Who Counts in Crises? The New Geopolitics of International Migration and Refugee Governance

William Allen, Bridget Anderson, Nicholas Van Hear, Madeleine Sumption, Franck Duvell, Jennifer Hough, Lena Rose, Rachel Humphris and Sarah Walker

Geopolitics, Volume 23 Issue 1, pp. 217-243, 2018



This collection of essays explores questions such as: Who counts as a migrant, refugee or citizen? How are these categories constructed and by whom? How are these categories challenged and subverted? What are the implications for mobility, citizenship and the nation state? The introduction notes that legal categories such as ‘refugee’ emerge from particular moments in history, revealing the primacy of (geo)politics—not law—in deciding who counts. The following essays specifically address issues of forced displacement:

  • Van Hear argues that three pathways— the ways in which people move away from, mobilize against, or endure challenging conditions—require different capacities and powers (i.e. socioeconomic position, standing and networks, emotional and mental strength), and that “to understand mobility, we need to account for the relationship with those who do not move, but mobilize to contest adversity or hunker down and endure it.”
  • Duvell discusses how the Turkish government and the EU continue to use migration issues to achieve policy objectives, sometimes in conflicting ways. For example by calling Syrians in Turkey ‘brothers’ or ‘guests’ instead of refugees.
  • Hough discusses the words used for North Korean defectors/refugees/settlers.
  • Rose argues that assumptions about European secularisation need to be revisited in order to respond to tensions between lived religion and the secular state.