Penal power and border control: Which thesis? Sovereignty, governmentality, or the pre-emptive state?

AuthorLeanne Weber,Jude McCulloch
Published date01 October 2019
Date01 October 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Penal power and border
control: Which
thesis? Sovereignty,
governmentality, or the
pre-emptive state?
Leanne Weber and Jude McCulloch
Monash University, Australia
This article provides a critical review of key theoretical positions relevant to border
control and sets out an agenda for developing these ideas. In 2005 Mythen and Walklate
published a theoretical milestone for the study of terrorism in their article ‘Criminology
and terrorism: Which thesis? Risk society or governmentality?’. Those authors
reviewed two theories of risk, considering how each might contribute to understanding
‘new terrorism’. Inspired by ‘Which thesis?’ we review, contrast and compare three key
theoretical contributions relevant to penology, criminology and border control: Stump’s
‘crimmigration’ thesis, Bosworth and Guil d’s adaptation of the ‘new penology’ perspec-
tive, and Krasmann’s critique of Jakobs’ ‘enemy penology’ thesis. The article consol-
idates these important theoretical strands into one critical discussion, highlighting the
growing relevance of the pre-crime literature to the study of borders, and signposting
potential theoretical developments within border criminolog y that build on these
border control, border criminology, crimmigration, enemy penology, new penology,
Corresponding author:
Leanne Weber, Wellington Road, Clayton, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia.
Punishment & Society
2019, Vol. 21(4) 496–514
!The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1462474518797293
More than a decade has passed since the publication of a seminal article by Gabe
Mythen and Sandra Walklate (2005) entitled ‘Criminology and terrorism: Which
thesis? Risk society or governmentality?’. That article reviewed the utility of the-
ories of risk and governmentality in analysing contemporary terrorism, seeking to
establish, as a starting point, that the analysis of terrorist threats, and of punitive
state responses to them, was a legitimate focus for a discipline preoccupied with
‘crimes of everyday life’. Adopting an exploratory method to ‘open up debates
about the value of these theoretical routes into terrorism’ (2005, p. 380), these
authors demonstrated how the risk society thesis of Ulrich Beck and Michel
Foucault’s governmentality approach could each contribute to a better under-
standing of ‘new terrorism’. While acknowledging the different conceptions of
risk offered by the two theorists, including the fundamental distinction between
Beck’s realism and Foucault’s relativism, the authors encouraged devotees of both
camps to develop an appreciation of the positive facets of each paradigm, and
embrace a ‘willingness to labour at the interface’ (2005, p. 394).
In parallel with this critical research agenda on terrorism, there is a growing
literature that establishes expressions of state penal power in the field of migration
and border control as a legitimate concern for criminology and cognate disciplines
(Aas and Bosworth, 2013; Barker, 2017; Pickering and Weber, 2006; Weber, 2002;
Weber and Bowling, 2004). For over a decade now, scholars have analysed border
control in terms of risk (Pratt, 2005), penalty (Aas, 2014; Barker, 2017), govern-
mentality (Aliverti, 2012), sovereignty (Weber and Pickering, 2011) and securiti-
zation (Bigo, 2002, 2011). A critical review of some key theoretical strands that
have contributed to this new scholarship on the criminology of borders is overdue.
Taking our inspiration from the ‘Which thesis?’ article, we embark on such a
review here with the aim of consolidating these important theoretical strands
into one critical discussion, introducing a new perspective from the pre-crime lit-
erature to the criminological study of borders, and signposting potential develop-
ments within border criminology that build on these theoretical foundations.
We focus initially on three significant publications, with some reference to the
secondary scholarship inspired by these articles, to examine the impact, legacy and
contribution of each of these theoretical perspectives within the emerging sub-
discipline of border criminology. The key moments in the development of these
theoretical strands are the publication of Juliet Stumpf’s ‘crimmigration’ thesis
(2006), Mary Bosworth and Mhairi Guild’s adaptation of the ‘new penology’
perspective to the politics of border control (2008), and Susan Krasmann’s critique
of Gunther Jakobs’ ‘enemy penology’ thesis (2007). We deviate in one respect from
Mythen and Walklate’s method, which was to assess the applicability of several
high-level sociological theories to the study of contemporary terrorism. Our anal-
ysis instead focuses on three mid-level theories, two of which were formulated
specifically in relation to border control. Although the third perspective does not
discuss border control directly, we argue that it has a vital role to play in enabling
Weber and McCulloch 497

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT