Walia Takes On Migrant Justice, Border Culture In New Book

Walia Takes On Migrant Justice, Border Culture In New Book

By Tyson Kelsall, Culture Editor


Harsha Walia, currently a Vancouver-based activist, has just released her first book via AK Press in the Anarchist Interventions series. Walia is a member of No One Is Illegal, and a grassroots activist in her own right, especially within the area of Vancouver’s downtown eastside; so, the work is not an analysis done by a far-off academic, but by a woman on the front line.

Walia points out in an interview with the Canadian Dimension that she had fears of individualizing this anti-oppressive movement with the release of her book, which is probably why she is far from being the only contributor. As a collective shapes the current struggle, and the actions are more successful when people are working together, the book reflects this, deliberately or not. The book consists of several separate accounts from migrants, a dialogue between other activists on their stances and theories, and a preface by prominent feminist and intellectual Andrea Smith.

The book itself, Undoing Border Imperialism, manages a unique, strong balance of being quantitative and qualitative, experiential and investigative, creative and academic, and all that is within a concise, accessible style of writing. The book features poetry, prose, and textbook-style, logical/rational writings. Undoing Border Imperialism ties together many oppressed groups and social movements, with a distinctive focus on the parallels between colonialism and the oppression of migrants, especially migrants of colour. With an underlying theme that global capitalism is dependent on the global flow of capital, while still punishing the global movement of the labour, especially the labourers (who are most vulnerable) and must move to follow the capital accumulation: money moves freely, but there are borders put onto people. The book converges on the great paradox of constructing certain people to be illegal, while the government itself is often acting illegally on non-ceded Indigenous lands within the borders of Canada and the USA, and especially within British Columbia, where a great majority of the land has never been legally given up. However, it also outlines differences felt within this web of solidarity, and the difficulties of certain contexts when it comes to mobilization and action. For example, if someone is about to be unjustly deported from Canada, but does not recognize other forms of oppression, such as feminism, and acts harmfully towards women, how does a feminist activist play a role in this person or group’s liberation? Within these linked groups, there is much overlap in working against the current system and power structures; however, there are also different priorities and means of getting to the end goal.

Undoing Border Imperialism succeeds in covering the basic understanding of the violence and oppression brought on by the state, both by the creation of certain policies and the ignorance of historical Indigenous laws; as well as covering the power of community, whilst articulating big and small victories that have been achieved over the past years. However, it also delves into the more profound details, the problems and the positives inside the world of social justice activism. Lastly, it possesses a certain urgency for people to stand up and act, now. As the blurb on the back cover indicates, activists should probably have a copy of this book in their backpacks.