Prof Ruben Andersson

Associate Professor of Migration and Development

Ruben Andersson is an anthropologist working on migration, borders and security with a focus on the West African Sahel and southern Europe. His book Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe (University of California Press 2014), an ethnographic account of Europe’s efforts to halt irregular migration, accompanies border agencies, aid organisations and migrants along the Spanish-African borders. The book argues that the ‘fight against irregular migration’, rather than curtailing movement, has led to more distress and drama at the borders, which in turns has fuelled a self-reinforcing industry of controls.

Ruben’s more recent project, financed by the AXA Research Fund, looks comparatively at remote-controlled interventions and the partial withdrawal of international actors from global crisis zones, taking as its starting point the conflict in Mali, West Africa, and the confluence of risks which international interveners are dealing with there – including, besides security and livelihoods, the perceived ‘risk’ of migration. The project will lead to another monograph, tentatively entitled The Danger Zone.

Prior to joining ODID, Ruben worked at the London School of Economics, where he completed his PhD in 2013. Ruben is also an associated researcher at Stockholm University’s Department of Social Anthropology. Before joining academia, Ruben worked in the media and he writes regularly for non-academic audiences.

In the media
The risk crucible: managing multiple insecurities in the western Sahel

Ruben co-convenes the MSc in Migration Studies, for which he will teach the Migration, Globalisation and Social Transformation paper from 2016/17; he also teaches an option course for the degree.

Research Students supervised

Francesco Bosso
Research Student (PRS)

Books and monographs

Andersson, Ruben (2014) 'Illegality, Inc: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe', Oakland: University of California Press

Journal articles and special issues

Andersson, Ruben (forthcoming) 'Profits and predation in the bioeconomy of border controls', Public Culture
Andersson, Ruben (2017) 'The price of impact: reflections on academic outreach amid the 'refuge crisis'', Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale
Andersson, Ruben (2016) 'Here be dragons: Mapping an ethnography of global danger', Current Anthropology 57 (6) 707-31
Andersson, Ruben (2016) 'Europe’s failed 'fight' against irregular migration: Ethnographic notes on a counterproductive industry', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42 (7) 1055-75
Andersson, Ruben (2016) 'The global front against migration', Anthropology of This Century 15
Andersson, Ruben (with F Weigand) (2015) 'Intervention at risk: The vicious cycle of distance and danger in Mali and Afghanistan', Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 9 (4) 519-45
Andersson, Ruben (2015) 'La olla a presión: cómo la seguridad fronteriza sigue aumentando el caos', Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares 70 (2) 299-306
Andersson, Ruben (2014) 'Time and the migrant other: European border controls and the temporal economics of illegality', American Anthropologist 116 (4) 795-809
Andersson, Ruben (2014) 'Hunter and prey: Patrolling clandestine migration in the Euro-African borderlands', Anthropological Quarterly 87 (1) 118-49
Andersson, Ruben (2012) 'A game of risk: Boat migration and the business of bordering Europe', Anthropology Today 28 (6) 7-11
Andersson, Ruben (2011) 'Frontex y la creación de la frontera euroafricana: golpeando la valla ilusoria', Revista de derecho Migratorio y Extranjería 28 177-91
Andersson, Ruben (2010) 'Wild man at Europe’s gates: The crafting of clandestines in Spain’s Cayuco crisis', Etnofoor 22 (2) 31-49
Andersson, Ruben (with ) (2005) 'The new frontiers of America', Race and Class 46 (3) 28-38


Andersson, Ruben (2017) 'In Conversation with Sindre Bangstad About Migrants, Illegality and the Bordering of Europe'. In Sindre Bangstad (ed) Anthropology of Our Times: An Edited Anthology in Public Anthropology , New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Andersson, Ruben (2017) 'Rescued and caught: The humanitarian-security nexus at Europe’s frontiers'. In N De Genova (ed) The borders of "Europe": Autonomy of migration, tactics of bordering , Durham: Duke University Press
Andersson, Ruben (2017) 'From radar systems to rickety boats: Borderline ethnography in Europe’s "illegality industry"'. In A Elliot, et al (eds) Methodologies of Mobility: Ethnography and Experiment , New York: Berghahn books


Andersson, Ruben (2016) 'Irreguljär migration och Europas gränskontroller: en etnografisk analys', Report for Delmi, Sweden’s Migration Studies Delegation (links to policy brief in English)

Other publications

Andersson, Ruben (2016) 'Why Europe’s border security approach has failed – and how to change it ', Policy paper for the LSE/Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Berlin report on human security
Andersson, Ruben (2016) 'Warum Europas Konzept der Grenzsicherung gescheitert ist', Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
Andersson, Ruben (2014) 'A global front: Thoughts on enforcement at the rich world’s borders', Online appendix to Andersson, Ruben, Illegality, Inc: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe. Oakland: University of California Press
08 December, 2017
New article by Ruben Andersson explores pitfalls of academic outreach
11 August, 2016
ODID welcomes Ruben Andersson as new Associate Professor
09 Jan, 2017
'I saw this risk aversion as an opportunity to reframe my study around that very dilemma'. Ruben Andersson interviewed on BBC's Thinking Allowed about research on 'danger zones'
07 Sep, 2016
'Walls... create more dangerous entry methods'. Ruben Andersson interviewed on BBC's PM about plans for Calais border wall
Research interests:

Migration; borders; West Africa; Spain; security; mobility.