Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Socio-Legal Series Lecture

Border Control in Transformation: New Avenues for Research

  • Karine Côté-Boucher
Tuesday 8 May 2018
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
B 041

In 2003, Canada created a new mega-border agency bringing together customs, immigration and law enforcement. This significant institutional change was both preceded and followed by a series of organizational, technological, policy and legal reforms. Highly dependent on the United States for its economy, the country was the first in testing preclearance programs for travelers and trusted trader programs for goods. Yet not all new adopted measures focused on trade facilitation. Canada also centralized border intelligence and automatized parts of decision-making at the border. It went on to standardize border guard hiring and training. It further granted these frontline officers more legal powers, gave them firearms as well as put them in charge of migrant detention and deportation. As a result, Canadian border services have adopted a more repressive understanding of their role. How are these changes received on the frontline?

Taking the Canada-US border as its case, this lecture looks at the tensions and contradictions involved in transforming a customs agency into a border control organization. More particularly, it details the cultural shift to a law enforcement mentality in border control and draws the theoretical implications of this shift for the criminology of mobility. It argues that in order to understanding this shift, we need a critique of bordering grounded in border actors’ accounts of their changing experience. The lecture thus presents an analytic framework that considers bordering activities as work—or “borderwork”. It then outlines five main themes that sustain this thesis: technologies, unions, gender and embodiment, professional socialization as well as generational differences in border control. These themes introduce new insights into studies of border control, filtered bordering processes and constructions of technologized border spaces.

About Karine Côté-Boucher
Karine Côté-Boucher is an Assistant Professor at the School of Criminology, Université de Montréal where she is responsible for the graduate options in homeland security (Masters and graduate diploma levels). She is an affiliated researcher at the Van Vollenhoven Institute in Leiden and regular researcher at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology in Montreal. Her research focuses on entanglements of security and economy in border control.


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