Knowledge controversies of global migration governance: understanding the controversy surrounding the Global Compact

Research Handbook on the Law and Politics of Migration

Co-authored with Scott Watson

Edited by Catherine Dauvergne

Edward Elgar Press

In this chapter, we explore the nature of the controversies that arose during the negotiation of the Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the impact of designing negotiations as a ‘hybrid forum’ to contain these controversies, and the ‘excess’ controversies that emerged outside of the official negotiation process that ultimately influenced final adoption of the agreement.

To do so, we draw upon the literature in science and technology studies (STS) – in particular, actor-network theory (ANT) – to conceptualize and analyse the debate surrounding the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Specifically, we adapt the concepts of ‘translation’, ‘knowledge controversy’, and ‘hybrid forum’ to examine the controversy that animates the global dialogue on migration. Building on these concepts from ANT, we explore some elements of the controversy surrounding the Global Compact to understand how the international cooperative framework, its text, and related concerns circulated across networks between laypersons, government representatives, and experts. We are interested in the translation of the Global Compact from the inter-governmental to the national level – and from the UN system into the public domain – in a process that challenged the established boundaries of the debate itself.

In what follows, we specify some of the ways in which the controversy overflowed the narrow social boundaries and epistemological parameters imposed upon it by official spokespersons. These developments call into question claims that hybrid forums lead to democratic outcomes (see Callon et al. 2009).

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