The intervention of Brigadas Vecinales de Observación de los Derechos Humanos on emerging bordering practices in Madrid

GT 6.15 Estudios críticos de seguridad: casos prácticos

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Sesión 1
Día: jueves,19 de septiembre de 2013
Hora: 11:45 a 14:15
Lugar: E16SEM02

Critical studies of border security have attempted to come to terms with the emerging mechanisms of control re-shaping contemporary political landscapes. Drawing connections between numerous strategies put in place by governing bodies these studies have been able to map a transnational topology of mobility. In this article I will argue that this focus on governing mechanisms is insufficient for understanding the governance of border security as it provides only a partial and skewed account. This deficiency is compounded by the majority of scholars focusing their empirical studies on those responsible for the management of borders. Didier Bigo’s work focused on security specialists has been especially influential and enlightening however empirical studies need to go beyond this focus to gain a more nuanced understanding of how multiple factors impact on bordering sights. This is particularly the case if we adopt a non-traditional notion of the border. That is to say if we understand that border practices are no longer restricted to the physical border.

Whilst most studies have focused on macropolitical topologies of border security by studying governing mechanisms I suggest that these studies can be supplemented by a simultaneous line of investigation focused on micropolitical processes of contestation. This complementary body of work could offer a framing that helps to provide a richer understanding of the ambiguous and contested nature of re-bordering processes. I suggest that much can be gained from a shift in empirical work away from actors explicitly involved in border management towards those that make interventions on these practices. A focus on these interventions destabilizes our understanding of causality and allows us to catch a glimpse of the complex layers that coincide at a particular border site.

To illustrate this argument I draw on my study of the emergence of the Brigadas Vecinales de Observación de los Derechos Humanos in Madrid. Brigadas is a particularly interesting example because this activist group seeks to manage border management practices. Brigadas is a neighborhood organization formed with the intention of controlling and making visible identification checks, aimed at detecting and detaining foreigners, conducted by police in public places in Madrid. In my study I attempt to contextualize the group within a particular geography and as a response to a particular problem. Then I study the act of creation that brings Brigadas into existence and the strategies that they develop. Finally, I focus on the complex processes of negotiation that the group causes regarding this particular bordering practice. I study how their act of creation has forced practices to be reformulated and simultaneously lead to new strategies of control. I argue that the study of this group lets us shed light on the complex processes of negotiation that are taking place around border sights that are not easily available through ethnographical studies of those responsible for bordering.

Palabras clave: Border Security, Critical Security Studies, Brigadas Vecinales, Causality, Micropolitics