This introductory chapter explains how the book draws on postcolonial and decoloniality studies to challenge exceptionalist narratives and Eurocentric epistemologies that underly the fields of refugee and forced migration studies. Scholarship from disciplines such as international relations, sociology, criminology, and political science often reveals a curious silence on the continuities of colonialism and historical legacies that inform contemporary refugee phenomena. Postcolonial and decolonial critiques, however, offer ways to move beyond certain dominating analytics of Western thinking and geographies about displacement – the nation-state, border control and humanitarianism. This chapter surveys several productive critiques from postcolonial scholarly engagement with the field of refugee and forced migration policy. Using postcolonial theoretical approaches, the volume as a whole interrogates how the control, securitization, policing and surveillance of mobility follows racialized and geopolitical patterns with colonial and historical roots. Contributors represent a variety of disciplines and employ a creative array of methodological and theoretical tools. Their work requires careful assemblage of social and political theory, historical archival research, and careful analysis to link those histories to the present. The Introduction ends with a brief synopsis of each of the book’s chapters.

World history is peppered with population displacements, forced migrations and expulsions; and European colonialism was implicated in the forced movement of countless people from the 15th century onwards. From the forced marching of indigenous people across North America (Moses, 2007), to the forced movement of enslaved people around the Atlantic (see Gilroy, 1993), to the division and partition of countries as part of the process of both Empire building and decolonization (Marfleet, 2007), European colonialism was implicated in many involuntary population movements. Equally, the founding of many instruments of international law, including the international refugee regime, which were put in place to support forced migrants, were drafted by colonial powers and informed by colonial logics (Mayblin, 2017). Those logics encompassed ideas of racial hierarchy, including White supremacy, and civilizational difference and gradation. While settler colonialism endures (in, for example, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America), and there remain colonized territories around the world, an intensive period of decolonization from the 1940s onwards has shifted global geopolitics. We can no longer talk of the French Empire, the Spanish Empire, or the British Empire as geopolitical entities with world power status. And yet, colonial logics and assumptions about the world and the various peoples who inhabit it have in many ways endured.

From an (underappreciated at the time) start in Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) (Chimni, 1998; Anghie, 2004; Odhiambo-Abuya, 2006), recent years have seen the emergence of a new body of work in the social sciences which seeks to explore the legacies of colonialism for contemporary refugee phenomena (for example, Cazzato, 2016; Danewid, 2017; Mayblin, 2014; 2017; 2019; Gutiérrez-Rodriguez, 2018; Vergara-Figueroa, 2018; Lemberg-Pedersen, 2019; Mayblin and Turner, 2021; Proglio et al, 2021). Collectively, this work draws on the theoretical tools of postcolonialism and decoloniality, in order to challenge the coloniality and Eurocentrism of both the international refugee regime and the field of refugee and forced migration studies itself. This book is a contribution to this emergent research agenda. It explores both histories of colonial era forced migration, and the ways in which colonial legacies continue to shape displacements and our responses to them today. We have set out to conceptualize the linkages between colonialism and forced migration across the world, and across temporal scales, from formal colonial rule to current displacement practices and regimes. In this way, this book is part of the move within refugee and forced migration studies, and migration studies more generally, to begin to take seriously the role that colonialism has played in population movements and responses to them over the past five centuries. Our aim is to contribute to the unsettling of presentist and Eurocentric epistemologies concerning forced migration and in doing so to offer novel insights into the colonial continuities within forced migration governance across the world.

This edited collection emerged out of the ‘Postcoloniality and Forced Migration’ workshop convened by Dr Martin Lemberg-Pedersen in Copenhagen in December 2019, and funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark. Unwittingly timed just before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this event provided the kind of inspiring, in-real-life atmosphere, which has since then been challenged by the pandemic and its restrictions. Accordingly, this volume is thoroughly grounded in interdisciplinary inquiry and methodology, and brings together historians, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, criminologists and political theorists, both as editors and contributors. Through disciplinary fusions, our aim is to examine the heuristic potential of the notion of postcoloniality, understood as the complex and still ongoing impacts of colonial encounters for both colonized and metropolitan societies, with particular theoretical and empirical attention given to the implications for the governing of mobility.

The aim of this volume is thus to add theoretical and empirical depth to discussions about how the coloniality of power (Quijano, 2000; Mignolo, 2009) affects the politics and study of forced migration. All contributors are attentive to the historicization of their case studies, as we strive to collectively demonstrate the need for a reading of forced migration anchored in history. Some discuss fine-grained archival work, while others offer ethnographic accounts of contemporary policies and migrant trajectories informing our analysis of these power relationships. The theoretical ramifications of this edited volume are ripe with potential for further critical inquiries on race, mobility, imperialism, and methodological and theoretical dimensions across connected histories (Bhambra, 2007). This has informed our selection of chapters which also offer geographic spread, avoiding the common, but narrow, focus on Anglo-American colonialism. The volume thus includes as specific spatial and temporal cases, contexts spanning from India and the Indian Ocean, West, East and North Africa, South America, the Caribbean, North America and Turkey, as well as Europe. In short, by widening the geographic prism of postcoloniality, we seek to ask crucial questions which help unsettle the dominating analytics of Western thinking and geographies about displacement – the nation-state, border control and humanitarianism.

Unfortunately, the rich and nuanced historiographic case material on colonial forced migration policies is often overlooked, over claims about the novelty, singularity or exceptionalism of current migration and asylum policies, a framing that both glosses over and reproduces colonial matrices of power. Overshadowed by literature on current displacement crises, the rich historiography of colonial case material analyses spanning displacements in African, Asian, Southern US, Caribbean or Latin American studies has been left at the wayside of forced migration studies in Western academia. Often, it is placed instead within the geographically delimited traditions of area or specific national and regional studies. A similar fate has befallen important precedents, continuities and contingent parallels between colonial, interwar and present regimes of humanitarianism, profit and control. This tendency also underscores a multi-dimensional absence of cross-disciplinarity that postcolonial forced migration studies is in dire need of addressing. More specifically, these barriers concern the lacking cross-fertilization between different branches of historiography and the extremely fragmented, if not directly severed, links between past and present politics on forced migration. This volume seeks to show that addressing these multi-dimensional barriers through postcolonial interventions holds a breathtaking potential for re-historicizing and re-contextualizing forced migration studies.

