Shalini Randeria Presents Bucerius Lecture, Interrogates Knowledge About Migrants vs. Migrants’ Knowledge

On October 12, CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria delivered “Whose Knowledge? Knowledge about Migrants vs. Migrants’ Knowledge” as the annual Bucerius Lecture at the David Brower Center in Berkeley California. This follows Randeria’s recent U.S. appearance on October 10 at the World Academic Summit in New York City focused on trajectories of transformation in higher education.

The Bucerius Lecture is part of a program that includes a workshop for emerging scholars from Germany and North America who present and discuss their migration-related research. The activities are funded by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, one of the major German private foundations active in the field of migration and transformation studies, and presented in partnership with the Institute of European Studies.

“The desired mobility of the European citizen is constructed in relation to the migration of the unwanted,” said Randeria, emphasizing how liberal values function as a new register of othering through exclusionary practices which strengthen the citizen/migrant divide. She added, “The simultaneous but incongruent junctions celebrating open borders, promoting a right to mobility and ideal of freedom of movement in the European Union, sit at odds with the curbs and condemnations of third country nationals who face a draconian regime of securitization to thwart entry and residence.”

Citing examples which interrogated the specific historical and political conditions, governmental and cultural techniques, as well as discursive means for the production of migrants, the CEU President built her agument about the ways in which migrants are people “out of place”.

In her lecture, Randeria maintained that the current European framing of migration as a problem of radical cultural alterity pits the liberal European citizen against an illiberal non-European migrant, whose very presence poses a threat to European “host” societies and cultures. Along these lines, she highlighted host country fears of changing demographics, stating that “New discourses on demographic security serve to remind us that the fear of falling birth rates of ethno-religious majorities, and their anxiety about being outnumbered by minorities or migrants, are part of a political imagination in which the demographic composition and imagined continuity of the nation is seen to be at stake,” thus demonstrating how democratic politics and demographic panics are inextricably intertwined.

Drawing the lecture to a close, Randeria stated that: “To place the question of ‘undesirability’ at the center of so-called liberal border politics is to highlight the dynamics of the deeply entrenched post-colonial asymmetries of power and privilege that manifest themselves in classifying some people as unacceptable and even harmful to the ethnically homogenous body politic.”

 

Listen to Randeria’s podcast series, Democracy in Question, here.