Edited by Karine Côté-Boucher, Federica Infantino and Mark B. Salter
What are the everyday practices of actors in border spaces? Considering the multiplicity of actors involved at the borders – Border guards, diplomats, police officers, NGOs -, the diversity of their agendas, roles, tactics and work routines and the inescapable interconnection of diverse security discourses, different legal regimes and policies at play in these peculiar border spaces, observing and analysing rigorously what is going on, who is going through and who and what is stopped is a challenging task. In this special issue of Security Dialogue co-edited by Karine Côté-Boucher, Federica Infantino and Mark B. Salter (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/195), the contributors are offering precise accounts of that complexity, while engaging with the methodological issues at stake when discussing such multifaceted sites and offering views on contemporary bordering.
In this special issue border security is addressed from the angle of the everyday practices of those who are appointed to carry it out. That precise determination for detailed analysis of the contextualized practices of security actors in different border spaces – from Spain to Mauritania, South Sudan, and the island of Bintan via Morocco to EU borderlands – certainly contributes to the quality of this special issue of Security Dialogue. Didier Bigo’s contribution (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/209) builds on years of interaction with a variety of European border actors and his deep, long-term, immersion in the transnational field of security professionals. Highlighted by a series of interviews in various sites, this contribution illustrates how border security itself can be understood through three interlocking but independent ‘universes’: the military, border police and database analysts. Bigo demonstrates how these three types of border agents operate according to different core assumptions, logics and justifications, with diverging effects, all the while showing that border security actors interact according to diverse forms of subjectification.
From Philippe Frowd’s contribution (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/226), who investigates the implementation of a programme aimed at building new border posts in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, we see how a particular border security field is populated by multiple local, regional, and international actors. Frowd shows how Mauritanian border posts are constructed by the European Union, with training sessions being given by the International Organization for Migration, while technology is supplied by a migration policy development centre. We learn that EU directives promote infrastructure construction in Mauritania, with effects that cannot be predicted. If the EU has a strategy of pushing the border outwards, or merging internal and external security, only field research can tell us that funding of the construction of border outposts takes place irrespectively of actual trafficking routes.
Nora El Qadim’s contribution (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/242) ushers the reader to consider the diplomatic labour involved in deportations from France to Morocco. In her article, she details the cooperation practices surrounding the implementation of forced return. El Qadim insists on the agency of Moroccan diplomatic actors in migration matters, and shows how attention to the cooperation practices of less visible mid-level actors opens up opportunities for challenging migration control. David Moffette’s contribution (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/262) draws attention towards the logics and practices of low-level decision makers as a vantage point for observing the government of irregular migration in Spain. He shows how border governance crosses professions and sectors: police officers, judges and bureaucrats are all involved in making decisions in ways that take into account the responses of other sectors. His contribution invites the reader to consider the practices of low-level decision makers in order to better understand the strategy of ‘governing immigration through probation’, a strategy that makes possible the displacing of the filtering work of borders inside Spain.
Lotje de Vries and Mareike Schomerus’s article (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/279) questions the everyday production of security concerns on both side of the border between Sudan and Congo. Their comparative strategy enables them to shed light on a situation of border security pluralism performed through shifting practices of border policing. They argue that in certain contested spaces of the Republic of South Sudan’s border, the state chooses not to police the border and rather surrenders authority as a strategy for exercising sovereignty. Anne McNevin’s contribution (http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/45/3/295) highlights the multiplicity of mundane practices of border security on the island of Bintan, at the crossroads of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. As McNevin shows, the island of Bintan is an extraordinary site of experimentation in juridical and economic zoning aiming at regulating the movement of tourists, workers and asylum-seekers. She demonstrates how such a place should invite us to rethink our analytical and conceptual categories and therefore to disconnect issue of migration and mobility from our spatial assumptions.
This special issue of Security Dialogue is not exactly a round-the-world trip of borderlands. One can always see other places and bordering sites that could have been presented and dissected in this issue. The co-editors of the issue are fully aware of that and no one should ask for more than a journal can offer. In fact, the true added value of this special issue is not to aim at offering a quixotic catalogue of all the borders and borderscapes of the world but rather to show how daily and mundane practices at the borders make them really much alive and therefore more complicated that one might think. There is no doubt that this special issue will trigger some questions and new research.