Bibliography | 27 November 2013, by Martin Saxer

Notes on Andersson's Hunter and Prey

Andersson, Ruben. 2014. Hunter and Prey: Patrolling Clandestine Migration in the Euro-African Borderlands. Anthropological Quarterly 87 (1).

A fascinating account of the dynamics of making illegal migrants in times when Europe tries to extend its border regime deep into Africa and local police is paid to identify “candidates for illegal migration” before they enter a boat. In this context, proper papers are less important than things that make you a suspect – “traveling in groups and carrying small backpacks, biscuits and euros among their belongings”, for example {Andersson 2014@18}.

Andersson draws on Ian Hacking’s (1986, 1999:31) notion of “making up people” and argues that “ways of classifying human beings interact with the human beings who are classified” {Andersson 2014@6}.

What I find interesting is that the space in which this happens is not a demarcated border zone but the old fuzzy frontier. Consider the desert, for example:

But to overland adventurers, the whole desert is, in a sense, limbo. In crossing it, they go through their next stage in the transformation into full-fledged illegal migrants. They live off gari, a Nigerian staple of flour mixed with water. They learn the fleeting lingo of the border, a mix of English, French and local words that allows them to communicate across linguistic divides. They stash their money away from the sight of border guards; in Niger and northern Mali, road checkpoints have become a source of easy income for state forces targeting the illegal migrant. If lucky enough to pass the initiation rite the desert constitutes for them, their long adventures will finally have been worthwhile. {Andersson 2014@21}

This makes me think of the practice to move actual customs and immigration posts further inland, away from the actual border – something I have seen in several places in China (Irkeshtam, Torugart, Kolma, Purang, etc.). It creates limbo, a presumably controlled, but totally fuzzy zone in the name of security.

And just like Hassan Karrar, Andersson attributes topography a role in all of this. He writes:

Yet for all its recent “deterritorialized” dispersal, the border regime depends upon the Mediterranean and Atlantic waters with their ancient power to both divide and unite (Braudel 1975) while mimicking the Roman limes. {Andersson 2014@2}