Tips! Call for Papers: Border Policing in and through the Social Service Sector: Perspectives from the Nordic Welfare States

Call for Papers: Border Policing in and through the Social Service Sector: Perspectives from the Nordic Welfare States
Research Symposium
Malmö University, 15th of May, 2018
Keynote Speaker: Vanessa Barker, Stockholm University
Organisers: Erica Righard, Maria Persdotter & Jacob Lind
For this symposium, we are interested in analysing the nexus of border policing and social service provision in the Nordic welfare states. This is a topical issue. Following the 2015 ‘summer of migration’, several of the Nordic states introduced new measures to deter immigration, further restricting the rights of asylum-seekers and escalating the policing of irregular migrants (Crouch, 2015). This seems to have precipitated a process of ‘NGOisation’ with non-governmental organisations stepping in to provide some of the social services that used to be guaranteed by state authorities. Meanwhile, a number of recent incidents suggest that the social service sector, including but not limited to NGOs, has become an increasingly important site for border policing. Social service providers, both public and private, have become targets for, and sometimes active participants in, attempts to monitor and police asylum-seekers and other migrants with some organisations collaborating with the migration authorities to aid in the return of irregular migrants. Examples range from a decision of the Swedish Border Police to raid a summer camp for irregular migrant families organised by the Church of Sweden, via requirements placed on municipal social services to provide the Border Police with the home addresses of irregular migrants, to the active collaboration between the migration authorities and NGOs to motivate migrant street children to ‘voluntarily’ return to their countries of origin.
This symposium is an attempt to open up a discussion on the complex relationship between border policing and social service provision. We enter into these debates informed by recent and emerging critical work within the fields of geography, migration-, welfare- and social work studies that call into question incremental and everyday forms of migration management. Scholarship on the internalisation of immigration enforcement and the constitution of ‘polymorphic borders’ (Burridge et al., 2017), for example, describe how state power is reconfigured and respatialised to effect indirect – but often intended – forms of control. We suggest, however, that border policing in and through the social service sector constitutes a particular form of internal border policing that needs to be considered in its own right. Vanessa Barker’s (2018) work on the rise of penal nationalism within the Nordic welfare states in response to mass mobility is instructive in this regard: the book makes a compelling case that this response can only be understood by considering the internal logic of the Nordic welfare states. In a similar vein, scholarship on the relationship between humanitarian care and control explores how humanitarian government has become a politics of precarity, brought into operation in order to manage populations (Fassin, 2012).
We hope that the focus on the Nordic countries will help foster debate among practitioners, policymakers and the broder public. As migration policy tends to travel quickly we also believe that comparisons between the Nordic countries could be productive: comparisons across states might reveal tendencies and trends in politics and policies that go beyond each respective state. Are we perhaps seeing how the ‘hostile environment’-policies promoted by the Theresa May government in the UK (Price, 2014) are spreading to other countries in Europe? And if so, what are the implications for migrants, and for citizens? So far, there is little to no existing research that explores these questions in the context of the Nordic welfare states.
We invite scholars as well as those engaged in related research and activism to submit abstracts. Potential themes may involve, but need not be limited to the following:
  • Mapping the complex relationship(s) between border policing and social service provision. How precisely are these relationships configured, what actors are involved and what roles do they play? This might involve analysing ‘firewalls’ (ECRI, 2016) between social service providers and the border police, and problematizing the notion of ‘collaboration’ between state actors and NGOs.
  • Exploring the underlying – and perhaps conflicting – rationalities at play in the policing of migrants in and through the social service sector. This might also involve exploring the ethical and political questions and challenges that emerge at the nexus of policing and social service provision.
  • Understanding the, potential or real, short and long terms effects for variously categorized residents in the Nordic countries and beyond (irregular as well as regular migrants, non-citizens as well as citizens) and their access to social rights.
  • Contextualising and historicising current developments in relation to a longer history of exclusionary and disciplinary social service provision.
About the Keynote Speaker:
Vanessa Barker is Associate Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University and Associate Director of the research group Border Criminologies at the University of Oxford. Barker’s research focuses on questions of democracy and penal order, the welfare state and border control, the criminalization and penalization of migrants, and the role of civil society in penal reform. Her new book Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order: Walling the Welfare State examines the border closing in Sweden during the height of the refugee crisis and the rise of penal nationalism in response to mass mobility. For more information see:
The symposium:
The symposium will take place on Tuesday the 15th of May at Malmö University. The day will include a public keynote speech by Vanessa Barker and a number of workshop-sessions where participants who have been invited will present their ideas for papers. The aim of the symposium is that it will result in a Special Issue in a migration studies journal.
Submission and funding:
Please send abstracts of maximum 250 words and a brief academic bionote to Maria Persdotter ( and Jacob Lind ( no later than Jan 30th (accepted formats: doc, docx, pdf). Notifications of accepted paper presentations will be sent out by mid-February. We encourage participants to submit their draft papers by May 4th.
Accommodation (2 nights) and food for accepted participants presenting at the symposium will be paid for through funding from the MUSA-network at Malmö University ( any inquiries about the symposium, please contact Maria and Jacob.
Note: a related follow-up workshop is planned to take place at the NMR-conference (Aug 15th-17th in Norrköping) and we welcome participants at the symposium to submit their abstract to our workshop there as well (submission deadline is Feb 4th) For information about how to submit abstracts, costs, and other information about the conference, please see:
Barker, V. (2018). Nordic nationalism and penal order: walling the welfare state. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Burridge, A., Gill, N., Kocher, A., & Martin, L. (2017). Polymorphic borders. Territory, Politics, Governance5(3), 239–251.
Crouch. D. (2015). Sweden slams shut its open-door policy towards refugees. The Guardian. Retrieved 19/05/17. world/2015/nov/24/sweden-asylum-seekers- refugees-policy-reversal
ECRI. (2016). General Policy Recommendation no. 16, On Safeguarding Irregularly Present Migrants From Discrimination. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.
Fassin, D. (2012). Humanitarian reason: a moral history of the present. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Price, J. (2014). The Hostile Environment. Retrieved 7/11/17 from