Burning at Europe’s Borders: Migration in the Age of Border Externalization (Oxford University Press, January 2020) draws a close lens on our global migrant and refugee crisis, examining the process of “burning” among the world’s largest population of displaced people─those who have fled war and extreme poverty across the African continent and now find themselves trapped under brutal conditions at Europe’s southernmost borders in North Africa. “Hrig,” the Arabic term for “illegal immigration,” translates to “burning.” It signifies migrants’ physical burning of identification papers, in order to avoid repatriation if arrested on their long journeys north, and also the symbolic burning of their past lives in hopes of reaching a better future on foreign soil.
This book exposes the political agreements that have led to Europe’s control over African borders and the illicit practices that continue to mold Morocco, Algeria, and Libya into holding cells for the world’s most vulnerable. The mixed-methods project design included over three years of ethnographic research in African smuggling rings, hidden migrant camps, and EU-funded detention centers; a large-scale demographic survey of the region; oral history and what the author terms “oral future” collection; and community filmmaking practices.
Burning at Europe’s Borders will introduce new ways of engaging in anthropological research in the modern age, weaving human stories into the analysis of global migration flows at our world’s most critical border crossings.