only point worth highlighting is that every international student pays tuition fee that is approximately four times of what is paid by a British citizen. There are some exceptions depending on the college and degree with some Masters and MBA degrees, particularly in the high-ranked institutions, charging the same fees from both sets of students. Except for those who get scholarships and other help, there is no subsidy for international students. Foreign students are, hence, a huge, often the major, source of income for many educational institutions. Those who complain about annual tuition fees of £3000 should take a moment to reflect on the struggles of those who have to meet such quadrupled sums. And before we begin arguing about rich ‘Arab’ and ‘American’ students, it should be stressed that international students are far from homogenous and come from different nations and financial backgrounds. What is clear is that the higher education fees structure implicitly weeds out any ‘sponging’ by, first, checking the financial credentials of potential students and then making the students do whatever it takes- beg, borrow, earn- to meet their education costs. Foreign students also have no “recourse to public funds” i.e. any help from the government and the study period does not count towards rights of stay in the UK even if this period lasts 5 years or more, for example, for a doctorate. Yes there are many dodgy educational institutions with fake students that the government is not aware of/aware but doing nothing about/indirectly encouraging the establishment and perpetuation of linked to its own policies and structures, and these should be curbed but foreign students in established UK institutions subsidise the country, not the other way around.

On completion of higher education, an international student can stay on in the UK for a limited period, again without any rights to public funds or resident-ship under the ‘Post-study Work Visa’ (PSW). This rule was brought in only a few years back after comparative reviews with other nations, especially the USA, Australia and New Zealand, to discourage students from preferring these countries. Initially, it was open only to postgraduates and the period allowed was a year which was later increased to a maximum of 2 years. Anyone applying for PSW must fulfill specific criteria of education, financial backup and savings to take care of self and family and of course English language. PSW is strictly a transition period during which one has to unequivocally prove one’s ‘fitness’ to stay on in the UK. It is the time allowed to get sponsored by an employer or meet the difficult conditions of HSMP that is the visa one ‘graduates’ to. HSMP is a scheme to sift the highly skilled from the non-skilled and there is no arguing that it does require laying down certain criteria. The trouble is that instead of fixing these criteria for a reasonable period the government repeatedly keeps manipulating the sub criteria for attributes and changing both the minimum level and weightage of each criterion. In other words, ‘high skills’ keep getting redefined at a frenetic pace as per the immediate politics and then dumped on to the immigrants. This makes the same person suddenly ineligible after already having started his/her period under the visa.

Over the last few years the fitness tests namely the criteria for HSMP have been made more and more stringent with the rules being changed almost each year and even during the course of a current valid visa. The changes include increase in both the overall period of HSMP from 4 to 5 years as well as hikes in income required resulting in litigations as many have lost their visas despite fulfilling the conditions for a significant part of the required period. These changes have been brought in quietly by later Labour government as a part of its tough on immigration policy, a fact neither the party concerned nor the new government would care to call attention to now.

In June this year the new government declared an immigration ‘cap’ with immediate effect and stricter conditions for HSMP. The general impression is that this cap and revised conditions would not affect the highly skilled who are already here but this is incorrect. Further, what very few realise is that HSMP conditions had already been made extremely stringent less than three months back in April by the outgoing Labour government and applied retrospectively to PSWs. The new government, totally ignoring the recent revisions, has brought in a second revision which means that two detrimental changes have been brought in by UK during the same year within less than 4 months, flagrantly changing the conditions of those who are already here.

Revised position for existing PSW visa holders on 6 April 2010 (Labour Government)

To pass the points-based assessment and be accepted into the highly skilled worker category, you must score a total of 95 points- a) 75 points for your attributes (age, qualifications, previous earnings, and experience in the United Kingdom), b) 10 points for English language; and, c) 10 points for available maintenance (funds). On 6 April 2010 the criteria for attributes were changed across the subcategories of age, qualifications, previous earnings and experience. As it is the subtotal of these points that makes one qualify or disqualify any reduction in the points of one implies that one must increase the points for another which is usually impossible during the given period. Each extra earnings range of £5-10,000 per year (depending on one’s age and other factors) qualifies for 5 or 10 points. In April the minimum income for all was increased and applied also to the PSWs already in the UK.

Illustration- X is a 32 year old post-graduate from a UK university on a PSW visa. For her age, qualifications and UK experience she gets a total of 50 points (10-Age, 5- UK experience, 35 -MA). Soon after she began her PSW last year, she got a job with £38,000 per annum salary (which equals 40 points then), no mean achievement if we see average earnings in the UK and more so during these recessionary times. As she needs to show documentary proof of at least 12 months’ continuous work and income, she can apply for the HSMP only after the new rules have been brought in, according to which, her current salary, which was way above the qualifying limit when she started PSW, is no longer enough. So she can either accept her sudden, totally unjustified, disqualification and write off the massive tuition fees, taxes and visa fees paid and leave UK or she must somehow ‘manage’ an extra income of £2000 for the same annual period and show an income of £40,000 that would get her 5 extra points and enable her to qualify for the revised HSMP and satisfy the authorities. Numerous other examples can be worked out. In April the Labour Government also reduced the points given for a PhD leading to similar problems for those affected in addition to the general hike in income requirements.

Re-revised position for existing visa holders on 19 July 2010 (Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government)

The qualifying points for income, age and qualifications have been raised from 75 to 80 (total from 95 to 100). The coalition government’s move fails to consider that tightening had already been done by the previous government which officially kept the points at 75 but raised the conditions to attain these points. The net effect of each is real and the two consecutive changes have piled up to adversely affect the PSWs twice.


X, whose example was given earlier, is now required to gain 30 points, instead of 25 as she was expected to do on/after 6 April 2010, from her current/preceding annual earnings. This means a salary of £50,000- X has to conjure up an extra £10,000 per annum, in addition to the extra £2000 required of her in April (she could do this prospectively if she still has 12 more months of a valid PSW visa left and can find a job that pays her £50,000 per annum during these recessionary times- clearly a near impossible task. And who knows how many revisions will come into force during the next 12 months?).

The 3 different minimum qualifying annual  income levels that X has to maintain, depending on the date on which she submits her HSMP application, are given below to highlight the illegality, unfairness and sheer absurdity of the changed rules -

March 2010- £26000 (=25 points)

April 2010- £40,000 (=25 points)

July 2010- £50,000 (=30 points)

Within 4 months, to attain 25-30 points for earnings one has to earn nearly double the income till March 2010 (£26,000) – the qualifying income has been hiked first by 14,000 in April and then by another 10,000 in July, a total of £24,000.

The earnings range for qualifying points are also totally arbitrary with 5-10 points for each £5000 till the income limit of £39,999, then suddenly these are hiked by £10,000 for 5 points for the income range £40,000 to £49,999, and reduced once again to £5000 in the range £50-54999. This means that a substantial number of migrants falling in the approximate range of £30-50,000 income per annum will be greatly affected. Is it the case that the government already knows that this is the range most of PSWs are likely to fall under and hence a very secure source of extra taxes or the opportunity to force them to leave?

