Reconfiguring Desecuritization: Contesting Expert Knowledge in the Securitization of Migration

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This article introduces desecuritization as the missing supplement of the conception of securitization as a dispersed social process. It calls for the creative development of approaches that destabilise the credibility of security professionals’ claimed expert knowledge. To illustrate the potential of this approach, the article combines insights from the sociology of ignorance (agnotology) and the autonomy of migration literature to deconstruct the framing of migrants as cunning tricksters, a narrative that features prominently in processes of securitization. Within the Schengen visa regime discussed in this article, the trickster narrative emerges in the portrayal of visa applicants as deploying various modes of deception like ‘document fraud’ or ‘visa shopping’. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at consulates in North Africa, this article demonstrates, in contrast, that practices like applying at a consulate known for a more liberal decision-making practice constitute coping strategies by which migrants try to mitigate the uncertainty that a culture of suspicion, the discretionary power of consular staff and the heterogeneity of opaque decision-making criteria create for them. Ultimately, the analysis shows that security practices produce not only knowledge, but also various forms of nonknowledge which provoke the instances of ‘trickery’ that ever more pervasive security practices are supposed to forestall.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1042-1068
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 01.08.2022
Externally publishedYes

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