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Politics of Knowledge Production in the Global Compact for Migration

Pages 294-312 | Published online: 04 Dec 2020


This essay interrogates the production of knowledge about migration in a prominent UN instrument, the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). To articulate which worlds of mobility it privileges and delegitimises, we explore the GCM’s approach to “safe, orderly and regular” migration, particularly through its formulation of “information provision” for migrants. The politics of knowledge lies in producing both a conception of “safe, orderly and regular”, linked to state frameworks and informed migrants, and its “other” – “unsafe, disorderly and irregular” – which becomes linked to risky migration and seemingly ill-informed and unruly migrants. Whilst the GCM’s concern with creating safe pathways for movement is promising, we are critical of how the notion of “safe, orderly and regular” has been produced, in conjunction with related concepts, as a means of migration management which might jeopardize its stated aspiration. It can serve to reinforce harmful processes and structures of illegalization which rest on entrenched gradations of (il)legitimacy in migration policies, supported by underlying epistemological frameworks. We consider two starting points for reimagining migration knowledges: firstly, a human rights approach, which remains limited in a number of respects, and, secondly, the fracturing of modern/colonial epistemologies.


We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this essay. We are also grateful for comments from participants of the workshop entitled “The Global Compacts, Mixed Migration and the Transformation of Protection” which took place in March 2019, London. We would like to thank Christina Oelgemöller for organizing and editing this special issue.

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