Viapolitics: Vehicles of Migration

William Walters held a talk on Migration, Transportation and Politics at York University’s Critical Border Studies Speaker Series in November 2011. Walters introduces the term Viapolitics (“via” is the Latin name for a Roman road) and uses it to approach the vehicular as a “contested visual field”, as well as a form of “mobile governmentality” which polices transport routes. Thus, he understands borders as “dynamic interactions” and “surfaces” sourrounding the vehicles of transportation itself. With thanks to Simon Sontowski for kindly drawing my attention to this talk!

“Vehicles, their routes and transportation infrastructures are both present and absent in most studies of migration and politics. Boats, trains, planes, roads and tunnels are present, but usually only as backdrops, or props which feature in narratives of irregular bordercrossing. They are, for the most part, absent as objects meriting theoretical and empirical investigation in their own right. This paper argues that critical studies of migration should take vehicles more seriously. Under the provisional heading of ‘viapolitics’ it will investigate the vehicular as: (i) a contested visual field which has become quite central to official and popular imagination of migration, borders, illegalities, etc., and (ii) a mobile governmentality, that is a site of power relations operating on the scale of the vehicle and its movements. The presentation will explore this second dimension, this mobile governmentality, at greater length through a focus on the policing of stowaways at sea.”

An audio version of his talk can be found here and a paper in which he develops some of these themes can be found on his profile page.

See also: Walters, William (2008): Bordering the Sea: Shipping Industries and the Policing of Stowaways. Borderlands e-journal, 8(3): 1-25. [pdf]


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