Multiple disciplines, multiple omissions

Although heterogenous and wide-ranging, forced migration studies has long suffered from an aversion to history, from a presentist bias, and a concerted ignorance on questions of colonialism in particular (Chimni, 1998; Marfleet, 2007; Walters, 2015; Chatty, 2017; Mayblin, 2017). Far too often, historicity in forced migration studies is taken to mean a starting point somewhere between the interwar years and after the Second World War. Some of the reasons for this self-imposed spatiotemporal reduction of perspectives on displacement include the longstanding overlap between humanitarian practices, labels of displacement policy and the economic and geopolitical interests of states, organizations and corporations. This aversion to history has been reflected across various social science disciplines. Yet a recent ‘postcolonial turn’ (Koh, 2015; Tudor, 2018) has sought to rectify the situation. Here we sketch out some recent contributions to this agenda from across the social sciences.

IR is one of several disciplines which continues to play a fundamental role in the study of refugee and forced migration dynamics. For a long time, IR exhibited a curious silence on colonialism as an influential factor shaping world power and politics. Despite colonialism and the colonial-imperial slave trade (Tomich, 2004) having such profound and long-spanning impact on world historical events, including the reshaping of forced migration dynamics and international political responses to it, IR scholars for a long time afforded it only cursory mention, if any (for an example of such silence, see Betts and Loescher, 2011). State-centric myths of origin, temporality and difference have shaped analyses of forced migration in past or present contexts often leading to the unstated reaffirmation of an ‘insider gaze of the sovereign-capitalist-citizen’ that serves to individualize displacement events and obscure their longer patterns of privilege and prejudice (Lemberg-Pedersen, 2022: 129–30). This also spills over into concrete policies, such as a depoliticized understanding of surveillance components in humanitarianism (see Chapter 6), as well as into theory-building in academic disciplines, such as many of the normative guidelines on immigration developed through political theory (see Chapter 11). Comments made in 2000 by Phillip Cole (author of Chapter 11) still to some extent hold true, namely that when we observe works in contemporary liberal political philosophy, and analyses of scholars such as Locke, Hume, Kant, Bentham and Mill, it remains as if ‘colonialism and slavery never occurred at all’ so that the discipline ‘could justifiably be characterised as one vast act of racialised forgetting’ (Cole, 2000: 197).

In response to this, a number of recent interventions have questioned such omissions, in what has been called the discipline’s ‘historiographical turn’ (Seth, 2013). Countering abstract conceptual frameworks based on euro- and state centric frameworks, this has allowed for a rich and critical strain of inquiry, including postcolonial analyses of the fundamental, yet often unacknowledged role of imperialisms, colonialisms and notions of race and racism within IR (Long and Schmidt, 2005: 7; see also Anievas et al, 2015). Taking seriously this critique leads to a fundamental paradigm shift that sheds light on previously invisible perspectives.

Across many other disciplines, and cross-disciplinary work, scholars of migration have begun to theorize migratory phenomena and responses to them in light of colonial racism (for example, De Genova, 2018; Vergara-Figueroa, 2018; Davies and Isakjee, 2019). Such critical endeavours have enabled decolonial understandings of borders and of the corresponding modern international order (Cazzato, 2016; Lu, 2019), sustaining a powerful critique of the externalization of migration governance (Afailal and Fernandez, 2018, Lemberg-Pedersen, 2019; see also Chapter 13). Critical migration scholars have also foregrounded the colonial matrix and racial components underpinning citizenship regimes in the global North (Gil Araújo, 2010; Boatcă and Roth, 2016), and this analytical sensitivity to colonial continuities fostered a critique of the integration framework (Nghi Ha, 2010). Other works have contrasted global practices of border control with the concept of ‘sanctuary’ and cultures of hospitality (Danewid, 2017; Picozza, 2021; see also Chapter 10).

Another emerging focus of postcolonial forced migration studies is on states’ and International Organizations’ roll-out of large-scale security and defence technology, as well as dataveillance and humanitarian intelligence operations extracting and monetizing data from populations exposed to protracted displacement. This in effect transforms complex displacement crises in the global South into markets for various corporate and other non-state actors, and border politics to sites of intense activity for lobbyists and interest groups representing such market interests (Lemberg-Pedersen, 2013; Lemberg-Pedersen et al, 2020; see also Chapter 5). Based on analyses of South African politics, Catherine Besteman (2020) has argued that the current militarized technologies which are deployed during displacement operations represent a globalization of apartheid techniques. In her view, this represents a racialized security imperialism because those displaced tend to be construed according to racial hierarchies, and because their subjugation happens in order to secure resources and privilege amassed during previous waves of imperialism by the global North. These technologies also represent privilege in the form of contracts for multinational corporations and conglomerates today. Innovations such as remote sensing, refugee biometrics and machine learning have fast become integral for the management of displaced populations in the global South (Duffield, 2019; Madianou 2019, see also Chapter 6). The postcolonial implications of this are illustrated by the fact that the global North often hosts the biggest donors, organizations and corporate actors partaking in the technological financialization of displaced populations in the global South, people who are often referred to as the ‘unbanked populations’ of the world (Lemberg-Pedersen and Haioty, 2020).

