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"There is a border in the system": exploring borders, death & classification in the UK

McCurdy, Martha (2022) "There is a border in the system": exploring borders, death & classification in the UK. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004445


This thesis investigates what and how we consider a border death. It interrogates the different legal, political, and humanitarian frameworks that adjudicate and interpret a border death. The term border deaths have become synonymous with the deaths of migrants and refugees at the European-Mediterranean and US-Mexico borders. By focusing on the UK, my research provides a novel empirical context and aims to expand mainstream understandings of the term, as well as drawing attention to the violence of the UK’s immigration systems and everyday borders. My research shows the importance of conceptualising borders beyond territorial zones. By researching border deaths, this work seeks to establish new avenues of sociological inquiry within death studies. Through interviews with groups documenting border deaths, observations of coronial inquests, analysis of media, human rights reports and parliamentary debates, my research demonstrates the nuances, complexities, and divergences in classifying border deaths. The different ethical dilemmas faced during the research process also shape my thesis. This involves discussing how I engage with and write about death, as well as reflecting upon my own positionality. As I argue, ethical tensions relating to sensitive research cannot and should not be overcome. This thesis demonstrates that some existing legal, political, and official frameworks used to record and classify border deaths are insufficient. The existing limits within these frameworks fail to acknowledge state complicity, responsibility, or inaction. This thesis calls into question the wider political and historical conditions including structural and systemic violence that lead to border deaths. It interrogates classificatory terms relating to death such as ‘natural causes’ or deaths that fall under a discourse of criminality and their underlying relationship with state responsibility. I make the case that understandings of the term border death must be reflective of the proliferation and ever evolving nature of borders. As this thesis shows a border death is not limited to geographic boundaries but includes deaths relating to histories and categories of illegality which are racialised and politicised. By expanding our understanding of border deaths this research generates wider debate around state and societal accountability.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Martha McCurdy
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Moon, Claire and Friese, Carrie

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