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  • Author or Editor: Sharla M. Fett x
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In the 19th century, both Great Britain and the United States engaged in efforts to suppress Atlantic slave trading, principally using naval force to interdict slave ships at sea under the authority of both national laws and a network of international treaties. Among many legal and practical complications, these policies presented both nations with novel resettlement challenges related to the enslaved Africans found aboard such vessels. In both cases, policy makers made the unusual decision that some male recaptives could be effectively resettled as ‘recruits’ into armed forces. This essay takes two case studies from the British and Liberian experiences of arming African recaptives. While both cases are arguably exceptional within the larger story of slave trade suppression, they provide useful windows into the ways in which recaptive settlement became intertwined with the politics of race, imperialism and social control, even as governments styled themselves as humanitarian actors working on behalf of these ‘refugees’ from the Atlantic slave trade.

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Mobility, Control, Agency

This powerful book explicates the many ways in which colonial encounters continue to shape forced migration, ever evolving with times and various geographical contexts.

Bringing historians, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and criminologists together, the book presents examples of forced migration events and politics ranging from the 18th century to the practices and geopolitics in the present day. These case studies across Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and South America are then put in dialogue with each other to propose new theoretical and real-world agendas for the field.

As the pervasive legacies of colonialism continue to shape global politics, this unprecedented book moves beyond critique, ahistoricity and Eurocentrism in refugee and forced migration studies and establishes postcoloniality and forced migration as an important field of migration research.

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In this concluding chapter we draw together insights from the whole collection. We identify seven cross cutting themes 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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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.

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