Workshop “Bordering: a view from Portugal”
The aim of this workshop is twofold. First, we wish to bring together researchers working on diverse issues relating to matters of border-making in Portugal. Second, we wish to frame the Portuguese case against the broader backdrop of European and North American border regimes.
Despite its history as both a country of emigration and recent immigration, policy and practices of border control and border making in Portugal – as developed, exercised and experienced – seldom feature in border studies literature. Yet Portugal presents itself as an interesting case on many regards. As with other European cases, the national makeup of the migrant population in Portugal is both the result of the country’s colonial and post-colonial relations and the product of its integration into the EU common space. This process has been historically marked by uneven power relations and forms of social exclusion, yet the institutional narrative presents Portugal as a welcoming country, naturally able to integrate foreigners in a smooth dynamic of peaceful inclusion. This narrative is reflected on the current political rhetoric of welcoming refugees, in contrast to most other European countries, despite – or on account of – more ambivalent views of the media and public opinion on the one hand, and the limited resources made available for reception and social integration on the other. Unlike current trends over the Global North, Portugal has made rather limited use of detention and deportation as tools of border management, despite the large numbers of irregularized migrants in the country and a set of legal provisions that allow for their removal. In Portugal, in fact, deportation can be a legal sanction inflicted as an accessory sentence to foreign-nationals convicted of criminal offences. That deportation is legally a form of punishment (as opposed to an administrative practice, as in most other jurisdictions) brings to the fore questions that intersect migration concerns with matters of punishment and deservedness to membership.
Border-making and the deportation regime are but one of multiple forms of governing citizenship through the proliferation of border devices. Portugal, as elsewhere in Europe, is witnessing a multiplication of borders, an historical process that reveals itself in a variety of sites and locations, such as streets, neighborhoods, the labor market, health services and the legal provisions delimiting membership and nationality. All these continuously produce moral and socio-legal dichotomies such as citizen and outsider, “good” and “bad” migrant, “legal” and “illegal”, deserving and undeserving, which reveal the legacies of colonialism and its racial and class segmentations. These processes have, in turn, complex reverberations at the level of the political economy and the place certain segments of the population occupy in the labor market. They have also a crucial impact on the lives of migrants, generating specific experiences of marginality and exclusion on one hand and, forms of negotiation and resistance on the other.
With some of these themes in mind, a further and no less important aim of this workshop is to place and contrast the Portuguese case studies within broader European and North American trends in border-making. In doing so, we wish to reflect on lessons learnt and new directions in policy and practice, and in how these are perceived and experienced by different stakeholders. In taking border control and border-making in Portugal as a starting point, we wish to discuss on its possible contributions to current debates in migration and border studies as well identify new avenues for research.