Globalisation and the policing of internal borders

This project is funded through an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship awarded to Associate Professor Leanne Weber. In Australia, as elsewhere in the developed world, internal border policing is intensifying and diversifying as globalisation increases anxieties about inclusion and belonging. This research program will explore the construction of internal borders that are sometimes aimed at physically excluding unwanted populations from Australia, and at other times are designed to keep subordinate groups in their place.

It will critically analyse three types of internal borders operating within Australia: structurally embedded borders that enforce the boundaries based on immigration status; socially constructed borders produced by the policing of public places that reinforce notions of entitlement and belonging; and borders created by new forms of welfare policing which differentiate supposedly ‘responsible’ from ‘irresponsible’ citizens.

Through a series of situated case studies, the project will explore the role played by race, place and inequalities in citizenship in maintaining these boundaries, and identify strategies for enhanced inclusiveness in the face of rapid global change. The academic contribution of the research will be to enhance the theorisation of the border and to integrate literatures on border control, post-colonialism, globalisation, social inclusion and citizenship.

Case Study One: The Structurally Embedded Border

Building on Dr Weber’s earlier research on migration policing networks, this mixed methods case study will investigate how ‘voluntary’ reporting of individuals with unlawful migration status is procured by embedding immigration status checks within the administration of essential services such as health and education. It will also consider how this mode of border enforcement impacts on service providers and on service users with both lawful and unlawful immigration status.

Case Study Two: Policing Public Space

This mixed methods case study will explore how police interactions with youths from identified ethnic minorities impact on feelings of belonging and effective citizenship. The study is expected to include research sites in Melbourne and Sydney, involving young people from east African and Pacific Islander backgrounds with lawful immigration status. The impact of particular policing styles such as intelligence-led policing and community policing and procedural justice policing will be considered.

Case Study Three: Policing Welfare Recipients

The final mixed methods case study will assess the capacity of compulsory income management to create internal borders between supposedly ‘responsible’ and ‘irresponsible’ citizens, and assess the extent to which these policies reproduce historical patterns of subordinate citizenship that were previously applied to Aboriginal Australians. The study will determine the individual and collective criteria for inclusion in these schemes and their impact on  feelings of belonging, entitlement and effective citizenship.

See Leanne’s blog post on tracing the internal border here.

Project Team

Associate Professor Leanne Weber




BOb research presented to Parliamentary Inquiry into External Oversight of Police – March 2018