What does it mean when humanitarian relief and rescue are the response to deaths and suffering at the border? In her new book, Pallister-Wilkins explores this question and probes the politics and limitations of humanitarianism in a world marked by unequal mobility. The book draws upon 8 years of research with border police, EU officials, professional aid workers, grassroots humanitarians and activists in the European borderlands. Mixing ethnography with deft political and historical analyses, Pallister-Wilkins demonstrates that unequal mobility and border violence are not natural and inevitable outcomes but, instead, the effects of particular histories, political decisions and the everyday works of border guards, government officials and aid workers who help to make borders an everyday, material reality (p. 7). Likewise, saving lives is not an inherent response to border deaths and suffering but a product of particular and liberal rationalities about life, movement and responsibility. The book argues that lifesaving interventions to relieve border deaths and violence are symptoms of global inequalities, not a cure. While presented as a moral and urgent task, such responses mask structural violence, depoliticise violent borders and bolster European paternalism and innocence.

Heidi Mogstad

Post Doctoral Researcher