Across studies of migration stemming from sociology and political science departments, the coloniality lens and historical approaches remain at the margins of these disciplines. Dominant frameworks continue to focus on issues of migrant integration, entrenching Western countries’ perspectives on migration and responding to policy-motivated interests. Yet, within the interdisciplinary field of critical migration studies, various engagements with colonial continuities are emerging. Lucy Mayblin’s (2017) study into the colonial history of exclusion from refugee rights in the UK and internationally, for example, centres colonialism in understanding the hostility of Western states to asylum seekers today. The sociologist Encarnacion Gutiérrez-Rodriguez (2018) coined the concept of ‘coloniality of migration’ drawing on decolonial theory, and in 2018, Aurora Vergara-Figueroa (co-author of Chapter 12) published her monograph Afrodescendent Resistance to Deracination in Colombia, a powerful decolonial critique of the discourse of ‘forced migration’ and ‘forced displacement’. She argues that presentist readings of displacement as an immediate crisis erase the histories which make some people, and some territories, spaces in which displacement repeatedly happens, and that in doing so understanding of such phenomena in the sociology of forced migration is impoverished (see also Chapter 12). In a similar vein, Fiorenza Picozza (2021) has also drawn on the decolonial school (notably Quijano, 2000; Maldonado-Torres, 2007) in her powerful ethnography of the consequences of the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’ in Germany. Here, she argues that colonial amnesia facilitated a spectacle of solidarity which is cut through with racialized subjectivities and power relations which can only be understood with reference to the colonial histories of Europe (see also Danewid, 2017).

In criminology, the topics of postcoloniality and forced migration have been treated in two rather disconnected emerging strands of scholarship: on the one hand, post/counter-colonial (for example Agozino, 2003) and Southern (Carrington et al, 2016) criminology have criticized the discipline’s Eurocentrism and reproduction of epistemological power asymmetries (see also Black et al, 2021). On the other hand, the emerging field of ‘border criminology’ (for example Pickering and Weber, 2006; Aas and Bosworth, 2013) has brought attention to the tendency of migration increasingly being governed by Western countries through criminalizing, penalizing and policing the movement of people. Recent contributions have started connecting these two strands in an effort to probe the discipline’s engagement with postcoloniality and how it shapes and conditions the current criminalization of mobility (for example Bosworth, 2017; O’Reilly, 2018; Aliverti et al, 2021; Stambøl, 2021).

Continuing the effort to bridging postcolonial and forced migration studies, this book interrogates how the control, securitization, policing and surveillance of mobility follows racialized and geopolitical patterns with colonial and historical roots. Indeed, interdisciplinary inquiries occupy a particularly important role in carving out such critical transcendence. Across disciplines such as anthropology, human geography, sociology and IR and political theory, colonial matrices of power and epistemology have long exercised profound influences, and each discipline has therefore experienced fierce internal debates, as well as positions seeking to justify it. It is therefore not surprising that the interdisciplinary field of forced migration studies faces a formidable challenge of multiplied and mutually reinforcing barriers to critical inquiry.

Postcolonial controversies

Discussions of the relation between colonial and contemporary periods, and the colonial present (Gregory, 2004), and how these should be conceptualized and analysed have been accompanied by controversy in multiple ways. Several debates orbit around the interface between academic research on postcoloniality and current forced migration politics in and beyond governments. First, a common critique identified by Oliver Bakewell (2008) has been the charge that a focus on postcoloniality amounts to ‘policy-irrelevant research’. In so far as this charge is successful, it functions as a form of epistemological erasure that privileges those categorizations and policy labels for migration, which reflect present interests of powerful (Western) states and actors (see also Zetter, 1991), while disregarding the relevance of, for instance, colonial precursors and causalities to current and complex policy problems. On the basis of policy irrelevance, postcolonial research is sometimes represented as insignificant. Far too often, refugee and forced migration studies have emulated this topography of political power, but the current edited volume and its critical interventions offer to substantiate and reinstate the relevance of coloniality of power across several case studies. This allows for a decolonial interrogation of the scholarly and political uses of concepts such as ‘forced migration’ and ‘displacement’ (Vergara-Figueroa, 2018).

In recent years, the increased cross-disciplinary interest in post- and decolonial approaches to understanding contemporary migratory phenomena is related to broader social and political movements. Internationally, student-led campaigns have coalesced around demands to decolonize the university. Projects such as ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ and the Black Lives Matter movement have brought questions around the legacies of colonialism, including enduring racisms, to the fore. These agendas have not been without controversy, particularly in settler colonial contexts where anti-colonial struggles over land are still ongoing (see, for example, Tuck and Yang, 2012, as well as Chapter 12). Critics have suggested that projects of decolonizing the university through awareness raising can make people feel that they are doing something radical when nothing is in fact done to change the status quo. This is certainly a debate that both undermines claims of contemporary irrelevance and at the same time challenges academics to consider the role of their work in bringing change. Universities are powerful producers of discourse, and legitimators of certain forms of knowledge (Bhambra et al, 2018, see also Chapter 11). This is without a doubt also the case in forced migration studies, making the active forgetting, erasure, or celebratory narration of colonial histories a pertinent challenge in urgent need of being addressed.

Both of the previous discussions speak to the potential of scholarship to play a role in bringing change in the world, and knowing the histories which brought us to the present is an important part of that. The threat that might be posed by recognizing colonial histories, and understanding that they have shaped the contemporary world in many ways, is illustrated by politicians’ keen insistence that we should move past the unpleasantness of history, in order to forge new relations into the future. In this vein, in so far as governmental actors do engage with discussions of postcolonialism, they often interpret the prefix ‘post-’ as dictating that both previous colonizers and previously colonized populations should let the past be past, and move onwards into a new future. For example, Berlusconi and Gaddafi both framed the 2008 Friendship Treaty between Italy and Libya as ‘a page turned on history’ (Lemberg-Pedersen, 2019: 2). The Treaty’s many provisions relating to migration control at the borders of the EU, and the immensely profitable contracts for oil infrastructure and military exports, illustrate that such understandings of postcoloniality are often also beneficial for states and political actors.