It seems clear that the real motivation of all successive UK governments, irrespective of the party politics, is extracting more money. Each extra requirement of £10,000 income means approximately £2-4,000 additional tax income per annum. Since April 2010 the consecutive governments have already ensured that this is achieved not just once but twice doubling the gain to the UK exchequer without any regard for law or fairness. And those who are unable to miraculously muster these extra incomes to meet the ever-changing and highly unrealistic and demanding conditions can be told to go back as UK has already pocketed the tuition fees at international rates, cheap labour and taxes they have contributed over the previous years. To many it is clearly a continuation of colonialism and never-ending colonial greed, albeit in a carefully hidden form. Scholars would also identify its stealthy operationalisation as an essential part of ‘Britishness’.

Skilled immigrants are a highly diverse lot with skills and knowledge in a range of subjects and fields. The image of a high flier banker who can perhaps stay immune to the vagaries of immigration rules does  not do justice to the, much neglected, HSMP immigrant, an immigrant who is neither entitled to nor ever uses public funds and instead provides the much-needed skills and high taxes to fund UK’s ‘overstretched’ infrastructure. These seemingly ‘bookkeeping’ changes are unjustly affecting many for whom the world could have been their oyster had they foreseen the volatile politics of immigration in Britain. And these rules and their constant ‘strengthening’ reveal not just the use of immigrants as pawns in party and racial politics but deeper claims of fairness the country claims globally. If UK cannot appreciate highly skilled people it has sought from across the globe, it can at least stop being hypocritical and luring them here under false pretext. No country has the right to pretend to invite skilled people, extract their skills and money, and then turn around to say it has changed its mind. It cannot be anyone’s prerogative, least of all of a nation that has gained immeasurably from the largest empire in recent history. Many words starting with the letter ‘c’ come to mind- cap, crafty, colonial.

Ben Rosenzweig Theory of the Offensive blog

International student struggles, or, Causes of the mediated processes of reproduction

Reposted From Theory of the Offensive, by Ben Ross

Anecdotal introduction
A few months ago I was looking for a share-house room in Melbourne, where rents have gone up a lot in the last couple of years. I kept coming across people advertising places who would explain, sometimes with a little laugh, that they were planning on getting an international student in if possible, given the size of the rooms (microscopic, phone booths, walk-in closets, disused bathrooms) and the rent (not microscopic by any means). Most of those I spoke to were not multi-property slum-landlord-types; they were people renting or buying houses, ‘ordinary’ share-house people, even (Australian) other students, who now saw an opportunity to make a chunk of cash.

In very real if broad senses, those in Melbourne on international student visas face not merely employers as exploiters: they face almost the entire array of social relations in Melbourne as a predatory world re-made as a Hobbesian market just for them – the social sweatshop, the war of all against them.

New social objects
…reconstituting areas of accumulation…
The development of these international education economies should be understood as a moment of a restructuring of relations of exploitation, of the social relations of capitalism, for which ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘globalisation’ are common if inadequate terms – the emergence of new forms of subsumption of labour under capital on a planetary basis. In particular, this restructuring has disturbed and attenuated the division of the global cycle of capital into national areas of accumulation, and reconstituted the form and imperatives of states within the expansion of capital and reproduction of capitalism. (If a distinction between centre and periphery persists, it has quite different dynamics; likewise, as I’m hardly the first to argue, experiences of class and of ‘proletarian identity’.)

So far, so banal.

International education economies are the biggest source of export income in Victoria, by a substantial margin. Within Australia, international education economies developed through a number of stages. After being given the ability to charge enormous fees to international students, and as part of a much broader neoliberalising reconstitution of the social relations defining institutions, universities started to become what might be thought of as properly capitalist institutions, selling education and training and the credentials supposed to attest to same, in the sense outlined by Marx in the ‘excluded chapter’ of Das Kapital:

A schoolmaster who educates others is not a productive worker. But a schoolmaster who is engaged as a wage labourer in an institution along with others, in order through his labour to valorise the money of the entrepreneur of the knowledge-mongering institution, is a productive worker.

Even if the institution is “public” (I would argue). At the time Marx noted that such ‘services’, “from the formal point of view, are hardly subsumed formally under capital”, but were instead “transitional forms”, though “capable of being exploited directlyin the capitalist way” (his emphasis). Because this was not really happening at the time – formal or real subsumption – he advised that such activities be treated as “wage labour which is not at the same time productive labour”. Obviously the institutions, the economies and the activitites have gone through many shifts since Marx was writing, very real subsumption.

Marketplace, commodity exchange, wage labor. As the social relations of institutions were reorganised as competitive markets centred on imperatives of income generation, the generation of profit from international markets ran far ahead of the capacity of most institutions to generate income from (the formation of) ‘domestic markets’, from profits from the development of intellectual property, or by contracting out academic research work. A generation of profit made possible by systems of border control – by forms of violent exclusion which make possible new commodifications of mobility and of real and potential access to conditions of social reproduction (at least nominally) available to (some) of those judged to be within the borders of Australian territory and citizenship.

Thus these shifts included the developing ability to sell much more than these limited commodities of knowledge and accreditation, and the development of a massive private sector (colleges and the like founded solely on international students). And as part of these, a shift in who came, and how they got here. And more recently, shifts in the ways in which these economies bleed into surrounding social relations and institutions, the ways in which states and others seek to mediate the reproduction of such economies on a number of levels.

The integration of the Australian state into global political economy is now increasingly organised around integration into precisely these economies, a niche in world markets which re-makes and covertly commodifies the border and citizenship amongst many other things, as a certification point, a transit point, a control point, sometimes a destination, helping to define the movements of people in ever-changing but hardly arbitrary directions.

We know that the emerging socio-economic systems reach into the most ‘private’ of social relations, for example re-creating systems of dowry in India, and making up new flows of people and labour, finance and debt.

And also recreating the activity of police in Victoria, for example, as defenders of the large, fragile profits of the industry.

Social power
Many of the same people who seemed able to wipe out a chunk of ‘our’ international education economies with a few protests in the middle of last year had already taken public collective action. The same people (male Indian students) in the same place (Melbourne streets) about the same thing (violence). Despite being relatively large, wildcat, ‘militant’, disruptive – a very very public spectacle of angry brown men, some with shirts off, occupying a major city street for hours – the earlier actions seemed to have consequences much much smaller than subsequent events (unless understood as a causal precursor to the late events), more-or-less disappearing from “public” view with the cessation of collective disruptive action.

And yet the only substantial difference was in how the event was framed: taxi drivers the first time, international students the second.

The reason was not difficult to spot: the second round of ‘international student’ actions were experienced as a much more direct threat to recruitment to Australia’s largest non-mining “export” industry.

Interestingly, in India a parallel view of media coverage was put forward by a Left party:

Remember that not long ago, taxi drivers of Indian and Pakistini origin had protested in Melbourne against police indifference to a series of attacks on them. That story had not been highlighted much by the corporate Indian media because it made less interest copy for elite India than the attacks on “people like us”.

What are these people? I’m suggesting, now, that it is absurdly procrustean to try to reduce the social positioning of those who took action, or international students, or sub-sections of thereof, to being simply ethnically Indian (Chinese, Nepalese, whatever), or being students, or being generic workers (even ‘migrant workers’).

And not because it is always reductive to force complex individuals into simple categories – I don’t care about that at all.

Rather, all of these ascriptions are inadequate because they arewrong, because they fail to engage with the realities of those under discussions, with the social relations in which they really operate and thus with what they really are. Obviously they may work, study, come from India/China/Nepal.

