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Imagining & Building Borders: A Global History of Migration Regulation and Restriction


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations


In the popular narrative of multicultural nation-states, we often hear about the waves of immigration that shaped the societies we see today. Less celebrated, but equally formative, are the programs and policies designed to remove and exclude people from these communities and to regulate their movement within them. Indeed, how to regulate and exclude those deemed enemies, undesirables or Others remains a central topic of political debate in Europe, the United States and beyond into the early twenty-first century.

In this subject, we will examine the link between migration policy and the construction of the modern world. We will look at case studies that include the emergence of racialized immigration restriction, segregation, exile, and the management and regulation of displaced persons and asylum seekers. We will also explore grassroots responses to immigration and exclusion, and investigate how these responses have shaped politics at the national and at the international level This includes studying diasporic subjects’ multiple negotiations in terms of their cultural identity and sense of belonging. We look at cases of physical removal and exclusion, but also cultural and political exclusion within a given territory. We will also consider some of the tools used by transnational migrants to negotiate identities outside the boundaries of the nation-state, including technology, literature and religion.

Geographically, we look at case studies from Europe, the Americas and Australasia. In their individual research, however, students are welcome and encouraged to explore examples from other parts of the world that add to our understanding of the political significance of exclusion. Thematically the class will engage ideas about the formation of political culture, the role of restriction and removal in the development of capitalism and the global economy, and the ways that the movement of people and responses to it have shaped both national and international law, and global norms. Ultimately students will learn how to analyse the case studies for the contribution they have made to the current political context, nationally, regionally and internationally.

Course objectives

Particular emphasis will be placed on encouraging students to identify commonalities between seemingly unconnected practices of exclusion. They will also be encouraged to look at the movement of people and attempts to regulate this movement and identify the consequences of these process, including the development of cultural tools of resistance. Thus students will be trained in the approach of global or transnational history, with the aim of understanding how political and historical processes associated with one part of the world are the result of broader dynamics. At the same time, students will be encouraged to understand the specific historical context of the events under consideration, with the aim of appreciating the particular dynamics of regulatory practices such as guest worker programs, political exile or the development of international refugee law. We will therefore critically engage with global/transnational approaches to history, equipping students with a methodological and disciplinary training they can apply to other areas of study.
Students will be required to engage in close reading of academic texts, to further research and engage in discussion on the key themes in those texts, and to think historically about the key themes and case studies in the course.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load for this 10 EC course is 280 hours.

  • Weekly close reading: 72 hours (6 hours per week x 12 weeks)

  • Seminars (attendance is compulsory): 18 hours (12 x 1,45)

  • Presentation: 10 hours

  • Essay draft/Peer Review: 30 hours

  • Book Review: 30 hours

  • Research project: 120 hours

Assessment method

  • Participation (including presentation): 20%

  • Peer Review: 10%

  • Book Review: 20%

  • Research essay: 50%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


A resit for the final essay can be held if the orignal submission is insufficient. The resubmission shoud be completed within two weeks of being advised on the insufficient nature of the original.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Yes, see Blackboard.

Reading list

A reading pack will be made available.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Dr. R.C. Sheppard Dr. S.M. Rios Oyola