Call for Papers: Temporalities in Migration Law

International Conference on the Temporal Dimensions of Migration Law

Co-organized by the Amsterdam Centre of Migration and Refugee Law, VU Amsterdam and the Uppsala Forum for Democracy, Peace and Justice, Uppsala University.

1-2 June 2023, Amsterdam,
Fall 2023, Uppsala

Time is arguably one of the most important governmental techniques to regulate migration. Melanie Griffiths has coined the term “temporal governance” for the diverse manifestations of the role of time in governing migration (Griffiths 2017). Indeed, power operates as much through temporal devices as it does through spatial control. Whereas in political theory, anthropology and sociology there is large body of scholarly work on the relationship between time and migration, the legal analysis of the ways in which time functions in migration law has only just started. Sociologist Barbara Adam already in 1995 stressed that ‘in our normal usage of time we constantly shift between different senses of time and know them intimately without giving much thought to their differences’ (Adam 1995, p. 20). In migration law we have only recently commenced with an assessment of how different notions of time explicitly and implicitly are at work in the regulation of migration. This conference aims to bring together scholars in the study of migration law and time to further the analysis of the chronologics and temporalities of migration law. We endeavor to map the different ways in which time functions in migration law as a technique of temporal governance, with the intention to analyse what implications this has for temporal conceptions of justice. It has been argued that we have witnessed a ‘temporal turn’ in the study of migration, can something equally be said about the regulation of migration: is there a temporal turn in migration law?

Clearly there is a multitude of conceptions of time at work in the regulation of migration. The “temporal border” (Tazzioli 2018), for example, adds to the physical border a sense of existential immobility, which Ghassan Hage has called “stuckedness” (Hage 2009). Differentiations can be made in procedures by accelerating or decelerating the procedures for certain categories of migrants with the effect that some have to wait a long time, whilst others receive their entitlements immediately (Reneman & Stronks 2021). Temporal governance in migration law leads to stuckedness and other forms of exclusion and despair for some categories of migrants, albeit as disciplinary technique or by-product, whilst for others these governmental techniques have the effect that borders almost disappear from experience.

Time in law is not necessarily linear, same-paced or always measurable. Time can be based on the clock, or the calendar, but equally refer to human time, to age or duration. Time can be used retrospectively for example by antedating a residence permit, or withdrawing a status because of fraud. In adjudication the relevant moment can be fixated in the past (ex tunc) or in the present moment (ex nunc). Regularizations can be seen as a caesura, creating a new future whilst repairing an old injustice. Temporality can also be found in the legal techniques to differentiate between categories of migrants. Residence that is qualified as “temporary,” can be limited by means of deadlines (e.g. application for long-term residence or naturalization) (Stronks 2022). Whereas durable time spent within a certain territory can be incremental to rights and status of migrants and lead to social membership (Shachar 2009; Carens 2010, 2013; Song 2016) clock time serving as proxy for processes of integration or assimilation (Cohen 2018). Such ‘chrono-logic of rights’ has also been criticized for its silent Enlightenment understanding of the relationship between time and rights (Honig 2009), or for its colonial logic (McNevin 2020).

Also, the notion of crisis, which has become a predominant feature of the governance of migration is a temporal concept. The omnipresence of crisis narratives in migration law raises questions about the temporality or becoming permanent of crisis for the regulation of migration. Often crises are being used to justify exceptions to constitutional and human rights protection and situate migrants in a realm of exceptionality. Yet, the Ukraine crisis testifies that a crisis can also lead to sudden protection of large groups of displaced persons, with the first-time activation of the twenty-year-old Temporary Protection Directive as striking example (Meltem Ineli Ciger 2022). This equally puts to the fore the strain between laws and regulations that seem to focus on the here and now, instead of providing durable and long-term solutions to legal issues, an obvious example being ad hoc reception of asylum seeker after every rise of asylum applications vis-à-vis more durable asylum reception conditions.

Temporal justice requires taking into account the multitude of ways in which time plays a role in law. The multiple uses of time as a legal technique, the relationship between time and crisis, or between legal time, clock time and human time; all have a different, often contradicting impact on conceptions of justice. Can migrants be excluded eternally, ad nutum, from stronger residence entitlements, how long can migrants be kept in a situations temporariness or made to wait in (asylum) procedures? What justifies speeding-up processes or waiving time-base requirements? What is the relationship between temporal governance and constitutional and human rights obligations? How do crises impact durable conceptions of a just migration policy? How does the chronologic of migration law relate to individual human time, which is, contrary to clock time, finite, irreversible and unstoppable? Or does temporal justice requires different uses for children or elderly? When is time a justified proxy for hard-to measure qualitative features such as integration, competence, authority?

Keynotes to the conference will be delivered by:

We welcome contributions to the conference that further explore the ways in which time is being used in migration law and policy and how this impacts a temporal understanding of justice. We would expect short papers (3-5 pages) to be submitted for discussion at the conference in Amsterdam in June 2023. A second meeting will be organized in Uppsala in the Fall of 2023 to launch a special issue or co-edited volume in which the full papers will be discussed.

Please send your expression of interest, a proposed title and short abstract to temporalityconference@vu.nl before the 24 of March 2023.