What happens if people on the move encounter others who by means of their everyday actions and interactions can render environments hostile or who actively try to prevent this? What are the effects of these encounters on the places migrants inhabit and traverse? This article introduces a blog series that highlights a diversity of encounters between migrants and non-migrants to put the reader in the shoes of those who are migrating, crossing borders and/or settling in. Through the series, we aim to show how both migrants and non-migrants navigate terrain that becomes hostile through modern manifestations and practices of nation-state borders amidst so-called ‘migration crises’.
Everyday encounters between migrants and non-migrants in host communities can contribute to or challenge the exclusion and marginalization of people on the move in places they come to inhabit, for instance when both groups simultaneously attempt to access limited social services. Such encounters not only have productive power in terms of reinforcing or resisting the exclusionary mechanisms of migration management – they also expose the different mechanisms that can turn places into hostile terrain through (a lack of) policies, existing marginalizations, and xenophobia.
Moreover, studying these everyday encounters provides insight into experiences of both migrants and non-migrants, how they diverge or may be similar, and what implications their shared experiences may have for taking action on behalf of and/or together with people on the move. A group of recently graduated ISS MA students we supervised looked at such (dis)similar experiences and will share their insights in a series of forthcoming blog articles. In this article, we focus on everyday encounters and bordering to reflect on key links between imaginaries of human mobility, the role of host communities and local implications of migrant presence.
How human mobility is imagined affects how migrants are received and places are reconfigured
The productive power of human mobility and attempts to curtail, manage, or stop people from migrating have been at the center of critical migration and border studies that think and write against a supposed or desired “national order of things”. Such national order imaginaries emphasize the prominence of rootedness or staying put and the fixed nature of state borders, and approach migration and migrants as a problem. Acknowledging both the centrality of (cross-border) human mobility for our societies and the inequalities surrounding it, this blog series comprises several reflections by former ISS MA students who have researched multiple forms of mobility and encounters between migrants and other actors, including acts of support and instances of anxiety. In turn, such encounters can make the terrain more, or less, hostile for both residents and those passing through.
They conducted research in various places that are located differently in the ‘geo-bodies’ of respective states and emerge as ‘zones of contact’ for both local communities and people on the move. While border towns are rather obvious sites for such encounters, involving actors such as INGOs (Aristizábal-Saldarriaga) or mobile border communities (Miranda van Iersel), these field reflections also look at encounters in small rural towns that may be out of sight from a migration management perspective but are situated along key roads for caminantes (González Ronquillo), or in a relatively renowned tourist city that hosts different types of newcomers – including migrants with irregular legal status (Gamboa Bastarrachea). But why do we think these different places and actors should be looked at together? How are they related?
Capturing a diversity of border sites, actors, and processes
As part of our ongoing project titled Revisiting the Migration-Development Nexus from a Cross-Border Perspective, we are interested in looking closely at encounters that have productive power in terms of reinforcing or resisting the exclusionary mechanisms of migration management. We do so by building on critical scholarship that acknowledges acts and processes of bordering beyond state borders (through concepts such as urban borderscapes or border internalization). This requires us to acknowledge actors beyond those identified as migrants or refugees, as the experiences of migrants and non-migrants are intimately connected. This way, we seek to contribute to the de-migranticization of migration research, by questioning a priori categorization of people on the move and nationalist research interests and by reorienting the unit of analysis away from the migrant population to (parts of) the overall population affected.
Previous research we conducted in Greece, Turkey, and Central America shows that everyday encounters in spaces with a bordering function, i.e. spaces that prevent or challenge migrants’ entry and presence physically, legally and/or socially, are instrumental to understanding, on the one hand, how migrant trajectories and translocal livelihoods become illegalized by changing dynamics of border control, and on the other hand, how the geographical location of places where migrants are hosted and the historical and geographical entanglements of neighboring states and communities shape migrant trajectories, translocal livelihoods, and life at the border.
Following this perspective, we suggest turning our gaze to these divisive and connecting aspects of bordering in places beyond territorial nation-state borders. In this series of blog articles, the research of our students illustrates the value of such an approach as they shed light on how particular actors can be instrumental for people on the move as they navigate a diversity of hostile terrains.
