As we were drafting this toolkit, the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic, and recommended that nation-states close their borders, which virtually all did.

It is not incidental that logics of quarantine – from which contemporary immigration detention practices derive (Mitropoulos, 2020) – inflect one of the most naturalised socio-political phenomena today: the international system of bordered nation-states.

Indeed, the pandemic has given cover to the consolidation of biopolitical and necropolitical state practices. Now, more than ever, calls for open borders or no borders are seen as tantamount (from a hegemonic perspective) to chaos, infection, pollution, terrorism.

Border(ing) is reasserted under pandemic conditions as a safeguard of the national body against threatening foreign bodies. Getting beneath, behind, and beyond the commonsensicality of border(ing) is the aim of this tool, which we see as directly emergent from a decolonial feminist analysis of the postcolonial world.

We urge a view of borders which does not see them solely as static lines on a map, but as a complex of processes demarcating what is proper to a nation-state and what must be expunged from it (or assimilated and even eliminated within it).

The expression of colonial power through lines drawn on maps–such as the partition of Africa amongst the colonial powers of Europe in 1884-1885, or the partition of India in 1947 into two independent nation-states, India and Pakistan, by an act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, or the treaty of Lausanne, in which imperial powers drew and divided the Anatolian, Balkan, and eastern Mediterranean nation-states at the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1824)–is accompanied by occupation, settlement, genocide, population exchange, extractivism, war.

In short, border(ing) is a quintessential exercise of the coloniality of power.

We are accustomed to thinking of borders as static lines separating countries. Borders are dehistoricised (they are constructed as having always existed); naturalised (they are constructed as self-evident boundaries between essentially different and existentially incompatible  ethno-national groups); and represented as safety barriers (they are constructed as being necessary for the safety of the populations they contain and the security of the nation-states that enforce and defend them). But this habitual way of viewing borders is a product of state thought, globalised in the postcolonial era (of formal decolonisation) in the international nation-state system.

State thought is “completely inscribed within the line of demarcation that divides ‘nationals’ from ‘non-nationals.”

Methodological nationalism is the assumption that the nation-state is the natural container for society.
We need to shift our perspective from viewing borders as static entities with a determinate geographical location (at the boundary edges of nations) to viewing borders as an assemblage of practices, policies, and relations of power that suffuse our lives and target us differentially for surveillance, discipline, and control, requires that we track “the territorial displacement and relocation of borders and border controls being carried out by anyone anywhere.”
Borders have become increasingly militarised in recent times. Over the past twenty years, border barriers (fences and walls) have multiplied so that there are now over forty barriers on international borders around the world.
Contemporary border control is exercised by nation-states  to sustain “a global regime of apartheid, in which at least two different legal systems operate within the space of any given national state–one that regulates national subjects and another that regulates foreign objects.
Border imperialism refers to the inextricability of contemporary borders from ongoing processes of imperialism (including slavery, extractivism, settler colonialism, dispossession, genocide, displacement, and sexual violence).
The “border industrial complex,” or “immigration industrial complex” refers to “the confluence of public and private sector interests in the criminalization of undocumented migration, immigration law enforcement, and the promotion of anti-illegal rhetoric”.
Employing “systematic torture to erase the identity, agency, and personhood of imprisoned refugees,” detention centres such as those located on the islands of Manus Island (Papua New Guinea), Christmas Island, and Nauru used in Australia’s offshore detention system are “rooted in coloniality”: “border politics are part of the same colonial thinking that continues the displacement, dispossession, and repression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.
In the midst of the “refugee crisis” declared by European leaders in the summer of 2015, a new infrastructure of bordering was instituted by the European Commission: by 2016, “hotspots” were created, including on islands in the Mediterranean. The hotspot islands have turned into spaces of containment and indefinite detention of refugees and migrants, modeled on the Australian system of “Offshore Management” of “Irregular Maritime Arrivals” (IMA): the so-called “Pacific Solution”.
In addition to instituting hotspots on its external borders in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, the EU has pursued a policy of externalising its borders in order to control migration. Externalisation of borders refers to “a range of processes whereby European actors and Member States complement policies to control migration across their territorial boundaries with initiatives that realize such control extraterritorially and through other countries and organs rather than their own.”
Fortress Europe is a struggle concept that condenses condemnation of the continent’s border politics and their racist colonial underpinnings. This is sometimes referred to as “Let them drown” policy, referring specifically to the elimination or defunding of search and rescue agencies by national and supranational entities in the Mediterranean, and their replacement by maritime border defense.
The proximity between two landmasses kept violently apart by a “sea that does not end at the land’s edge” is betrayed in the concept of the Black Mediterranean, which draws on the previous account of the Black Atlantic, or the “continent in negative” underpinning the Black diaspora, a space produced through Africans’ forced crossings during transatlantic slavery as well through the proliferation of interconnected, hybrid Black cultures linking Africa to North and South America, to the Caribbean, and to Europe, integral to global modernity.
No Borders politics are a prefigurative decolonial vision that affirms mobility as prior to and beyond the nation-state system and its institutions, capitalism and its colonial inheritances and perpetuations, and reproductive heteronormativity as the oldest globaliser in the world.


880 kb
Reading Time
20 min

What’s included in the pack

  • Fortress Europe (45 min)
  • Everyday bordering (3h)
  • The list (5h including personal research)
  • Manifesto for a “no border” politics (20h including personal and group work)
  • Lived experiences of detention (15h including personal research)
A short introductory exercise to shift understanding of borders as ‘lines in the sand’ to an understanding of borders as diffuse institutions present in our everyday lives. (45 minutes)
An activity to shift understanding of borders as ‘lines in the sand’ to an understanding of borders as diffuse institutions present in our everyday lives. (3 hours)
An intensive activity encouraging critical thinking about the politics of the quantification of suffering; and reflections on alternative possibilities for making border violence visible. (5 hours)
Activity that builds knowledge of no borders activism and literature and produces critical interventions. (15 hours personal work/ 5 hours group work)
An activity to develop an understanding of how the lived experiences of border violence exceeds and contests hegemonic representations. (15 hours personal work)


N° of activities
Activity Times
45 min - 20 h