CFP AAG 2022: Disease, contamination, dehumanization, and immigration control 

CFP AAG 2022: Disease, contamination, dehumanization, and immigration control 

Call for papers: American Association of Geographers, Feb. 25-March 1, 2022, New York 

Session: Disease, contamination, dehumanization, and immigration control 


Nancy Hiemstra (Stony Brook University,

Deirdre Conlon (University of Leeds,  

In the contemporary era of unprecedented human mobility, migrants are often discursively cast as carriers and spreaders of disease, as ‘contaminants’ to nationalist imaginaries and as an ‘infection’ to society and social (dis)order. The productivity of metaphors in geography and across the social sciences is well-established (Cresswell 1997; Brown 2000; Ahmed 2004;). Scholars recognize the power of metaphor to shape approaches to immigrants and immigration control (e.g. Ellis and Wright 1998; Santa Ana 2002; Ahmed 2004; Chavez 2013; Gorman 2021). With the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, metaphors of illness and contagion have again been weaponized to further migrant exclusion, containment, precarity, and hostility. 

In addition to being characterized by intensified restrictions on migrant mobility, the current moment has also brought into relief other ailments of immigration enforcement systems (e.g. Longazel and Hallett 2021). For instance, the siting of immigrant detention facilities often heightens exposure to environmental toxins, and in detention gender, race, ethnicity, and health inequalities are amplified. Policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocol, a.k.a. ‘Remain in Mexico’, in the U.S. or ‘housing dispersal’ for asylum seekers in the UK effectively produce conditions that render migrants more prone to precarity and ill-health.    

This session invites contributions that consider how metaphors of disease, contamination, sickness, ill/health and dehumanizing constructions are reflected in and influence immigration control. How do discursive tools play out in policy making and in practice? What are the material effects of such discourse on the ground and in migrants’ lived experiences? How do they impact migrant spatialities? To what ends can engagement with and analyses of metaphors of disease and contamination be put to use to disrupt metanarratives that are pervasive in connection with migrants and immigration controls? 

We invite papers on the following themes in relation to human im/mobility:  

*control of migrants through metaphor 

*deployment of metaphors, explicitly or implicitly, against specific groups 

*COVID-19 pandemic 

*overlap of security and health/sickness 

*Border security and policies 

*Racial profiling 

*Gendered, sexualized, raced, classed, and ableist impacts of metaphors of ill-health  

*Environmental racism 

Papers can focus on the discussion of metaphor, or they can touch upon it obliquely. 

Please send a paper title and an abstract of 250 words max. by Fri. Oct. 1 2021. Abstracts and inquiries should be sent to Deirdre Conlon and Nancy Hiemstra At this date we are planning to be in New York for the conference but this may change due to COVID-19. If AAG permits, we will make this a hybrid (in-person/virtual) session. 


Ahmed, S. (2004). The cultural politics of emotion. New York: Routledge. 

Brown, M. (2000). Closet Space: Geographies of Metaphor from the Body to the Globe. New York: Routledge. 

Cresswell, T. (1997). Weeds, Plagues, and Bodily Secretions: A Geographical Interpretation of Metaphors of Displacement. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 87(2), 330-345. Retrieved August 17, 2021, from 

Chavez, L. R. (2013). The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 

Ellis, M., & Wright, R. (1998). The Balkanization Metaphor in the Analysis of U.S. Immigration. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 88(4), 686-698.  

Gorman, C.S. (2021). Defined by the Flood: Alarmism and the Legal Thresholds of US Political Asylum. Geopolitics, 26 (1): 215-235. 

Longazel, J. and Hallet, M.C. (2021) Migration and Mortality: Social Death, Dispossession and Survival in the Americas. Philadelphia: Temple UP. 

Santa Ana, O. 2002. Brown tide rising: Metaphors of Latinos in contemporary American public discourse