Post- or decolonization discourses can be used for political benefit at the same time as they deny the relevance of colonialism for today’s world (see Chapter 8). Thus, European countries have actively used decolonization to frame the birth of the European Union (EU) as a rupture from the crude history of imperial powers, and the Union as a normative, liberal-democratic, decolonial power (Hansen and Jonsson, 2017). This, however, requires forgetting the fact that four out of six founding member states were still colonial powers when the EEC was created via the Treaty of Rome in 1957. It also requires bypassing the fact that the Union’s member states currently include many so-called ‘overseas territories’ in regions such as the North Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, which also belie claims of a clean onwards movement away from the unpleasantness of colonialism. This example raises important questions about the strategic use of colonial history, and the agendas underpinning such manoeuvres. Certainly, arguments which acknowledge a (brutal) colonial past, but use this acknowledgement strategically to demark the present as an essentially different condition, remain popular among political and bureaucratic actors of former colonizing states. This may in part be because the idea of a substantial rupture between past brutality and present politics minimizes relations of responsibility, and the implications for postcolonial reparations for past harm that this raises (Jones, 2004). Or it may place former colonial powers in advantageous positions vis-à-vis their former colonial territories.

Finally, in spite of their marginality and apparent ‘irrelevance’, scholarly analyses of post- and decoloniality, race, gender and imperialism in forced migration politics are often the targets of fiercely reactionary, nationalistic and right-wing attacks, and delegitimization strategies. This is both at the level of political discourse, but also in mediatized debates, including on social media. For example, during 2020–21, politicians and governments in the United Kingdom, Denmark and France singled out post/decolonial, migration and gender researchers, alongside anti-racist and anti-Islamophobic scholarship. They framed such research as, respectively, unlawful and a threat to society (UK), as biased and unscientific activism (Denmark), or even an “Islamo-gauchist” (Islamo-leftist) form of ‘gangrene’ to be amputated from French society, in the words of Frédérique Vidal, the Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (Kanji et al, 2021). Similar attacks on this kind of research are also taking place in countries such as Hungary, Poland, Brazil, the United States and India. If nothing else, these efforts to reproduce similar framings about the danger of postcolonial research to society, illustrate that some actors and networks view such scholarship as anything but irrelevant.

Postcoloniality and recontextualizing the present

Across this volume, authors refer to certain literatures and terms which offer theoretical tools for grappling with some of the questions raised by social movements for decolonization within our disciplines (see Mayblin and Turner, 2021 for a more thorough overview). Two such approaches have been postcolonialism and decoloniality, which we name here not to imply that these traditions exhaust the ways in which we can talk about colonialism, power and continuity, nor to imply that they are incompatible. In fact, we find that these represent different focus points, together allowing for a comprehensive critical potential. Indeed, there is a range of other fields of scholarship which centre on colonialism in their analyses, such as Third World approaches to international law, indigenous studies, critical race theory and Black studies. That the contributions to this volume draw primarily on postcolonialism and decoloniality should not therefore be taken to indicate a totality of the theoretical perspectives available for research in this area (see also Conclusion).

As indicated earlier, the ‘post’ in postcolonialism, somewhat confusingly, does not point to the end of colonialism, but rather to the continuities of colonial ideas, practices and structures, which have continued after colonial encounters and into the present. Leela Gandhi (1998: 4) describes postcolonialism as ‘a theoretical resistance to the mystifying amnesia of the colonial aftermath’. It is often associated with the works of Fanon (1965), Spivak (1988), Homi Bhabha (1994) and Said (1995), what we may call the retrospectively assigned canonical figures of postcolonialism. Initially, postcolonialism was associated with the humanities, particularly literature and cultural studies. A major contribution of this body of work has been the theorizing of how colonialism has shaped understandings of cultural hierarchy and difference. For example, Said (1995) identified the production of the imagined space of ‘the Orient’ by Western scholars, artists and writers, a space which had no meaning for those who lived in so called ‘oriental’ countries. Postcolonial scholars, then, have contested dominant ‘Western’ modes of understanding, representing and conceptualizing the world. In doing so, they have challenged the supposed universalism of concepts, categories and theories that have emerged from Europe and the West more broadly. Having emerged from the humanities, postcolonial perspectives were then taken up in the social sciences, initially in cultural studies (Hall, 1992; Gilroy, 1993) but then more widely.

Particularly pertinent to refugee and forced migration studies, postcolonialists contest both the idea that Europeans invented ‘human rights’, as well as the assumption that European conceptions of individual rights are automatically universal (see Simpson, 2004 on the colonial history of human rights; Cole, 2000 on colonially derived exclusions from universalist ethical theories; and Lowe, 2015 on the emergence of liberalism alongside colonialism). More fundamentally, postcolonialism recognizes the colonial histories which inform ideas of the human today (Wynter, 2003). In making these contestations, we would necessarily need to engage with the ways in which colonialism gave rise to a sense of Western cultural and civilizational superiority. Postcolonialism, then, centres socially constructed ideas of spatial and temporal difference – the idea that some places are ahead in (civilizational) time, while others are behind and need to catch up. This sense of both spatial and temporal difference emerged through and with colonialism, and remains pervasive today (for example, in the discourse of ‘development’). The sense of continuity, of a thread linking past and present, is central to postcolonial scholarship. It is about ‘the contemporary force of imperial remains’ (Stoler, 2008: 196) and central to this is the connection between ideas of racial difference and civilizational hierarchy. This is because the idea of racial difference both legitimated the subordination of colonized people, and provided a system of knowledge through which Europeans invented their own ‘superiority’ and ‘Whiteness’ (Hall, 2002). As mentioned previously, academic disciplines were deeply imbricated in the production of these systems of knowledge, and consequently, as postcolonial scholars, it is now our task to trace the connections between these histories, knowledges and contemporary phenomena.

