Sawyer Seminar Series

This Sawyer Seminar Series is made possible with funding support from the Mellon Foundation.

Recent policies (such as Title 42 and “Migrant Protection Protocols”) have required that asylum seekers wait at the US Southern border in informal camps and settlements and shelters that are not under the jurisdiction of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) or any other international UN organization or protected by either state. This phenomenon does not persist in isolation; asylum seekers and migrants to Italy and other states of the European Union are being “pushed back” to Western Balkan states, even abandoned at sea, as a strategy to prevent migrants from reaching European borders. Mexico and Serbia once considered “transit countries” through which refugees and migrants pass, are increasingly being repositioned as sites of confinement and border externalization by US and EU policies. 

Our seminar, designed as a comparison between US and EU policies, acknowledges both the exceptional character of the US and EU’s influence and the similarities in their border externalization regimes. When and why did these border strategies develop, and what unique and common histories brought them into existence? What is the current impact of these policies on those living in the border regimes? How do the policies of border externalization manifest in Serbia and Mexico? By engaging ethics, history, and culture, alongside international relations, technology studies, and public health, we hope that our Seminar will suggest a better path forward. 

Our Sawyer Seminar will provide an interdisciplinary and accessible exploration of the EU-Western Balkans and US-Mexico border regimes. We consider the spaces inhabited by migrants in Mexico and the Western Balkans (particularly in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), the manifestations of various forms of violence (structural, emotional, and physical), and the models of care, particularly access to health care, implemented at these sites. We will examine the landscapes, economies, protests, and forms of creativity that emerge within these border regimes. 

The seminar is organized into three parts: 

  1. Definitions and ethical/historical considerations of US and EU border regimes 

  2. US and EU Border policies and practices

  3. The impacts of externalization 

Each part includes several discussions with academics, researchers, and practitioners working on the issues of forced displacement in the EU, Western Balkans, US, and Mexico.

For detailed schedule of seminar series and topic descriptions, please follow the link below.

Sawyer Seminar Schedule