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School of Environment, Education and Development

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BSc Geography

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BSc Geography / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Borders and Security in a Mobile World

Unit code GEOG30032
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course aims to offer students a conceptual and geographical grasp of debates over global mobility, migration and the politics of immigration and asylum in a range of global contexts. Whilst discussions of globalization often privilege the image of an increasingly interconnected and mobile world, this course will question such accounts of mobility and will reflect on the uneven realities of migration in the 21st century. The course will thus explore the relationship between migration practices and flows and attempts to contain and order such flows, especially in light of concerns with security and the war on terror. In looking at how migration is managed, represented and discussed in a series of different cases, the course will consider how the borders of the nation-state no longer comprise a line in the sand, but encompass a range of inward and outward practices and methods of control, from deportation flights and biometric passports to immigration queues and refugee camps. Emphasis is placed on different ways of thinking about issues of mobility and migration, from nationalist sentiments about the defense of a ‘secure’ border, to cosmopolitan outlooks towards difference. The course also considers how the UK is experienced by migrants and refugees through notions of home building, sanctuary and campaigns for citizenship rights. The course asks students to critically reflect on how issues of mobility, security and border politics may impact their own lives and seminar sessions will focus on reading both academic and popular accounts of migrant lives and experiences. Case study examples will be drawn from a wide range of global contexts, including the US-Mexico border, the UK’s policy approach to asylum and immigration, Canadian refugee and anti-deportation movements, the contested borderlands of India-Pakistan, Australian practices of nationalism and migrant processing and European migrant rights networks and campaigns. 


  • to offer students a sustained and critical engagement with contemporary research on migration politics, border studies and issues of immigration and belonging.
  • to develop an understanding of how issues of immigration, security and mobility interact in contemporary political geography and to consider the ways in which these issues shape everyday migrant experiences.
  • to critically reflect upon how issues of mobility and border security are represented, discussed and understood in public and policy arenas, and to explore the ways in which these issues affect the lives of us all.
  • to examine a series of international examples of border practices and security measures, along with how such measures are resisted and subverted.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of how mobility, security and borders shape contemporary geopolitics.
  • demonstrate an understanding of how different countries have sought to order, control and manage mobility through security practices, policies and discourses.
  • demonstrate an understanding of how various political groups have sought to question, resist and challenge modes of security and border policing.
  • connect specific examples of border practices and notions of belonging with nationalist and cosmopolitan frames of reference.
  • critically reflect upon how issues of mobility and security impact your own life and the world around you.


1.    Introducing mobilities, borders, security and migration – how mobile are we?

2.    Scales of migration – examining the global-local intersections of migration and the securitization of migration through a language of terror

3.    Methods of control I – biometrics, border policing and the US-Mexico frontier

4.    Methods of control II – the border within, immigration status, deportation and the construction of ‘illegal aliens’

5.    Imagining immigration, security and mobility – representations of immigration, asylum and the border

6.    Nationalism, anxiety and difference – defending the ‘homeland’ and ‘securing’ the border

7.    Cosmopolitan ideals – citizenship rights and transnational identities

8.    Study week 

9.    The creation of home –place attachment among new migrants

10. Resisting control – anti-deportation movements, sanctuary practices and the politics of asylum in the UK

11. Mobile futures and the nation-state – reflecting on the realities of ‘global mobility’ and the selective politics of the border as a site of security

12. Study week 


Teaching and learning methods

Teaching Methods and E-learning

The course unit will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars. Each of the teaching weeks will involve both a two hour lecture and a one hour seminar. The lectures will introduce students to a variety of issues within contemporary studies of mobility, border security, immigration and asylum and how geographers have thought about, and worked on, these political discussions. Each seminar will be based upon either; a) student-led discussions of pre-circulated readings. Students will be expected to read at least two papers per week for these discussions and to present their thoughts and reflections on these papers at the weekly seminar; b) student-led discussions of policy documents or media sources related to immigration and asylum discourse; or c) the showing of two films relevant to the course themes and their subsequent discussion (the films being Dirty Pretty Things [2002] and Ghosts [2006]) to reflect on the presentation of migration and mobility in contemporary media. Reading throughout the course is a key component and will be assessed through a reflective course journal assignment to be submitted at the end of the course. A seminar session will also be provided to give a more detailed and in-depth introduction to the practice of keeping a course journal.


Sessions will draw upon a range of resources, including powerpoint slides which will be posted to Blackboard for all sessions, links to relevant web resources, core readings and video clips. A comprehensive archive of all sources and links will be compiled on Blackboard for student use. This will be of particular use in the development and progression of the student course journal over the course as it will allow students to explore the web resources of anti-deportation groups, migrant rights campaigns and keep up to date with evolving debates over migration and mobility.     


Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

  • critical reading and thinking skills through an engagement with key texts and current research in the area of political geography, migration and refugee studies, and social theory. 
  • an ability to interpret and comment on contemporary debates over migration, asylum and national identity, with a particular focus on considering how these debates relate to media representations and policy documents. 
  • an appreciation of how different theories of mobility and belonging relate to contemporary cases from across the globe
  • an ability to debate and discuss key issues within political geography and consider their wider relevance
  • an ability to write reflexively about the learning process, about your own experiences and to link these experiences to wider issues and concerns.

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed through two modes of coursework. The first comprises a coursework essay of 2000 words (this will carry 33% of the final mark for the course). The second comprises a reflective learning journal assignment in which students are expected to keep a journal for the duration of the course, reflecting as they do so upon the development of the course, the ideas they are encountering, the reading they are doing and discussing in seminars and how these relate to wider issues in the news or their daily lives. Students will then submit a 3000 word summary of this journal on a theme of their choice at the completion of the course. It is this thematic summary which will be assessed, submitted at the end of week 12 (this will carry 67% of the final mark). Guidelines for this task will be provided in the first seminar of the course and the seminar in week 7 of the course will involve a discussion of journal themes, development and progress. Key readings on journal writing will also be provided. 

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • During seminar discussion sessions verbal feedback will be provided on critical reading and understanding, along with the development of the course journal
  • Verbal feedback will be provided through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures, along with discussion of video clips and web resources
  • Written feedback will be provided on the coursework essay submitted in week 6 and this will help to provide formative direction for the second coursework assignment.
  • Verbal feedback will be provided on the coursework essay and the development of the course journal through a dedicated seminar session to discuss course progress, feedback and journal themes.
  • Verbal feedback will be provided on any course unit issue through consultation hours and in seminars.

Recommended reading

Amoore, L. (2006) Biometric borders: governing mobilities in the war on terror Political Geography, 25, 336-351. 

Balibar, E. (2004) We, the people of Europe? Reflections on transnational citizenship Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Cheah, P. and Robbins, B. (eds) (1998) Cosmopolitics: thinking and feeling beyond the nation Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

Cresswell, T. (2006) On the move: mobility in the modern western world London, Routledge.

Darling, J. (2011) Domopolitics, governmentality and the regulation of asylum accommodation Political Geography, 30, 263-271.  

De Genova, N. (2002) Migrant “illegality” and deportability in everyday life Annual Review of Anthropology, 31, 419-447.

Walters, W. (2004) Secure borders, safe haven, domopolitics Citizenship Studies, 8, 237-260.

Winder, R. (2004) Bloody foreigners: the story of immigration to Britain London, Abacus.

Key Journals

Political Geography

Citizenship Studies

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies


Population, Space and Place


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Darling Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Comprises of Lectures and Seminars. Please refer to course content information for further details.

Lecture: TBC
Seminar: TBC

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