Decoloniality has often been associated with Latin American scholars such as Mignolo (2000), Quijano (2000), Grosfoguel (2007) and Lugones (2007). It focuses on the many ways in which colonial matrices of power continue to dominate, subjugate, dismiss and erase systems of knowledge. In this way, there are many overlaps between the decolonial school and postcolonialism. Decolonial scholars also recognize the enforcement of spatial and temporal distinctions, and they identify the ways in which coloniality (a colonial, hierarchical worldview) emerged at the same time as the idea of modernity. In particular, this work has uncovered how the idea that Western colonizing countries were modern and superior was seen as a consequence of the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and the invention of democracy and rights. Decolonial scholars conceptualize this in terms of coloniality and modernity being two sides of the same coin, inseparable from each other, often articulated as coloniality/modernity (Mignolo, 2000).

Decoloniality also holds the explicit ambition to ‘de-link’ from coloniality/modernity in order to recover alternative knowledge systems, which do not reproduce such power hierarchies (Mignolo, 2007). One way of doing this is ‘border thinking’ (Anzaldúa, 1987), which, in the words of Mignolo and Tlostanova (2006: 206), is ‘the epistemology of the exteriority; that is, of the outside created from the inside’. The border here is understood both in terms of geographical distance from ‘modern’ places, but also in terms of epistemic difference from the Eurocentric locus of world power. Zapatismo would be one example of border thinking. These emancipatory horizons of decoloniality are not extensively explored in this volume (see, however, Chapter 12) and, indeed, the book is titled ‘postcolonial’ with the intention of drawing attention to the ‘ruins of empire’ and their afterlives to borrow from Stoler (2013), see also Davies and Isakjee (2019). Nevertheless, it is necessary in this brief sketch to foreground this important aspect of decolonial scholarship that readers may wish to explore.

Originally, post- and decolonial traditions could also be distinguished by the geographic and temporal scales of their respective inquiries. The former has referred to the Middle East and South Asia from the 18th century onwards, while the latter has had a South American focus and begins from the 15th century. However, subsequent engagements from within these bodies of work have often transcended and combined interventions across these geo-temporal delimitations. Both postcolonialism and decoloniality can be understood as focusing on the complex and ongoing impacts of colonial encounters, the impact of still unfolding matrices of power derived from them, and their influence on societies today (McClintock, 1992; Gandhi, 1998). Of crucial importance to this volume is the implication that this draws our attention to the plurality of colonialisms and different imperial practices across a great many temporal scales and geographic contexts.

The challenge facing post- and decolonial forced migration studies necessarily runs deeper than the unresolved and reiterative imperialist baggage of any one research discipline. As Loren Landau (2012) has argued, North–South academic partnerships on knowledge production often push southern researchers towards policy-oriented research embedded within Northern funding and research priorities. For him, these partnerships risk entrenching the North–South dichotomies and imbalances they purport to address. Productive critiques have challenged the tendency of academic and policy-oriented research to focus on South–North migration and its associated control dynamics (Crush and Chikanda, 2018). The colonial impulses to contain, manipulate and induce the movement of certain populations have therefore also morphed into pluriversal South–South dynamics today. These are entangled across power differentials in ways that can contingently parallel, but also depart from, those of their colonial predecessors (Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Daley, 2018). The connections between these newer practices and those undertaken in colonial contexts of displacement are evident and in need of further exploration, a current case in point being how migrants under the COVID-19 pandemic have been framed as bearers of disease (Chapter 7). As such, the postcolonial focus of this edited volume complements the emergent literature on centred, recentred or decentred perspectives and categories in the study of forced migration (Achiume, 2019; Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2020).

Researching the legacies of colonialism

A range of challenges present themselves to and through postcolonial research: ontological, epistemological, methodological, geographical, financial, institutional and linguistic. In this section we focus on some of the methodological challenges. Over the past few decades, a number of important texts have made challenging anti-colonial provocations to social researchers. Often, these have focused on face-to-face qualitative research. For example, Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (1999) important text Decolonizing Methodologies challenges researchers who are working with indigenous communities to consider the coloniality of their practices and the historical harms that research has caused to such communities. It also proposes alternative ways of working and encourages indigenous scholars to use research to further the aims of decolonizing settler colonial contexts. This work is vital in bringing attention to the often-hidden power dynamics between researchers and those that they undertake research with, or even on (see also Chapter 12). While power relations in research practice are a concern for many fields, such as feminist research, decolonial critiques seek to draw out the distinctly colonial dynamics of some social science research. As universities and research institutions increasingly rely on external funds and strategic partnerships, they are also part of and complicit in powerful political-economic constellations (Lemberg-Pedersen et al, 2020). Critical and decolonial awareness of researcher positionality must therefore also be extended to academic institutions as well as their partners. Accordingly, this focus connects to the earlier-mentioned emergent work on power constellations coalescing to extract and monetize data from displaced populations in the global South.

Much less has been written on methods for tracing the past into the present than on researcher positionality. However, the question of empirically identifying continuity – in laws, documents, monuments, and first-hand testimony is pivotal to postcolonial inquiry. So what do we mean by postcolonial continuity? For us, it means to question the ‘post’ and interrogate colonial continuities in current migration control. This involves the challenge of identifying, establishing and understanding continuity between the epistemologies and practices of colonial pasts and presents. Here, the notion of ‘continuity’ performs an essential function in crystallizing cross-temporal links, doing important semantic work in post and decolonial analyses, often further conceptualized through terms such as ‘nexuses’, ‘links’, ‘arcs’, or ‘trajectories’. Yet, answering questions about what continuity entails, what it means, how researchers go about establishing it, and who instrumentalizes claims about it, is far from straightforward. Tracing historical or colonial continuities of current policies and practices is no simple undertaking. That something occurred before (for example subjugation, racism, exploitation, surveillance) does not automatically mean that current practices are continuations in the form of causal links between the past and present practices. This is a challenge several authors of this volume address when historicizing current migration control and displacement policies and practices, in their particular case studies. In this section we discuss a range of approaches that researchers might use in their work.

