Migration Emergencies in the European Postcolony: an Interview with Thomas Spijkerboer

Spijkerboer Thomas, Lea Espinoza Garrido, Mieszkowski Sylvia, Spengler Birgit, Wewior Julia

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The following interview forms part of a double issue on Migrant States of Exception that is grounded in academic disciplines such as American studies, anthropology, film studies, sociology, philosophy and postcolonial studies as well as in the artistic practice of documentary film-making. It focuses on the legal concept of emergency in current European migration law. In its interest in colonial legacies, this conversation overlaps with some of the double issue’s articles – most notably those by Eichinger, Espinoza Garrido, Sarkowsky, Wewior and Wilton. Yet the interview also offers a unique focus on the colonial legacy of European case law. The interviewee, Thomas Spijkerboer, critiques the European legal tradition’s thinking about the state of exception (Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben). He argues that merely building on this tradition runs the risk of erasing the racial specificity which may be hidden, but is, in fact, crucial to the legal concept of emergency, especially in the context of discussing current migrant emergencies. In order to avoid this erasure, Spijkerboer draws on Achille Mbembe, one of the most prominent contemporary thinkers of (and from) the postcolony, to foreground that which is so easily lost in current discussions of European migration law: the role that race plays in the organisation of freedom within liberalism and the insight that modern techniques of legal pluralism are deeply rooted in the history of colonial rule.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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