These actors are local collectives that are outright supportive of migrants’ rights, as manifested in the CSOs fulfilling the sheltering role that the municipality has formally committed to but is unable to implement in Granada (Spain). They are former migrants taking on the role of hosts for people on the move whereas their own situation remains precarious and their journey unfinished (Ecuador). They can also be the staff of INGOs who need to balance the needs of those on the move with the needs of a local population suffering from chronic disregard by the state (Colombia). Finally, they can be a historically marginalized, mobile indigenous population whose position may shift from solidarity with migrants to suspicion and collaboration with the state as their own mobility and livelihoods are hampered by new migrations and the subsequent militarization of the border (Chile).
Acknowledging all those who dwell in a border site
These insights show that while places with very limited resources are fertile grounds for hostilities, exclusion, or indifference towards migrants with irregular legal status, attempts to pass through or stay in these places are experienced quite differently in the presence of people and organizations willing to support newcomers or those on the move. Paying attention to these local encounters and interactions, particularly in spaces with a bordering function, allows us to capture the similarities and convergences between the experiences of migrants and non-migrants. It also invites us to appreciate and learn from these interconnected experiences and take this into account in any further action pertaining to human mobility, be it academia, in policy making processes, or through societal engagement.
 We chose these terms for readability though we are aware that this dichotomy does not do justice to the complexity we try to represent here.
 Malkki, Liisa. 1992. “National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among Scholars and Refugees.” Cultural Anthropology 7 (1) Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference: 24-44.
 Winichakul Thongchai. 1997. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: Hawaii University Press.
 This project is supported by the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (RIF-5/ 18202010.041, year 2020 grant) and runs from January 2021-December 2023. It involves research by both authors, in the Eastern Mediterranean and Central America.
 Fauser, Margit. (2019) The Emergence of Urban Border Spaces in Europe, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 34:4, 605-622. doi: 10.1080/08865655.2017.1402195.
 Menjívar, Cecilia. (2014). Immigration law beyond borders: Externalizing and internalizing border controls in an era of securitization. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 10, 353-369. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110413-030842.
 Çağlar, Ayşe & Glick Schiller, Nina (2018) Migrants and City-Making. Dispossession, Displacement, and Urban Regeneration. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
 Dahinden, Janine. 2016. A plea for the ‘de-migranticization’ of research on migration and integration, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39:13, 2207-2225. doi: 10.1080/01419870.2015.1124129.
 Winters, Nanneke. (2023b). Making a Living While on the Move: Migrant Trajectories, Hierarchized Mobilities and Local Labour Landscapes in Central America, in Ilse van Liempt, Joris Schapendonk and Amalia Campos-Delgado (eds), Research Handbook on Irregular Migration. Cheltenham: Elgar, pp. 250–260; Winters, Nanneke. (2021). Following, Othering, Taking Over. Research Participants Redefining the Field through Mobile Communication Technology, Social Analysis, 65:1, 133-142. doi: 10.3167/sa.2020.650109.
 Winters, Nanneke. (2023a). Everyday Politics of Mobility: Translocal Livelihoods and Illegalisation in the Global South. Journal of Latin American Studies, 55(1), 77-101. doi: 10.1017/S0022216X23000020.
 Ikizoglu Erensu, Aslı, & Kaşlı, Zeynep. (2016). A Tale of Two Cities: Multiple Practices of Bordering and Degrees of ‘Transit’ in and through Turkey, Journal of Refugee Studies, 29(4), 528–548. doi:10.1093/jrs/few037.
 Kaşlı, Zeynep. (2023). Migration control entangled with local histories: The case of Greek–Turkish regime of bordering, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 41(1), 14–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/02637758221140121.
Read the blogs on the migration series:
Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.
About the authors:
Zeynep Kaşlı is Assistant Professor in Migration and Development at ISS, affiliated with the Governance, Law and Social Justice Research Group. Her research interests include mobility, citizenship, borders, transnationalism, power and sovereignty with regional expertise in Turkey, Middle East and Europe.
Nanneke Winters is an assistant professor in Migration and Development at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research interests include im/mobility, migrant trajectories, and translocal livelihoods in Central America and beyond.
Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.