Against the death maps of Empire: Contesting colonial borders through Indigenous sovereignty


This editor’s reflection is in response to a series of essays that was written on this site, examining the intersections between immigration and decolonization. The full series can be found here. There are further resources on this topic at the end of this reflection.

by Eric Ritskes

“We live within fabricated borders, within countries that were named by Europeans. Nigeria doesn’t mean anything in my language. I’m Yoruban… Our borders are all wrong.” (Seun Kuti, 2013)

Nelson Maldonado-Torres (2004) writes that “borders appear in our world as the death maps of empire” (p. 48). As toddlers wash up on beaches, borders are increasingly militarized in exclusionary ways (such as the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, or the Mexican-US borders attest to), and boats full of African migrants flee across watery borders, often ending up on the bottom of the Mediterranean rather than across…

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