I’m saying that these are guest consumers in new transnational economies which reach into and redefine Australian territory, border, citizenship, economy and social reproduction – moments of a restructuring of exploitation which reconstitutes the historical experience of work and of (what Theorie Communiste refer to as) ‘proletarian identity’. The imperatives which generated these programs were not to find people who can be made to work, not to generate a pool of hyperexploitable labor, but rather people who can be made to pay. Of course, with the expansion of such economies, these guest consumers now form the basis of multiple economies – producing people defined not as essences or members of some occupational or cultural group, but as conflictually-constituted moments in an ensemble of social relations, an entire social terrain negotiated from a quite different position, if not experienced as external imposition. Legal and immigration status, education, housing, transport, work, healthcare – markets, institutions and conditions collectively making up new and sometimes distinctly separate spaces. Work is the form of economic survival and point of exploitation, but not necessarily, and for quite material reasons, a privileged locus of identity.

A new exclusion is possible
What we might only partially inaccurately refer to as ‘international education economies’ are made up of overlapping, competing and conflicting imperatives and interests – interests of institutions (most obviously universities, private colleges, recruitment agencies) and states (most obviously Australian federal and state governments, Indian and Chinese governments). For a while any conflicts seemed to be attenuated, even swamped, by joy derived from the expansion of capital, but in recent times conflicts have emerged. Resistance led to recruitment problems led to a re-assertion of state management and planning – uneven, ad hoc and sometimes tentative but across the social terrain of these political economies.

If state governments experience these economies primarily as sources of revenue, the federal government occupies a slightly different position, with additional imperatives. As I write the federal government is acting to remake these educational economies, slicing out many of the least wealthy international students and sacrificing some proportion of the private colleges. To some extent it publicly appears as a re-assertion of federal labor market management in immigration policy and border regulation, informing and covering an effort at reconstitution of guest consumer economies alongside (for example) Victorian government efforts to diversify and re-make sources of guest consumers in attempts to ameliorate the fragility of these economies (and undermine the mediated socio-economic power of guest consumers).

The new urgency for expansion, and into new markets, is both an attempt to “replace” those who will no longer choose to come to Australia ie a response to declining recruitment from some places following the protests and publicity surrounding violence against international students and college closures, and a form of risk management.

Many of the problems of the industry are at least implicitly attributed to consequences of one fact: many of the students coming here are not, to put it in a nutshell, rich. Quite the opposite. By developing “new markets” centred on recruitment of elites from a variety of countries, governments can begin a process of regulation and exclusion, over time, without wiping out the guest consumer-based economies.

Thus, the federal government is trying to shift, at least at the edges, the basis of international education economies by changing the content of the commodities (which can be) sold, in order to manage problems experienced by states and capital – problems of the fragility of accumulation and expansion manifest primarily in the struggles of the guest consumers themselves.

But the reconstitution of these commodities is also the redefinition of legitimacy, a redistribution of exclusion and criminalization, and of formal or de facto expulsion – not to mention the creation of a new pattern of massive debt in parts of India and elsewhere, as some guest consumers, now dispensed with, face having virtually destroyed the economic basis of family reproduction for decades to come as payment, on credit, for effectively worthless ‘education’.

Multicultural patriotism
Meanwhile, Victorian police are threatening and intimidating Indians with a view to silencing potential complaints about racially-motivated attacks. Students calling up are threatened with deportation if they give false information by ‘disbelieving’ police. Taxi drivers repeatedly attacked by groups of people are told to shut up, that they can be charged with offences too, that they should just let things go or else. While it is difficult to ascertain exactly why or how frequently this is occurring, and whether this is a quiet directive from on high or the initiative of police not wanting to be held responsible for the loss of millions of ‘export dollars’, or just bigotry, the result is the same: police working hard to minimise problems (for the industry, for government).
The Indian groceries which grew with student numbers are finding it more and more difficult to survive as the Indian students no longer leave their homes at night, and thus no longer shop – at its worst, almost experiencing their lives as a state of siege.

Though they make up less than half of the ‘international students’ in Australia, by the new-found prominence of their protests, victimhood, and subsequent social visibility, male Indian students have become a kind of distorting metonym of those in Australia on student visas in general.

The central axis of this violence is that of citizen against non-citizen, even if in reality this manifests as that of particular (groups of) citizens against particular (groups of) non-citizens. Some have sought to find in any acts of ‘anti-student’ violence committed by non-whites, by non-Anglos, a refutation of any accusation of ‘racism’ against ‘mainstream Australians’ (understood as whites), if not proof of the ‘racism’ of specifically non-white Australians and hence an indication of the ‘failure of multiculturalism’. As if hatred of international students is an ancient hatred imported into this country by migrants – a stubborn persistence of that hatred of Indians so prominent in, say, Somalia.

In reality such violence does exist in relation to the ‘success’ of ‘multiculturalism’ as a state-sponsored project of management and nation-building. People from ‘diverse’ backgrounds can articulate xenophobia in the terms of multicultural patriotism, of the divisions of citizen and non-citizen within which official ‘anti-racism’ is constituted. Black, brown or white, we are all Australians – except for those who aren’t. In this case, the guest consumers.

The resulting fear is directly related to defeat: as consequences of guest consumer struggle turn out to be more harassment and violence and then mass expulsion at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale, the obvious collective actions dissipated, leaving a space of representation which could be seized, by FISA and others, and converted into political capital, and a claim to NGO funding and/or multicultural corporatist ‘inclusion’.

Final remarks
In a very real way the most recent shifts in the role of states in these economies are responses to the resistance of guest consumers. Moreover, in a very real way these shifts have effectively undermined, if not defeated, the movements of guest consumers as they have appeared over the last couple of years.

Resistance has been defeated, at least temporarily, by a combination of increased violence and enhanced fear, and the threat and reality of a wave of expulsions – expulsion, primarily of the least wealthy (literally negative wealth, often), enacted through visa changes of the sort pushed by the CFMEU and regulation and enforcement of the sort pushed by the National Union of Students.

The national regulation of labor and labor-market formation – almost all the ALP has retained from laborist social democracy – has always been compatible (to put it mildly) with xenophobia, and with the overt reduction of ‘foreigners’ to economic utility.

I would suggest that it is not desirable to analyse these developments from narrow perspectives, of the sad loss of the fantasy-university or the need to resuscitate social democracy, for example, which in any case tend to be overtly or not based upon demands for new border policing and exclusion.

Rather these developments should be seen as moments of restructuring, restructuring-as-class-struggle, with conflict defining points of the global flows of capitalist reproduction and accumulation. To understand the restructuring of which our struggles are a part – that would be a worthy goal.


Enis Oktay – CCS PhD Candidate…

From Oncology to Pediatrics: The Infectious Border Economy and the Corporate Border Experience

by Enis Oktay

During the Border Infection event held at Goldsmiths on 22-24 March 2010,  we saw how the border, especially national borders were utilized as instruments of control, as a means of keeping the “infection” – be it people, ideas or cultural values out.  We also saw that the control aspect has another side: the border is not only there for keeping people out, it is also there for deterring the ones who have managed to get in. The constant threat of not renewing visas or work permits and the threat of deportation are used to deter both legal and illegal migrants from engaging in what are regarded as criminal actions or undesirable political activities. For example, in February 2010 there were a series of news articles in die Tageszeitung (a German left-wing daily) about legal migrants in Germany who had become eligible for becoming citizens but whose applications were turned down because of their political engagements and affiliations. In 2002, the German government created an agency for the protection of the constitution (Verfassungsschutz) in the spirit of the post 9/11 environment. Since then, people who apply for German citizenship are being co-examined by this agency and more than 30 applications have been rejected in the last three years on the grounds that the applicants have had undesirable political associations. One of the articles titled “Too Leftist to be German” (Zu links, um deutsch zu sein) was concerning a lady whose parents were British and Italian, so she already had dual EU citizenship. She had grown up in Germany and had spent her adult life there. She was also married to a German citizen. What was peculiar about her case was that her citizenship application was rejected because she was an active member of die Linke (the Leftist Alliance) which actually is one of the elected parties in the federal parliament! Here’s the link to the original article (in German):

So to repeat, we have already seen two functions of the border: to deliberately keep certain people out, and to deter the ones who have made their way in. But there is another aspect of the border, an aspect of profit and revenue, an economy or industry of the border if you will. What I mean by this is on the one hand unidirectional capital flows from the Third World to the First World in the shape of visa or immigration fees, compulsory travel and/or health insurance policies bought from First World/multinational insurance companies, mandatory return tickets (in cases where the “common carriers” used are based in the First World), and in some cases obligatory bank transfers. For example, the new UK points based immigration policy doesn’t require prospective migrants to open up bank accounts in British banks (either within the UK or their international branches) but certain amounts of money have to be in the applicant’s bank account 28 work days prior to visa application and if the applicant is granted access to the UK she brings the money in one way or another anyway as she spends it there. According to Germany’s immigration policy on the other hand, student applicants are required to open up special accounts in German banks which are then partially blocked so that the student can’t transfer or withdraw the money all at once but is allowed to take out around €600 per month which is the designated monthly amount for subsistence.  Therefore, he/she has to make a down payment of at least one year’s worth of income which equals to 600 x12 = €7,200.  In addition to the macroeconomics of the border there also exist microeconomic responses, hierarchies, and absurdities these (supra)national borders and their regulation via visas engender at the everyday and local (Third World) level in the shape of clientelistic networks that operate materially and immaterially within an informal economy.

Before exploring this micro level, let us go back to the macro level and try to assess the annual revenue some of the “developed” nation-states make from the border economy.  It’s hard to estimate the magnitude of this revenue as such figures are not being made public by governments. Or at least, I couldn’t find them on the internet. Perhaps official reports are being filled and presented to various bureaucratic committees but I wasn’t able to locate them. Nevertheless, here are some figures I was able to find which may shed some light on the mystery: According to the European Commission, Schengen States issued 13 million visas in 2007 ( The standard visa application fee was €60 (although this amount varies from country to country as well as according to the type of visa being issued) which makes the total annual revenue of €780 million. But this is much lower than the actual number as it doesn’t include rejected applications (the visa fees are non-refundable so rejection doesn’t mean reimbursement) as well as other capital flows such as mandatory insurance and transportation fees, and wire transfers. In 2009, Ukraine has spent €60 million on Schengen visas while Turkey has spent €450 million. What is striking about the Schengen visa is that contrary to the US’ or the UK’s practice of issuing long-term (2, 5, or 10 years), multiple entry visas (at least to upper class applicants), the Schengen countries tend to issue only single entry and short term visas (the cut-off point is usually the date of the return journey, hence the mandatory return ticket). This practice of making people pay every time they wish to travel to the EU increases the visa revenue significantly. [1] Currently, there are approximately 120 countries – mainly located in Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania – the citizens of which need visas to access the Schengen area, that is, to be able to spend even one legal minute in Fortress Europe. As common visa requirements for airport transit were introduced by the European Union on 5 April 2010, there exist 12 black sheep among these 120 countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka) the citizens of which are considered potentially harmful so they need visas even to be able to just pass through the Schengen zone.

The citizens of 40 nation-states on the other hand – mainly the non-European members of the G7 (USA, Canada, Japan), tiny European city-states such as Vatican, Monaco or San Marino, rich and industrialized non-European states such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong (only holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports) and Israel, as well as the greater economies of central and south America – [2] do not require a visa to enter the Schengen zone and are allowed to stay for the duration of 90 days. Once the official “short term stay” period of 90 days are up, such nationals may re-enter and stay for another three months visa-free as many times as they please provided that they leave the Schengen area physically and come back (this may take place within the same day). Hence, regular travels (every 3 months) back home or to the closest non-Schengen border (for example from France to the UK) enables the privileged owners of such passports to have a full-time and indefinite (yet quarterly interrupted) residence in Europe.[3]

Going back to figures, the UK which has significantly higher immigration fees than the Schengen states has received 2.7 million visa applications in 2006.  If we assume all of those applications were for short term visas (UK’s lowest visa fee: £68), this translates itself into £183.6 million of annual revenue. If, on the other hand, we assume all of those applications were for long term stays (10 years, which requires the highest visa processing fee of £610), then the annual visa revenue becomes £1 billion 647 million. Probably, the actual figure in 2006 was closer to one billion pounds. Recently, UK immigration fees were further increased so that the price of bringing in elderly parents was almost doubled to become £1,900 and a separate 10% charge for each child was introduced. Moreover, the super-rich such as international bankers and professional football players were offered a £15,000 premium visa renewal service which reverses the traditional visa application process as it entails visa officers making appointments and visiting the applicants at their homes or offices. According to The Guardian, Phil Woolas, the Labour government’s immigration minister at the time, justified the sharp increase in immigration and nationality fees which were introduced in April 2010, saying” it was only fair that those who benefited from using the immigration system should help fund it” ( The advocates of curtailing people’s freedom of movement have been consistently presenting the maintenance of international borders as either serving the purpose of security management (especially after Sep. 11) or of stabilizing the economy so that unemployment stays low and resources can be distributed among a lower number of deserving citizens, i.e. the domestic populace lucky enough to have been born inside the First World borders. Nevertheless, even when right wing policy makers explicitly confess the benefits of maintaining borders for admitting capital and desirable migrants, and for filtering out others, they seldom talk of borders in terms of revenue and profit – as mentioned above even the statistics about how much the First World states annually earn from visa applications are not easy to find if they are made public at all. What is striking about Woolas’ remark, on the other hand, is that it shows a shift of paradigm from emphasis on insulation and deterrence to an emphasis on customer service and mutual benefit, and points towards the discourse of a new privatization and commercialization of the border. This new approach to the border as commercial mechanism is manifest in the new UK visa application system that is part of the transformation the creation of the UK Border Agency has brought about – more on this below.

What is crucial about the macroeconomics of the border industry is that as the First World is presented as some sort of land of promises, the whole system depends on the trick that the visa presents itself as a right – a right to enter and remain for a limited amount of time – rather than what it really is: a privilege that is bought and sold. And given the economic nature of this privilege, which of those who have arrived from the Third World will be granted access to the Promised Land that is the First World is decided by and large according to capital and class.  For example, the new UK points based immigration system dictates that if an overseas student who has no prior UK residence wants to come and study in London, either she or her legal guardians must have approximately £20,000 in their bank account 28 work days prior to the date of application. If the prospective student already has lived in the UK before (i.e. is financially reliable, hence is required to prove only two months’ worth of already existing subsistence funds instead of nine months’) and is going to study outside of London (which means a lower rate of monthly subsistence), she still needs to have £12,000 in her bank account 28 work days prior to her application. If not, the dream of studying in the UK is not a realizable one. Here it is important to remind the reader that according to both IMF’s and World Bank’s 2009 rankings, the annual GDP per capita (nominal) of most of the countries whose citizens require UK visas is well below even one fourth of that required amount. So as the target customers who are supposed to buy the service – the very customers whose being out there (demand) is used by policy makers to justify the existence of the visa/customer service (supply) in the first place – can’t afford to do so; it is only those who are significantly richer than their compatriots residing in the land of the poor that are allowed – albeit temporarily – into the land of the rich.

What is also essential for the maintenance of this restrictive immigration regime and its economy is that the First World manages to continue presenting itself as the land of promises. Paradoxically, the two factors  that render the First World attractive and enable it to keep up the appearance of a land of promises – namely the wealth of the its capitalist fee market economy and the consumerist liberties of its neoliberal democracy – depend in the first place on the condition that they remain distinctive and exclusive. In other words, the richer nation-states can only remain more “developed” hence more attractive than the others by maintaining the national borders which not only  keep the structural problems faced by millions living in less fortunate parts of the globe on a daily basis at a safe distance, but also secure their internal wealth and health against turmoil. Such wealth and health secured by exclusivity then becomes the pull factor which in return brings in the visa revenue that contributes to such countries’ state of “more developed existence.”

As stated above, alongside the macroeconomics of the border[4] exist localized microeconomics consisting of clientelistic networks which operate within an informal economy built around the First World consulates. Nevertheless, such networks are gradually disappearing due to the above mentioned privatization of the border as nation-states are increasingly subcontracting private companies to deliver customer services such as visa appointment booking systems. In order to shed more light on such networks I will relate an anecdote from my own life but before I do that I want to make an observation: As I have been living away from my home country (Turkey) for the last seven years, I have been to numerous consulates/immigration agencies, been exposed to various visa application procedures, and have experienced various degrees of mistreatment and humiliation. Paradoxically, the worst treatment I had to endure at a consulate was back home in Istanbul. Strikingly, once I made it to Europe the clerks working at the consulates located in various European cities treated me more kindly, that is, less like a second rate human being. If I’m not mistaken, the fact that I was already allowed to be present within the EU border was regarded by the consulate workers as sufficient proof that I was one of the wealthy and cultivated “visa-worthy” few as compared to the masses of poor “barbarians” back home. Sadly, it seems the foreign border is at its strongest at home…

So now the anecdote: Seven years ago, I was freshly out of college in Istanbul and had received a scholarship to study philosophy for a year in a private liberal arts college in Berlin. At the time the visa services of the German consulate had not been privatized so there was no appointment booking system. So the only way to apply for a visa was to queue in front of the consulate’s visa section. You had to stand in line out in the open air come rain or shine between 09:00 and 12:00 and come noon the doors would be shut. On the average about 500 individuals would be queuing up and only 50 of them or so would be admitted to the consulate while the remaining 450, who were well aware of this fact, kept waiting in line just in case. The names of the 10 or so individuals at the head of the queue who had made it to the cut-off point would be put on a list so that they would be admitted first thing next morning without queuing, and the rest had to go home having waited for 3 hours yet having acquired no advantage which would help them achieve their goal the next day. The following morning they would have to queue from scratch.  It was almost like knowing that your chance of winning the lottery is ridiculously small but buying a ticket just in case. Of course, there actually is an immigration lottery as the US hands out permanent residence permits to lucky migrants who have won the green card lottery!

I won’t go into the details of the mistreatment and humiliation I have experienced and witnessed during this process. The main point is that it took me five consecutive days of being hassled by consulate guards and waiting in line under the scorching August sun in order to be able to get in and apply for the visa.  Even worse, I had to spend two nights camping in front of the consulate. And after I finally succeeded to apply, it took them more than a month to issue my visa so that I had to delay my trip and I ended up missing the first few weeks of the term. As I was experiencing this humiliating procedure along with hundreds of fellow applicants wishing to set foot on German soil, I also witnessed some peculiar side-economies of the border: To begin with there were lots of rich people who hired the poor for ridiculously low wages to stand in line on their behalf. Hence, there was a large number of otherwise unemployed men hanging around the consulates and trying to make their living in such a fashion. Of course, as they were competing with each other to sell their unskilled labor, rivalries and disputes were commonplace. There were also small time crooks belonging to Istanbul’s “parking lot mafia” forcing the applicants-to-be camping in front of the consulate at night to “hire” them so that their place on the non-existent queue would be “protected” against intrusions from members of other gangs. Moreover, the owner of a rundown coffee house in close vicinity to the consulate had capitalized on the non-existence of rival establishments, hence he was benefitting from his monopoly by overcharging the drowsy, prospective visa applicants for a variety of consumer goods and services: from lukewarm tea to stale sandwiches, from bottled drinking water to filthy toilets. There were also rich businessmen hiring tourism agency employees to bribe the consulate workers so that their wives could go on shopping sprees in Milan, London or Paris. What these practices of bribery indicate is that the borders of the first world were and are more porous than they would admit or want to be, so that people with wealth and access to necessary informal networks could and can infiltrate the border without going through the official and proper steps/produces. Once again, these are privileges that come along with capital and class. As mentioned above, most of these informal services are disappearing with the privatization of the border. Nevertheless, the tourism agency bribery scheme remains ever popular.

Up until recently, what had remained constant in my dealings with the border economy was that the consular experience was pretty much confrontational and adversarial: The visa clerks sit behind a glass partition and seem to show almost no humanly compassion or sympathy. It’s almost as though they detest you for daring to apply for the privilege of travelling to their home country, for venturing into their home territory (the land on which the consular building is built belongs to the nation-state being represented), for standing anxiously in front of them and taking up their time which they would rather spend doing something else. Or worse, some seem to explicitly enjoy their position of power; they thrive on the hierarchical might bestowed on them by the international immigration regime as they savor belittling and mistreating you. And all of this takes place while you are dehumanized as your achievements and personality are reduced to an application number and the digits in your bank account.[5] Because of all this, throughout my encounters with consular workers I have always considered them my enemy.

