HEMIG Hostile Environments: the Political Ecology of Migration and Border Violence

Horizone Europe-ERC; Team leader: Lorenzo Pezzani

Across the world, state borders are being increasingly militarised and migrants funnelled into more and more hazardous terrains such as oceans, mountain ranges and deserts. In the last few years alone, several thousands have died while crossing these hostile environments, whose material geographies are harnessed as crucial tools of border control. At the same time, across and beyond urban geographies in the Global North, a generalised atmosphere of hostility has led to shrinking forms of social protection for those classified as outsiders, with legislation passed to deny migrants access to work, housing, services and education. This project sets out to reframe the notion of “hostile environment”, first introduced in the migration debate in the UK in 2012 to refer to such anti-migrant laws, as a conceptual and analytical lens to capture these distant but interconnected processes, whereby “natural” and civic spaces alike have been weaponised by extractive processes, surveillance technologies, border control practices and bureaucratic protocols. Going beyond the catastrophist and security-oriented perspectives that dominate these debates, HEMIG will develop arts-based strategies of spatial and visual analysis to capture the entangled nature of border and environmental violence and its harmful effects. A multidisciplinary team will focus on three border environments located along a typical migrant trajectory linking Sub-Saharan Africa to northern Europe, producing new conceptual grounds for rethinking the relation between environment and migration, and for intervening in public debates on the human and environmental cost of border control.