Liberal Violence and the Racial Borders of the European Union

Arshad Isakjee, Jelena Obradović-Wochnik, Thomas Davies , Karolina Augustova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines how racial violence underpins the European Union’s border regime. Drawing on two case studies, in northern France and the Balkans, we explore how border violence manifests in divergent ways: from the direct physical violence which is routine in Croatia, to more subtle forms of violence evident in the governance of migrants and refugees living informally in Calais, closer to Europe’s geopolitical centre. The use of violence against people on the move sits uncomfortably with the liberal, post‐racial self‐image of the European Union. Drawing upon the work of postcolonial scholars and theories of violence, we argue that the various violent technologies used by EU states against migrants embodies the inherent logics of liberal governance, whilst also reproducing liberalism’s tendency to overlook its racial limitations. By interrogating how and why border violence manifests we draw critical attention to the racialised ideologies within which it is predicated. This paper characterises the EU border regime as a form of “liberal violence” that seeks to elide both its violent nature and its racial underpinnings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1751-1773
Number of pages23
Issue number6
Early online date3 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Antipode published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Antipode Foundation Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: Antipode Foundation. Grant Number: Activist‐Scholar Grant 2018


  • borders
  • liberalism
  • migration
  • race
  • refugees
  • violence


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