First, the German continuity debate may offer some guidance here. It took place within the discipline of historiography when, during the 1990s, German and other scholars increasingly engaged with the controversial and highly politicized topic of connections between colonial rule in German South West Africa (current-day Namibia) and the rise and rationality of the Nazi rule and Holocaust. The postcolonial question posed was therefore the extent to which the totalitarian and racialized Nazi regime was in continuity with the brutal tactics and practices of the earlier German colonial rule. According to the historian Birthe Kundrus (2005), relations of continuity are notoriously difficult to establish, and postcolonial analyses of these can be both over-ambitious and under-determined, assuming certain relations across complex geographic and temporal contexts to be of a decisive, causal and linear character. While certain knowledges, practices and politics travelled between colonial contexts, this was often through intricate dynamics. More specifically, though the Nazi regime did profess inspiration for their KZ camps from earlier German colonial practice, they also, mockingly, referenced the British practice of ‘concentration camps’ for the displaced Boer population in South Africa as well as US slave plantation complexes. As noted by Kramer (2002: 1316), the ‘architects of colonial rule often turned to rival powers as allies, foils, mirrors, models and exceptions’. German and British imperial administrators were adamant that the other was the more brutal colonial power, while American media fiercely lambasted Spanish concentration camps on Cuba, even though the US itself erected similar structures in the Philippines only a few years later.

The sheer multiplicity of these strategic appeals seems to resist any straightforward categorization of linear continuity. Moreover, adds Kundrus, authors who emphasize continuity perhaps fail to take into account the fact ‘that people and institutions tend to forget’ (Kundrus 2005: 305). However, such forgetting has often also been connected to deliberate epistemological suppression and erasure. Ignorance of the past can also become institutionally sanctioned (Spivak, 1999), and culturally embedded ideas (for example around racial difference) endure even as the facts of their historical application are forgotten. Approaching the question of continuity in the study of forced migration policies therefore requires attention to the formative role of ruptures and non-linearity, and in-depth inquiries into their evolution through particular contexts. Kundrus’s own conclusion is ambiguous. She argues against the possibility of establishing narrow and strict notions of continuity, and instead encourages settling for an open-ended understanding of the term, that does not imply causality or finality, but can instead aid in identifying contingent parallels between colonial and later practices. At the same time, she points to colonial-imperial border controls as a case of more stable continuity that may in fact be demonstrable across time. This would then undermine the standard political claim of such practices being exceptions (Kundrus, 2005, see also Chapter 4).

These reflections demonstrate how detailed historiographic research can aid postcolonial researchers in avoiding the risk of claiming continuity by invoking vague or generic notions of colonialism, and then looking for them in the present. Scholars of postcolonialism can instead combine a range of tools, including from historiography, historical sociology, political science and political theory. One approach is to take a number of snapshots, or historical cases, which are used to demonstrate developments over a long time-frame, as Mayblin does in her analysis of colonial ideas in the history of asylum in Britain (Mayblin, 2017; see Hay, 2002 on the diachronic approach). Here, a central theme is also focused upon (such as ideas of differential humanity) and both continuity and change are observed over time. Mayblin (2017) identifies her case studies as ‘critical junctures’, and historical sociologists and historical institutionalists often use the approach of identifying ‘tipping points’ – moments of turbulence and change – in order to understand social and political change over long time-horizons. In a similar manner, though referring to his approach as comparative case studies, Lemberg-Pedersen (2019) has operationalized Kundrus’s notion of stable, contingent parallels, arguing the existence of colonial precursors to the current European naval patrols and externalization of border control. The series of junctures in his analysis spans rationales and practices in the transatlantic slave trade and its suppression as well as current EU externalization politics. This requires detailed analyses not only of EU politics, but also of 19th-century capture wars, naval and suppressionist border controls. One focus-point of this analysis is the off-shoring of formerly enslaved people to so-called humanitarian colonies in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where they ended up living under extremely harsh conditions, including as forced Black settler militias (Chapter 2). Accordingly, the aim of substantiating such approaches is not to show equivalence between past and present, but to salvage from different temporal scales, important policy lessons and theoretical advances, otherwise ignored (see Hansen, 1996).

Both of these approaches require the in-depth research of historical and current case studies, or critical junctures (for a similar approach, see Chapter 4). When it comes to the historical cases, this can take the form of drawing on secondary studies undertaken by historians, conducting primary research in historical and colonial archives, field and museum visits or the synthesizing of multiple (disciplinary) literatures. Current case studies can rely on archival and repository searches, media and document analyses, different forms of interviews and multi-sited ethnography, including event participation (Marcus, 1995, see also Chapter 13). Both approaches may also involve Andersson’s (2014: 284) notion of an extended field site with multiple locales, but where these are, crucially, also understood as extending back into (colonial) time. A third approach is the synchronic historical narrative approach which uses process tracing in order to create a ‘moving picture’ but is necessarily less in-depth (George and Bennett, 2005). These snapshots, in aggregate, have a ‘panning’ effect over time, used for instance in diaspora and mobilities studies (Kleist, 2019). Diachronic and comparative approaches then differ from the single (and synchronic) historical snapshot, by allowing for the building of a picture of both continuity and change without losing the complexity present in case study research (Amenta, 2009; Hay, 2002).

At the level of theory, Marxist-inspired post and decolonial theories have emphasized the power asymmetries created by global capitalist political structures embedded within and reproduced through colonialism, and enduring from colonial times. Here, Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery (1944) was seminal in introducing a detailed and productive Marxist political economic lens for the study of British slavery. Other theoretical frameworks, such as neo-colonial theory (Nkrumah, 1965), dependency theory (Amin, 1972) and world systems theory (Wallerstein, 2004) highlight how structural power asymmetries have continued to perpetuate the dependency of the global South on the global North long after formal colonialism ended. As shown in Mike Davis’s political ecology analysis of British colonialism in India, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (2001), asymmetries made it possible for the former colonial powers (and the global North generally) to continue extracting resources from postcolonies and to dominate their policies. This was done through political conditionality as well as direct interventions such as the toppling or even murder of new socialist state leaders (for example, Patrice Lumumba in Congo). While some of these neo-Marxist perspectives were criticized for a too-strong focus on economic determinism and sweeping generalizations, other post- and neo-colonial scholars complemented the economic-structural focus by giving more weight to psychosocial, cognitive, cultural or even aesthetic endurances of colonial hierarchies after decolonization (Fanon, 1965; Hall, 1996).