Recently however, I had the chance to hear their side of the story as I met someone who used to work at German consulate’s visa section at Istanbul when I had applied for my student visa. According to this person, the consulate workers themselves are being crushed by the pressure of profit maximization as they have to meet efficiency standards (a certain number applications must be processed without fail within a certain amount of time) and each applicant exists as a potential liability for the visa officer on a personal/financial level since once she issues someone a visa, she automatically becomes responsible for covering the legal/deportation costs for that individual if he overstays his welcome or breaks the law. Moreover, rather than having the freedom to choose whether or not to work in the visa section – which she said was highly unpopular –  the public servants at the beginning of their foreign service career are appointed to work there as the system of rotation requires. So the visa officer is also a victim, a wage laborer, an immaterial worker being exploited and oppressed by the capitalist mechanism of profit extraction. Nevertheless, the amount of victimization that a career in the foreign service of a First World nation state involves is not the same as the one working in a call center in the Third World entails. The visa clerk is not only blessed (or cursed) with a significant amount of hierarchical power that affects others’ lives deeply on a daily basis (he or she decides or at least is part of the unjust and oppressive mechanism that decides where certain individuals may or may not spend their lives), buying into the propaganda of a nation-building project/nationalist ideology so that one identifies oneself with a nation-state to the extent that one chooses to represent it abroad is also problematic as far as I’m concerned. Neither do I find it all right to implement one’s government’s restrictive border policies…

Despite all these problems, the visa officer remains simultaneously a victim as he is a wage laborer being oppressed by the capitalist mechanism of profit extraction. This terrifying obligation to cover the law-breaking migrant’s legal/deportation fees is an absurdly extreme version of corporate pressure. After all, even if the CEO of a holding makes a bad financial decision which loses the company a huge deal of money, he ends up losing his job but no one forces him to pay back the company the money he has caused them to lose. Similarly, a doctor will not be held responsible if a patient dies as long as he follows conventional modes of therapy and does everything in his power to cure to patient. Apart from extreme cases of intentional abuse, most cases of malpractice are settled out of court and it is not the physician who might lose his job/license but the hospital that has to pay the damages. Indeed, the comparison with disease and infection is fitting here. After all, the border is seldom as strikingly visible as in the facial expression of a visa applicant who, upon days of eager anticipation, receives his passport back. As soon as he has that little leather-bound booklet in his hands, he excitedly leaves through it until he comes upon page of the freshly issued visa. Immediately his face lights up with delight and relief as though he has just received promising news of a fresh cure for his terminal disease. The visa officer then is analogous to the oncologist while the inability to access the land of promises that is the First World is the cancer. Of course, the real disease, the real infection is not the inability to access the land of promises but the very border itself.

With the arrival of UK points based immigration’s privatized border experience, the confrontational nature of the consular visa application procedure has disappeared. With the new customer services approach the hierarchical power relation has become somewhat disguised and subtler but perhaps therefore it has become more sinister. What then is this new system? As part of UK’s new immigration policy, the newly formed UK Border Agency has subcontracted the Computer Sciences Corporation based in Falls Church, Virginia in 2007 and introduced WorldBridge visa application centers (VAC) in 15 countries throughout Europe, the Americas, North Africa and the Middle East. WorldBridge call centers have been set up in additional 87 countries. The first three visa application centers were opened in Düsseldorf, Munich, and Berlin. The technical name for the centers in Munich and Berlin is Micro-VAC since they can’t issue visas themselves but process applications and send them to the main center in Dusseldorf which operates in liaison with the British consulate there.  The crucial thing about the Micro-VACs is that applicants provide their documents and biometric data (finger prints and digital face scan) in person after having made an online visa application, paid around €170 (student applicants) and secured an appointment. The Computer Sciences Corporation has also three major offices in Europe, Australia and Asia, and a total of 92000 employees serving clients in more than 90 countries. According to their website, their annual revenue as of October 2009 was $16 billion.

The crucial difference that comes with the WorldBridge experience is that the customer service mentality schizophrenically treats you as though you had a dual personality: As the visa applicant you are being treated as a potential criminal so you have to give your finger prints and biometric data which will be stored for the next ten years in a UK Border Agency database and will be shared with international security organizations such as CIA and Mossad for the purposes of fighting “crime,” “illegal” immigration and “terrorism.” But as the paying customer your comfort and needs are also taken into consideration so that you have a smooth and pleasant corporate experience: As I arrived in January 2010 for my UK visa appointment at the office tower WorldBridge shares with PricewaterhouseCoopers at Berlin’s Potsdamerplatz; I was welcomed by the smiling face of a courteous non-British receptionist – a lady of African origin with German citizenship –  offering me, in a fashion similar to easyJet, an array of customer services to complement my application (sealed envelopes, photocopying facilities, a Polaroid automat, and a courier service) at a marginal extra fee. Then I was taken upstairs where I let my finger prints and biometric scan be taken by yet another non-British national – this time an American – who was not sitting behind a glass panel as the case used to be, but was physically in the same room with me, chitchatting as though the operations he was carrying out were perfectly mundane and normal; as though the relation between us were a neutral one. Although he, just like his more adversarial predecessors, exercised hierarchical power over me – he had the right to not process my application, to accuse me of non-compliance – he seemed to be guilt-free as he was not working at the consulate where the application would finally end up; hence, had no final decision power. As far as he was concerned, he was just a plain employee, working for a neutral company offering services to paying customers. As he was aiding the British government in selling me the privilege to enter the UK (disguised as a limited right) he seemed to think his actions were more akin to and as innocent as selling me a UK holiday package.

Here’s the gist of the argument then: What we had before the new customer service approach as manifested by WorldBridge was a confrontational and degrading procedure in which one had to deal with the citizens of the nation-state to which one was making a visa application.  As such, the consulate worker shared to some extent the experience of victimization with the applicant since as he existed not only as the oppressor but also as the oppressed wage laborer being crushed under the capitalist pressure of profit maximization. In our new epoch of privatized border experience, the visa officer as a corporate employee is even more distanced to and alienated from the applicant with whom he only has a commercial relationship.  Moreover, this distantiation and its diffusion of responsibility – the WorldBridge employee has no final say – render indifference and discrimination more probable. As stated above, in such a corporate environment the visa officer does not even have to be a citizen of the country one is applying to – the final visa was issued at the British consulate in Düsseldorf by a British national whom I had no contact with, but the hired individuals I personally encountered as an applicant in Berlin were non-British. Before, we had the consulate workers playing the role of oncologists as they offered us temporary relief from the terminal malady of not being able to access the exclusive land of promises that the First World presents itself to be. Now, those who personally attend to our travel-sickness (pun intended) are corporate employees who like the pediatrician distract us with the candy just before they stick the needle in; that is, just before they take our money and finger-prints, and take away our dignity.

What now follow are three issues or questions for discussion. First of all, speaking about borders (especially in art) and their toppling down within the confines of a prestigious university in a First World metropolis is already dependent on numerous privileges in regard to borders; borders that are non-permeable for others, esp. those who come from the poorer parts of the globe and for whom philosophy or art is still a luxury. And when we sit in a college campus in London, Paris or Berlin as we discuss borders in art, politics, philosophy, or life in general we often take the everyday reality of western neoliberal democratic society, which enables us to be there and talk about such things in the first place, as granted; we usually can’t escape the pitfall of Eurocentrism which treats such everyday existence as the measuring unit of all life and reality. Within this context, any account of borders and especially their transgression must at first address or at least accept this position of privilege. This must be, as it were, the fundamental condition of criticality. But not in a Christian confessional way so that it becomes obsolete in the sense that before we speak we admit our guilt and then carry on with business as usual. Rather, the awareness of our privilege should weigh so heavy on our shoulders that it incites us, forces us to take steps in the direction of changing things concretely. Of course, this is much easier said than done and we often end up in the pub rather than out in the streets after such “thought provoking” sessions, drinking our misery away.

