Method as Border: Tuning in to the Cacophony of Academic Backstages of Migration, Mobility and Border Studies

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Editorial | Open Access

Method as Border: Tuning in to the Cacophony of Academic Backstages of Migration, Mobility and Border Studies


  • Kolar Aparna Geography, Planning, Environment Department, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, The Netherlands
  • Joris Schapendonk Geography, Planning, Environment Department, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, The Netherlands
  • Cesar Merlín-Escorza Geography, Planning, Environment Department, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, The Netherlands / Anthropology and Development Studies Department, Radboud University, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  This thematic issue is a collection of articles reflecting on methods as border devices of hierarchical inclusion spanning migration, mobility and border studies. It maps some key concerns and responses emerging from what we call academic backstages of migration, mobility and border research by younger academics. These concerns are around (dis)entangling positions beyond Us/Them (i.e. researcher/researched), delinking from the spectacle of migration and deviating from the categories of migration apparatuses. While these concerns are not new in themselves the articles however situate these broader concerns shaping migration, mobility and border studies within specific contexts, dilemmas, choices, doubts, tactics and unresolved paradoxes of doing fieldwork. The aim of this thematic issue is not to prescribe “best methods” but in fact to make space for un-masking practices of methods as unfinished processes that are politically and ethically charged, while nevertheless shedding light in (re)new(ed) directions urgent for migration, mobility and border studies. Such an ambition is inevitably partial and situated, rather than comprehensive and all-encompassing. The majority of the contributions then enact and suggest different modes of reflexivity, ranging from reflexive inversion, critical complicity, collective self-inquiry, and reflexive ethnography of emotions, while other contributions elaborate shifts in research questions and processes based on failures, and doubts emerging during fieldwork. We invite the readers to then read the contributions against one another as a practice of attuning to what we call a ‘cacophony of academic backstages,’ or in other words, to the ways in which methods are never settled while calling attention to the politics of knowledge production unfolding in everyday fieldwork practices.

Keywords:  backstage; borders; methods; migration; mobility; politics of knowledge, reflexivity

Published:   19 November 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i4.3741


© Kolar Aparna, Joris Schapendonk, Cesar Merlín-Escorza. 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.