The different approaches listed previously illustrate that postcolonial research is not fast or easy. It requires the careful assemblage of social and political theory, historical archival methods, and the methodological and theoretical tools to link those histories to the present. What is distinct about historical sociology, and by extension postcolonial research, as opposed to the discipline of history, is that the aim is not to add to the pool of stories which describe the past. While historians often use their in-depth knowledge of the past in making sense of the present, this is not an explicit aim of the discipline of history (to the extent that one can speak of a whole discipline in such terms). The aim is to understand the past through careful detailed scholarship of particular events, individuals or periods. Accordingly, historical analyses are often not used to problematize current policy constellations (Gabaccia, 2014). Yet, this is of course a central ambition for postcolonial studies. Historical expertise is of vital importance for social scientists because the knowledge produced in most cases far exceeds the knowledge that a social scientist will have of any one historical period or context. Such cross-disciplinary dialogues can therefore function as a powerful remedy to counter processes whereby the repositories of relevant knowledge about forced migration contained in colonial archives, covering centuries-long colonial terrains in Asian, African, Caribbean and American contexts, are being actively forgotten.

Of vital relevance for postcolonial social scientists seeking a historically informed understanding of the present are also the discussions within historiography about the curation of archives, the silences and missing voices within them, in short, the power laden nature of the archive (see Mbembe, 2002; Carter, 2006, Stoler, 2010; Lowe, 2015). That includes how the past is construed, forgotten, remembered and negotiated in the present from available records, documents, literature and memories. As Ahmida (2021) argues, based on his groundbreaking study of the brutal Italian colonization of present-day Libya, colonial archives can also serve as epistemological suppression of oral cultures and traditions of knowledge-sharing among those who were colonized. Links across imperial contexts have often also remained unforged due to linguistic and methodological nationalistic barriers (for this point in migration studies, see Wimmer and Glick Schiller, 2002, for this point in studies of colonialism, see Hansen and Jonsson, 2014: 259–62). But for social scientists, the aim is to then think about the present with the past; and the tool that facilitates thinking across cases and into the present is theory. From connected sociologies (Bhambra, 2014), to Orientalism (Said, 1978), from coloniality/modernity (Mignolo, 2000; Quijano, 2000) to necropolitics (Mbembe, 2003), theories are devices for understanding relations between geographically and temporally disparate phenomena, illustrated by the various contributions to this volume.

The contributions in this volume

The chapters of this volume offer wide ranging examples of postcolonial approaches. The next chapter, Chapter 2, takes a selected case study approach to the extraction of military labour from African recaptives – people rescued from illegally operating 19th-century slave ships. Adderley and Fett explore the recruitment of African recaptives into Black British regiments in the Caribbean and into Black settler militias in Liberia. By exploring these two specific case studies, the chapter delineates some common themes of 19th-century slave trade refugee management, with particular attention to coloniality, ideologies of racial hierarchy and the cloaking of policy in humanitarian rhetoric, all themes which serve as illuminating precedents for coercive policies determining the movements and life chances of displaced refugee populations today. In Chapter 3, Fratantuono also explores a historical case, considering themes of expulsion and colonization within the Ottoman immigration story. The Ottoman Empire does not figure prominently in histories of empire and colonization, yet it offers a specific context to pose questions about forced migrants as tools in empire-building. The chapter considers what is relevant in the Ottoman colonization story to Turkey’s treatment of Syrian refugees in the 21st century. In keeping with the insights of this volume, the chapter suggests that historicizing the present reveals patterns of exclusion, assimilation and expulsion across regimes and through time. Next, Chapter 4 brings together three case-studies differently situated on the colonial–postcolonial continuum: the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa, the French overseas department of Mayotte, and Tanzania. Authors Boeyink, Sahraoui and Tyszler explore how racialized hierarchies continue to underpin migration policies in these contexts. They show how French and Spanish colonial powers transmuted practices of mobility control to former and current colonies in Africa. Different historic, political and socio-economic contexts can be seen across the three postcolonial settings, yet it is striking that in spite of local specificities, the colonial legacies of mobility management appear in all cases in contemporary migration policies. Reviewing mobility related practices such as collective refoulement, massive forced removals and strict encampment policies, the authors debunk the narrative of exceptionalism that is often associated with such policies and can be mobilized to legitimate harsh measures and strict regulations.

Also questioning the prevalence of security interests, in Chapter 5, Eva Magdalena Stambøl and Leonie Jegen explore the colonial antecedents of current European mobility control and policing in West Africa. Here, the partly state-owned and partly security industry-owned French company Civipol has come to play a major role in implementing EU development aid redirected for security and mobility control purposes. They undertake a historical exploration of corporate interests, policing and surveillance, as well as the connections between them, from early French colonialism, through the era of post-independence, and through to today. Their key findings are that the distinction between public and private was always blurred and French capital circulated through the former colonies and made it back to France – something which is still the case today, now also encompassing EU aid. Moreover, policing, which tended to be connected to (public as well as private) economic organization and extraction, included surveillance techniques such as carding, fingerprinting, census-taking and registration, including control of colonial migrant labour. This mirrors current European techniques to control migration from West Africa, such as biometric civil registries built by Civipol. Biometric surveillance techniques used to control forced migration are also the topic of Lina Ewert’s Chapter 6, which focuses on iris scanning of Syrian refugees in Jordan and their connection to UNHCR control. While outlining the broader trend towards ‘surveillance humanitarianism’, Ewert also crucially presents us with the perspectives of the Syrian refugees themselves based on fieldwork in Amman. She finds that their knowledge of what happens to their biometric data or awareness of data protection is limited, as data extraction is normalized and bureaucratized. This spread of ‘surveillance culture’ (Lyon, 2017) into the sphere of refugee encampment, protection and control is approached by Ewert through the concepts of ‘technocolonialism’ (Madianou, 2019) and decoloniality. This focuses attention on the power asymmetries and relations of dependency within which the extraction of value from data is embedded, to the benefit of (Western) stakeholders. Just like Stambøl and Jegen, Ewert also notes that surveillance techniques visible in forced migration and population control in fact have long colonial and historical roots, and their emergence and operation are deeply entwined with capitalist political economy.

In Chapter 7, Lucy Mayblin focuses on control of forced migration in relation to disease and pandemic control. While migrants have often been presented as bearers of disease, which has justified their exclusion, surveillance and enclosure in camps, it is in fact the much more affluent and mobile populations from the global North who have tended to spread disease across the world. Mayblin demonstrates how this has been the case throughout history, and the deadly implications for refugees that it has given rise to. The aim is to highlight some of the ways in which the almost unfettered mobilities of the world’s wealthier inhabitants might in fact be dangerous (rather than benign, if not positive, as it is often portrayed); and to contrast that with the vast and expensive architecture of control erected to prevent or contain Third World mobilities. In recognizing these uneven geographies of fear and control we might then, Mayblin suggests, argue for more just mobility regimes which overcome the embedded racist logics which currently dominate. In Chapter 8, Mathias Hatleskog Tjønn and Martin Lemberg-Pedersen apply a postcolonial gaze on a very specific architecture of trade and control, namely Libyan politics of energy, displacement and forced migration. Recognizing how colonial infrastructures and matrices of power did not end when colonized countries gained independence, and that these can be identified also in current forced migration dynamics, it details the complex entanglements of colonial powers and empires in these Libyan politics, such as Italy, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey and the EU. Spanning from the 1911 Italo-Turkish war that gave rise to the Italian colony of Libya, through to the present, the chapter details linkages between water exploration, settler colonialism and externalized migration control, between Big Oil, EU natural gas pipelines and anti-colonial discourses, and between the Turkish visions of energy corridors through a ‘blue homeland’. Tjønn and Lemberg-Pedersen’s analysis demonstrates the intricate and strategic uses of postcoloniality, as well as the enduring, but epistemologically erased, effects of brutal colonial suppression in Libya.

In Chapter 9, Peter Teunissen and Penny Koutrolikou explore another geographic area witnessing historic and ongoing struggles between different sovereignties: the Evros/Edirne borderlands between Greece and Turkey. These borderlands experienced numerous wars, conflicts and imperial conquests, resulting in a shifting conception of insiders and outsiders, ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. Being part of the Ottoman Empire from the 13th century, Greek–Turkish borders were drawn up by European imperial powers through the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. This led to a homogenization and nationalization of the respective polities, and the border became a new marker of animosity. This same border region has now also become one of the first frontiers in the protection of the EU against migrants, giving Greece the role as Europe’s ‘shield’. The authors analyse how old and new ‘Us–Them’ imaginaries were mobilized by politicians in the dramatic events of February and March 2020 when Greek police attacked migrants with tear gas, batons, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunition, and violently pushed them back to Turkey. In Chapter 10, Nasreen Chowdhory and Shamna Thacham Poyil take us on a journey through the philosophical and theoretical understandings of sanctuary as well as its performativity throughout history and across the world, but with a particular focus on India. Where this chapter overlaps most closely with the previous two is in their discussion of the Indian 2019 Citizenship Law. This law is based on a nationalist understanding of India as opposed to Muslim ‘others’, and aims to exclude certain migrants from citizenship as well as from sanctuary. As such, it both focuses (like Chapter 8) on geopolitical-nationalistic struggles between India and its Muslim neighbours, and on how the ‘Us–Them’ dichotomy plays into migration management and exclusion (as in Chapter 9). In Chapter 11, Philip Cole reflects on how European non-refugee political theorists represent refugee experiences in their work. He discusses some of the vast literature from postcolonial studies which has sought to explore questions of voice and representation and brings this to bear on his own sub-disciplinary field. In Chapter 12, Aurora Vergara-Figueroa and Jerónimo Botero Marino focus on political forgiveness in Colombia, exploring the offering in Colombia of a Black Christ by the FARC authorities to a community who have been the victims of both a massacre and repeated deracinations (forced migrations) over many years. Situating histories of deracination, and how the act of offering forgiveness in this instance can be politicized to repeat histories of colonial exploitation and racial inequality, the authors question what it means to ask for, or give, forgiveness. Chapter 13 is the final empirical chapter of the volume before the conclusion. In it, Felicity Okoth focuses on Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, a project funded largely by the European Union (EU) to facilitate the local integration of refugees and asylum seekers being hosted in Kenya. Kenya has for a long time been considered a country of transit by forced migrants, given its encampment policy. Consequently, migrants’ aspirations are often oriented towards moving to a third country in the global North, as opposed to settling in Kenya. Using a postcolonial lens, Okoth aims to explore the mobility strategies of refugees within Kalobeyei settlement against the backdrop of the delocalization and externalization of Europe’s borders. In doing so she draws on the literature of subaltern and postcolonial studies and frames the words, aspirations and actions of refugees in this context in relation to a speaking back to the coloniality of power. This is a powerful closing chapter which balances the tension between efforts to control forced migration with the actual lives, agency and strategies of people on the move.

Finally, in the Conclusion, we draw together insights and discuss seven cross cutting themes that were identified across the chapters: the enduring power of ideas of race and racial hierarchy in responses to forced migration; postcolonial states managing mobile populations in their own interests; states seeking to spatially organize populations along modern/colonial lines; the role of private companies and non-state actors; the role of technologies for surveillance, categorization and control; and finally the fraught politics of sanctuary and hospitality. Drawing on these contributions as well as taking a step back, our final words sketch out a research agenda to further explore what postcolonial perspectives can bring to forced migration and refugee scholarship, an agenda that seeks to consolidate the emerging literature on postcolonial approaches to forced migration so that its insights come to inform critical migration studies more broadly.

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