Speaking of taking to the streets and activism, there seems to be a lack of information among the First World general public about the injustice of immigration regimes. This is partially understandable as citizens of “developed” nations seldom have the enlightening experience of being harassed by consulate officials or being humiliated and treated as second rate human beings at the First World border. For example, many of my friends in Berlin, who are not politically active per se but would define themselves as leaning towards the left in the sense that they vote for the social democrats or the Greens, were ignorant of and astounded by the fact that I, one of them, can’t travel abroad without prior planning and preparation (gathering of documents and funds, obtaining of the visa) as they can and do. For them life is simpler, you can be globally mobile as long as you can afford the airfare. Similarly, they were pretty much misinformed about my lack of rights as a legal alien (from the Third World[6]) in their country. Even among the much better informed group of activists, there is a tendency to take the issue seriously and mobilize only when the Other/foreigner is marginalized to the extent that he is the victim of either inhumane living conditions or persecution and often violence. Of course, mobilized actions against deportations and detention centers are extremely important yet it distresses me that mobilization is mainly grounded on the pain and suffering of others. It always takes yet another deportation or abuse, yet another tragedy for us to get together and try to fight back.  Can we find a way then to speak of and practice an activism that is not always reactionary but also preemptive?

Lastly, I find the metaphor of infection very suiting because everyday life is indeed increasingly contaminated by borders.  Border is not simply a neutral demarcation that separates two distinct entities. It is not just edges or boundaries that define matter as contained within the form of the object, hence not just a condition of existence. It is not only a category enabling the perception of reality, i.e. the ultimate border between the subject and the object as well as the borders between objects themselves. Neither does it accurately describe the coexistence of different yet equally valuable/important singularities within a multiplicity. Yet under global capitalism and its neoliberal multiculturalism border appears to be all of these things at once. Border is hierarchy, it is power and subjugation. It designates a zone of privilege against a zone of deprivation, be this zone/area territorial or corporeal. Border is seldom egalitarian; one person standing on the one side of the border usually has distinction over the person standing on the other side. And the distinction of the border provides various benefits to various actors in various ways and formations. Border is also a norm, it marks the edge of what is acceptable and permitted, what can and can’t be (let) done. Border as law – this law is violently imposed and then this symbolic violence that took place is repressed – is also the prerequisite of transgression which via its enactment, via its stepping beyond simultaneously announces the existence of its Other; namely the norm/border. Hence transgression sustains the border; its subversion reproduces the norm. The border in one form or another keeps popping up, keeps reappearing even if we transgress it. In everyday life we have a proliferation of micro-borders, power struggles, hierarchies, distinctions. Here we can talk of the border’s subsumption of everyday life, a subsumption that leads to a multiplicity of the borders incarnations.

Is it then because global capitalism relies on the spread of borders (deterritorialization – reterritorialization) to the domain of everyday life that the border as concept has become infectious and contagious to such an extent that we are all infected; that we cannot function without the framework of the border and it appears – presents itself (Marx’ erscheinen) – to be fundamental for human existence? Is it the case that capitalism creates various borders and then they come to present themselves as the natural order of things? Or is it the other way around? Is there really a fundamental human drive to seek distinction and set up borders (not only international borders sustaining the nations-state system but also everyday life borders like subject-object, male-female, teacher-student, parent-child, law enforcer-citizen, private property-public property, employer-employee, bourgeoisie-proletariat, etc.) so that the capitalist mode of production not creates it but rather capitalizes on it? Especially in our days of financial crisis when the “communist hypothesis” is gaining popularity among academic circles we must confront ourselves with this question. When we dream of and strive to create a just and better world that is devoid of borders – borders between nations, classes, genders and sexes, ethnicities and religions – we must address the question of whether border creation is indeed indigenous to human existence, indigenous to life. It seems to me only if we can answer this question satisfactorily can we begin to deal with borders and their disassembly in a meaningful way that makes the sustenance of a just, better world possible…

Enis Oktay Berlin, 18.08.10

[1] Another common scenario entails holders of valid Schengen visas being turned down at the border and sent back since their first point of entry has not been the country that has issued the visa. For example, a Turkish citizen who has gotten a Schengen visa from the French consulate in Istanbul but travels to Belgium first is refused admittance and instructed to enter the zone via France if he wishes to enter Belgium with the visa in question. This actually goes against the spirit of the Schengen agreement. Yet, this practice is not against international law which states holding a valid visa does not mean automatic admittance, immigration officers reserve the right to grant or refuse access at the border.

[2] The full list is alphabetically: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel,  Japan, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand,  Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay,  Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela.

[3] The following world map clearly shows the correlation between national wealth and the global distribution of Schengen visa-waiver rights:

[4] Human trafficking, which this paper does not address, is also a significant part of the macroeconomics of the border.

[5] Various schemes to attract high-skilled migrants are the exception to this. Although the prospective migrant’s annual income is still a decisive factor there, his past vocational achievements also matter a great deal.

[6] I’m not sure if Turkey qualifies as the Third World, nevertheless there is a discrepancy in Germany between the rights of a migrant who comes from places such as the US or Canada and one who comes from Turkey. For example, according to a recent law, if one is married to a German citizen and happens to come from a “less desirable” country such as Turkey, one will be required to provide proof of basic German language skills (common European level A2) to be able to apply for a visa to come to Germany and live with one’s spouse. Spouses from richer countries are exempt from this requirement. If you happen to come for example from Egypt you’ll need to speak basic German to be granted access to Germany where your German spouse resides, if you come from the US or Canada you won’t need to!

Points-Based Immigration System in Context: 16 October 2010

Points-Based Immigration System in Context: Research and Campaign Strategies
10am-6pm, Saturday 16 October 2010, University of London Union, Malet
Street, London WC1
This conference will present new research on issues related to the
points-based immigration system (PBIS) as it affects Further and Higher
Education. The conference will assess:
a) the wider significance of immigration;
b) the full consequences of PBIS;
c) the characteristics  of new systems of regulation and surveillance in
universities and colleges.
The conference aims to offer both expertise in
research but also a focus for campaigners who object to the fundamentally
discriminatory nature of the rules.
Supported by UCU, ULU, Centre for Cultural Studies, Department of
Politics, Department of Media & Communications (all at Goldsmiths)

Points-Based Immigration System in Context: 16 October 2010July 20, 2010Points-Based Immigration System in Context: Research and Campaign Strategies10am-6pm, Saturday 16 October 2010, University of London Union, MaletStreet, London WC1
This conference will present new research on issues related to thepoints-based immigration system (PBIS) as it affects Further and HigherEducation. The conference will assess:a) the wider significance of immigration;b) the full consequences of PBIS;c) the characteristics  of new systems of regulation and surveillance inuniversities and colleges.
The conference aims to offer both expertise inresearch but also a focus for campaigners who object to the fundamentallydiscriminatory nature of the rules.
Supported by UCU, ULU, Centre for Cultural Studies, Department ofPolitics, Department of Media & Communications (all at Goldsmiths)


Erm, Stop Press/ *Hot Topic Alert*/  - because the Points based immigration in context conference is coming up soonish, this blog will be temporarily turned over to various longer pieces discussing the new ‘objects’ of immigration law/oppression. Some of the papers to be ‘published’ here on this blog are talks that were given at the Beyond Text Creativity Across Borders workshops, some are destined for publication elsewhere and appear here with thanks, others have been written for the blog. Please read and discuss (Trinketization will return to its usual occasional transmission shortly, but in the meantime, something important… – See the Border page (side bar) for an index to the articles)

Articles so far:

Enis Oktay – From Oncology to Pediatrics: The Infectious Border Economy and the Corporate Border Experience

Ben Rosenzweig – International student struggles, or, Causes of the mediated processes of reproduction

Nandita Dogra – The ‘Kingdom’ Strikes Twice- Double Whammy on Post-study Skilled Immigrants.

