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From Colour Lines to Razor Wire Fences: A Global History of Migration Regulation and Restriction


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations, track International Studies.


In the popular narrative of multicultural nation-states, we often hear about the waves of immigration that shaped the societies we see today. Less celebrated, but equally formative, are the programs and policies designed to remove and exclude people from these communities and to regulate their movement within them. In this subject we will look at the history of these removals and exclusions in their different manifestations across the world, and analyse them for what they say about, and how they have shaped, today’s world. We will look at case studies like settler colonialism and the removal and assimilation of indigenous people, the emergence of racialized immigration restriction, segregation, exile, and the management and regulation of displaced persons and asylum seekers, as well as responses at the grassroots level to immigration and exclusion, and investigate how these have shaped politics at the national and at the international level. We look at cases of physical removal and exclusion, but also cultural and political exclusion within a given territory. Geographically we look at case studies from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Australasia. In their individual research, however, students are welcome and encouraged to explore examples from other parts of the world that add to our understanding of the political significance of exclusion. Thematically the class will engage ideas about the formation of political culture, the role of restriction and removal in the development of capitalism and the global economy, and the ways that the movement of people and responses to it have shaped both national and international law, and global norms. Ultimately students will learn how to analyse the case studies for the contribution they have made to the current political context, nationally, regionally and internationally.

Course objectives

Particular emphasis will be placed on encouraging students to identify commonalities between seemingly unconnected practices of exclusion. They will also be encouraged to look at the movement of people and attempts to regulate this movement and identify the consequences of these process. Thus students will be trained in the approach of global or transnational history, with the aim of understanding how political and historical processes associated with one part of the world are the result of broader dynamics. At the same time, students will be encouraged to understand the specific historical context of the events under consideration, with the aim of appreciating the particular dynamics of regulatory practices such as apartheid, political exile or the development of international refugee law. We will therefore critically engage with global/transnational approaches to history, equipping students with a methodological and disciplinary training they can apply to other areas of study.
Students will be required to engage in close reading of academic texts, to further research and engage in discussion on the key themes in those texts, and to think historically about the key themes and case studies in the course.


Via the website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Literature and weekly written work: 96 hours (8 hours per week x 12 weeks)

  • Seminars (attendance is compulsory): 18 hours (12 x 1,45)

  • Take-home exam: 16 hours

  • Presentation: 30 hours

  • Research project: 120 hours

Assessment method

  • Participation (inclusing presentation/session leadership): 20%

  • Weekly responses to readings: 20%

  • Take-home exam: 10%

  • Research essay: 50%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


A resit for the final essay can be held if the orignal submission is insufficient. The resubmission shoud be completed within two weeks of being advised on the insufficient nature of the original.


Yes, see Blackboard

Reading list

A reading pack will be made available.


Via uSis.


Mw Dr. M.F. Carmody