Struggles against subjection: Implications of criminalization of migrants' everyday lives in Europe

Posted on Thursday 6th February 2014

12 February 2014, Room 427, Muirhead Tower (3 pm)

Dr Agnieszka Kubal, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford


IRiS logoCriminalization of migration has over the last decade gained unprecedented focus in the migration, criminology and socio-legal literature. Recently, there have been some developments critically revisiting the criminalization thesis particularly with reference to the European experiences - criminal law might exists ‘on the books’ but quite often it is not actually enforced in immigration practice. Therefore, whilst the incorporation of criminal law into immigration domain serves mainly symbolic functions to demonstrate government’s firm grip over immigration control it also legitimizes the discourse presenting migrants as potential criminals, cheats and abusers (Bosworth and Guild 2008; Golash-Boza 2010; Pratt and Valverde 2002). This begs the following question: how do migrants respond to this increasing conflation between criminal and immigration domains in the wider social context? How the official and public discourses over ‘crimmigrant bodies’ (Aas 2011) are reflected in migrants’ everyday life experiences? Do migrants resist, reproduce or redefine this criminal labelling? I grapple with these questions qualitatively investigating the experiences of 270 return migrants from four European countries – Norway, Netherlands, the UK and Portugal: migrants’ responses to the stigmatizing force of symbolic criminalisation do not always mean resistance (Coutin 2005), but quite often are placed on a continuum between the contestation and the reproduction of the stigma and the hegemony of the law.