EU Border Officials and Critical Complicity: The Politics of Location and Ethnographic Knowledge as Additions

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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EU Border Officials and Critical Complicity: The Politics of Location and Ethnographic Knowledge as Additions


  • Marlene Paulin Kristensen Independent Researcher, Denmark


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Abstract:  Based on research conducted among EU border enforcement officials, this article embarks on a discussion about complicity and critical analysis within border and migration studies. The study of borders and migration in the context of the EU is a highly politicized issue, and several scholars have pointed out that critical research easily comes to serve into a “knowledge loop” (Hess, 2010), or play part in the proliferation of a “migration business” (Andersson, 2014). In this article, I will argue that in order to not reproduce the vocabulary or object-making of that which we study, we need to study processes of scale-making (Tsing, 2000) and emphasise the multiplicity of borders (Andersen & Sandberg, 2012). In the article, I therefore present three strategies for critical analysis: First, I suggest critically assessing the locations of fieldwork, and the ways in which these either mirror or distort dominant narratives about the borders of Europe. Secondly, I probe into the differences and similarities between the interlocutors’ and researchers’ objects of inquiry. Finally, I discuss the purpose of ‘being there’, in the field, in relation to ethnographic knowledge production. I ask whether we might leave behind the idea of ethnography as evidence or revelations, and rather focus on ethnography as additions. In conclusion, I argue that instead of critical distance, we as scholars should nurture the capacity of critical complicity.

Keywords:  border and migration studies; border officials; critical analysis; ethnographic knowledge; EU border enforcement

Published:   19 November 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i4.3314


© Marlene Paulin Kristensen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.