August 18, 2022 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

King’s is introducing the interdisciplinary Minor in Migration and Border Studies (MBS). The program asks the questions: What is a border and what are the experiences of those who cross them?

“The program prepares students to understand the impact of frontiers and borders locally, globally, aesthetically and intellectually, and their effects on nation states, cultures, Indigenous Peoples, languages, gender, the class system, and growing digital divides,” says Dr. Benjamin Muller, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Justice and Peace Studies. He adds that the program is about building students’ capacity for critical thinking that can inform ethical action in the world.

According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly a quarter of a billion people are currently migrants. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of Canadians live and work in borderlands, shared with the United States. “Many of our friends, neighbours and students are or were migrants,” says Dr. Muller.

“As a prosperous state, we also reside in borderlands that are desired destinations for many migrants who are fleeing conflict, ecological disasters, persecution on the basis of identity, and economic collapse. Gaining critical insight and empathy about migration and borders today will help students promote hospitality and understanding in their careers and their daily lives,” says Dr. Muller.

Drawing on a range of interdisciplinary perspectives and investigating geographically diverse examples, MBS will integrate experiential learning and research for students to engage with the material. There will also be opportunities for collaboration on faculty research projects.

The courses and instructors that comprise this program are wide ranging. Dr. Muller has taught and researched borders and migration for more than 20 years, including in courses like the new IS2277F Borders, Bodies and Boundaries, along with American Borders and Borderlands SJPS3375G, the experiential learning course that takes students to the Arizona-Sonora borderlands.

An array of perspectives and approaches to the issues will be part of the MBS:

  • A Sociology course that provides philosophical insights on the concept of “strangers.”
  • A Childhood and Youth Studies course will speak to the experiences of children at the border.
  • A Sociology course will use activist scholarship to explore building solidarity with non-government organizations (NGOs) to enhance the voice, visibility and plight of temporary foreign workers.
  • A History course will discuss the history of immigration in Canada.
  • A Thanatology course will consider the activist role of grief among those coping with the deaths of loved ones during migration.
  • An English course will engage in speculative futures about how we can negotiate the boundaries between citizens and others.

Dr. Muller says the impact of borders and boundaries and the experience of migrants are integral to contemporary social, cultural and political life.

“Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere continue to be bordered, geopolitically in a colonial reserve system and virtually through deep digital divides. Migrants are dying daily in the deserts along the Mexico-U.S. border, and in the Mediterranean Sea, as a direct result of violent, exclusionary state policies and intolerance,” says Dr. Muller.

Dr. Muller explains that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was supposed to signal the decline of borders and bordering. Instead, over the past 20 years, weaponized, militarized, heavily fortified border barriers have multiplied around the world. Increasingly reliant on military technologies, exceptional state powers, and surveillance and identification technologies, contemporary borders have made it harder for migrants to move.

“Injustice and inhumanity at borders have become normalized. We need to gain a better understanding of these dramatically escalating problems and try and find the tools to comprehend and engage the cultural, socio-economic, ecological and political crises that are resulting from the spread and hardening of borders and bordering practices,” he says.

For more information about the new minor program, please visit the website or contact Dr. Muller.