More to come…

Recently, at the Centre for Cultural Studies

In June we hosted a hugely successful kind of double event, taking place in two locations London and Gothenberg, Sweden. The first part was a discussion of race and politics with keynote speakers Professors Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Fred Moten in conversation. Over 300 attended, and the highlight was Gayatri Spivak’s three hour examination of the 7 pages of Franz Fanon’s work where he discusses the philosopher George F. Hegel – what was stunning about this was a group of scholars consulting texts in three languages: the Hegel in German, the French translation Fanon used, Fanon’s own French text, and the English translations of both Fanon and Hegel. A seminar those there will not forget, or recover from, in a hurry (we are currently transcribing it for a book). The meeting then continued on the theme of Borders at a week long conference as part of the Clandestino Music Festival in Sweden, attended by over a dozen of the Centre’s PhDs, where Professor Spivak was again the keynote, but alongside other attractions such as DJ Watts Riot from Fun-da-mental and the immortal Caribbean sonic dub master Lee Scratch Perry.

This musical turn in the Centre for Cultural Studies may have hinted at new directions, since the Centre’s end of term party – always a hot ticket at Goldsmiths – also featured two bands – the local eccentric pop outfit ‘Diaphragm Failure’ and the Boston based Pakistani Punk band ‘The Kominas’ (famous for tracks like ‘Jihad in Amerikka’ and ‘Suicide Bomb the Gap’). A conference on Piracy and Pirate Radio is just one of the things in the making for the next year.

countermapping qmary project: flashymob

We would like to invite you to the next event of the countermapping qmary project:
a game-playing flashmob and a meeting/discussion
on Thursday 24 June Francis Bancroft Building, Mile End Campus QMary
2pm: come and play the board game we have designed about the university, taking risks and crossing borders – we will be playing multiple games with students and staff around the campus. Meet in the foyer of the francis bancroft building.
4pm: you are invited to attend an open countermapping meeting about imagining and building a campaign against the cuts to education and border controls. venue: room 4.08 francis bancroft building
What would a campaign that seeks to disrupt, challenge and cross the border/s that operate in, on and around the university – look like? If we continue by posing the problem of what is the university and in doing so continue with our investigation of the function of the university not only as a knowledge factory but also as a border. At the centre of our understanding of both education and borders is that the university as a border is made possible by the operation of a filter mechanism. The counting of bodies, money in and money out, who can and can not enter, what are we when we leave, cuts to funding and jobs, increases to student fees, the limits of what is and is not knowledge and the complicity with national and global border regimes – who and what is stopped at the border?
hope to see you there,
the countermappers of qmary

Free Gaza

Any surprise that Israeli commandos might ‘botch’ a raid on the boats of the Free Gaza flotilla should be tempered by the recognition that they planned this provocation, at night, with guns.

In response, a new Dunkirk? Another Malta convoy? Send all boats, Send in the navy, The Trident subs to find a use at last. To have the Gaza blockade broken for good would be the only viable response – and a show of what people organised can do against Military Muscular Zionist State Crazies.

Thinking of Ewa J from Goldsmiths, Edda M from the Border Infection event, and many others on the convoy.

(Pic of Lewisham STW on the way to Embassy with thousands – not the hundreds reported in tamed and insipid press)

clandestino Border Reverb

Counter Mapping Queen Mary

Counter-Mapping QMary: the university and border technologies

13-24 May 2010, Queen Mary University, London

To begin by asking <what is the university> requires an investigation
of the function of the university not only as a knowledge factory but
also as a border. Our investigation of what the university produces as
knowledge, hierarchies and power exposes the border/s that operate in,
on and around the university. That <the university is a border> is
made possible by the operation of a filter mechanism. The counting of
bodies, money in and money out, who can and can not enter, what are we
when we leave, the limits of what is and is not knowledge and the
complicity with national and global border regimes – who and what is
stopped at the border?

A group of students, staff and researchers at Queen Mary University
have set out to map the ways in which migration, border technologies,
surveillance and monetary flows intersect with the university as our
place of work and study. Joining us in the project are the <Counter-
Cartographies Collective from the University of North Carolina>, who
will help to explore the dynamics and possibilities of mapping as
method and action.

From Thursday 13 May – Monday 24 May we will gather to discuss,
research and take action to produce a counter map of Queen Mary
University. As part of our practice we will be facilitating <three
public workshops> to expand the participation and possibilities of the
project. These workshops as well as the counter mapping production
process are open to all who are interested and are free to attend –
please see below for the programme and contact details. The venue for
all events will be room 4.08 in the Francis Bancroft Building of Queen
Mary Campus and is accessible.

Thursday 13 May, 2pm
Imaginaries of the university

<Opening event of the Counter/Mapping QMary project>

The Counter-Cartographies Collective will present their work on the
neo-liberal university and discuss their maps, methodologies and
actions. This session will address our imaginaries of the university –
current and potential – and will conclude with a drift around QM campus.

Thursday 20 May, 2pm
How to make a counter-map

<Workshop: mapping as method, practice and action>

The Counter-Cartographies Collective will facilitate a workshop on
radical collaborative mapping skills using available open source
mapping software and web-based data-mining techniques. Free and open
to all, email us to register.

Monday 24 May, 4pm
The politics and potential of counter-mapping

<Presentation and open discussion>

In this event, Counter/Mapping QMary project will present their map of
Queen Mary. This presentation will be followed by an open discussion
of the methods and politics of mapping the university as a site of
migration, education and labour struggles. Invited interlocutors: The
Students not Suspects Campaign (Goldsmiths), No Cuts at Queen Mary
Campaign, Jane Wills, David Pinder, Ishani Chandrasekara, Miguel
Mellino, John Hutnyk, Alberto Toscano

Counter/Mapping QMary
Facebook: countermapping qmary

The Counter/Mapping QMary project is generously supported by the
School of Business and Management and the Geography Department at
Queen Mary University.

Border Patrols (redux)

The city is the border. Each time you wave away the Chinese DVD seller who approaches you in the pub; each time you glide past the Polish beer in the cornershop, choosing a stella or chardonnay instead; each time you discard the free advertising newsheet you’ve barely even read – a million instant statements of the border.

Sex worker postcards in the last remaining telephone booth (new in town!); spruikers on the curry shift entice you for a deal; dragging angry and Peckham through the CCTV streets at dawn – the border is the city and the walls between us all.

It could not be that we don’t know this: that the management of the border is a mass participation project operated absentmindedly by all of us all day. Through an overkill of commentary and a shifting, churning hierarchy, the profiles, stereotypes and judgements that are constantly made yet so often denied are the guilty enactment of this regime. Border Police do their work – spot check, detention, deportation – all the better because our everywhere everyday distracted border operation is there in all we do.

The regulations are on the streets, the regulators are here.

[a post from the start of the present Border project - here (from june 2008) - in order to remind us that things as they are now and things as they were then are, well, both are worse:  UKBA, Tory Caps, the idiot TV ‘debates’, Flockers, bigots]


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