Photo for From soldiers to refugee claimants:

From soldiers to refugee claimants:

US war resister migration to Canada and the embodied geopolitics of asylum

A talk by Alison Mountz, Canada Research Chair, Wilfrid Laurier University

Friday, October 20, 2017

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Bunche Hall
Room 10383

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Alison Mountz, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Global Migration
Balsillie School of International Affairs + Geography and Environmental Studies
Wilfrid Laurier University

Canada has a long history of harboring people fleeing violence, militarism, and war in the United States, from African Americans escaping slavery via the underground railroad to conscientious objectors in World Wars I and II. Contemporary conflicts in which the US is engaged around the world have provoked the migration of additional groups seeking safe haven, including US soldiers fleeing the US military and conflict abroad. This paper draws on archival research and oral histories with two cohorts of US war resister migrants: those who came to Canada during the Vietnam War and those who came more recently and made refugee claims following their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most in the latter cohort were denied status; several were deported and imprisoned upon their return to the United States, others remain in precarious states in Canada. The research explores what kinds of refuge US war resisters have sought, forged, and been granted or denied access to in Canada and exposes, among other findings, the relationship between geopolitics and asylum. While migration scholars have long asserted that borders are more open for some people than for others, less has been written about the role played by geopolitics in shaping human migration in the form of asylum. How do geopolitical relations influence the permeability of borders and chances for mobility and safe haven among those seeking asylum? Why do some asylum-seekers cross borders with relative ease, while others in proximate time and place encounter a proliferation of forms of confinement (such as walls, fencing, detention, and greater precarity)? Borders are sites where geopoliticized, racialized, and classed exclusions are established and consolidated with spatial control over mobility. Juxtaposition of different, yet proximate migrations demonstrates the influence of geopolitics on legal geographies, technocratic-seeming processes and procedures, and ultimately their outcomes.

Sponsor(s): Center for Study of International Migration, Canadian Studies Program, Geography

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