Prof Ruben Andersson

Professor of Social Anthropology

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 European efforts to halt irregular migration, accompanies border agencies, aid organisations and migrants along the Spanish-African borders. The book shows how the ‘fight against irregular migration’ has fuelled distress and drama at the borders, which in turns has led to the expansion of a self-reinforcing industry of controls.

Ruben's latest book is No Go World: How fear is redrawing our maps and infecting our politics (University of California Press 2019). This book builds on Ruben's more recent research, financed by the AXA Research Fund, and looks comparatively at remote-controlled interventions and the selective withdrawal of international actors from global 'crisis zones'. Taking as its starting point the conflict in Mali in the West African Sahel, it explores how the mapping of danger, the perception of risk and the politics of fear have all contributed to framing and fuelling security, aid and border interventions in the Sahel as well as in other settings such as Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan. 

Besides his academic output, Ruben frequently engages with wider audiences, for instance via reports on borders and security and commentary in the media.  

Prior to joining ODID, Ruben worked at the London School of Economics and at Stockholm University, where he remains an associated researcher. He welcomes prospective doctoral projects including on innovative anthropological or interdisciplinary approaches to security, risk and human mobility.


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

Ruben co-convenes and teaches on the MSc in Migration Studies.

Doctoral supervision

Ruben is interested in supervising doctoral research in areas including (but not limited to) migration, mobility, security and conflict. As an anthropologist, he is particularly keen on supervising ethnographic research.

Research Students supervised

Francesco Bosso
Research Student
Chloe Marshall-Denton
Research Student
Maggie Neil
Research Student
Ewen MacArthur
DPhil Migration Studies Student
Roxana Akhmetova
DPhil in Migration Studies Student

Books and monographs

Andersson, Ruben (2019) 'No Go World: How fear is redrawing our maps and infecting our politics', Oakland: University of California Press
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 (with Martin Saxer) (2019) 'The return of remoteness: insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder', Social Anthropology 27 (2) 140-55
Andersson, Ruben (with Martin Saxer) (eds) (2019) 'Special issue: The return of remoteness: Insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder', Social Anthropology 27 (2)
Andersson, Ruben (2019) 'The Timbuktu syndrome', Social Anthropology 27 (2) 304-19
Andersson, Ruben (with Florian Weigand) (2019) 'Institutionalized Intervention: The ‘Bunker Politics’ of International Aid in Afghanistan', Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding
Andersson, Ruben (with David Keen) (2018) 'Double games: Success, failure and the relocation of risk in fighting terror, drugs and migration', Political Geography 67 100-10
Andersson, Ruben (2018) 'Profits and predation in the bioeconomy of border controls', Public Culture 30 (3) 413-39
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 (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 (2019) 'The anthropological borderlands of global migration '. In J MacClancy (ed) Exotic no more: Anthropology for the contemporary world , University of Chicago Press
Andersson, Ruben (2018) 'Migration'. In T Allen, A Macdonald and H Radice (eds) Humanitarianism: A dictionary of concepts , Abingdon: Routledge
Andersson, Ruben (2018) 'Europe’s failed "fight" against irregular migration'. In M Kaldor, I Rangelov and S Selchow (eds) EU global strategy and human security: Rethinking approaches to conflict , Abingdon: Routledge
Andersson, Ruben (2018) 'La lotta all’immigrazione irregolare messa in atto dall’Europa: note etnografiche su un’industria pericolosa'. In R Schmitz-Esser (ed) Venezia nel contesto globale , Venice: Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani
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 (2019) 'Beneficios y depredación en la bioeconomía humana', Papeles de relaciones ecosociales y cambio global 145
Andersson, Ruben (with David Keen) (2019) 'Success, failure and the relocation of risk in Europe’s "fight against irregular migration"', Siirtolaisuus-Migration
Andersson, Ruben (2018) 'Back to the soil. Comment on S. Moland, Sedentary optics: Static anti-trafficking and mobile victims. ', Current Anthropology 59 (2) 115-37
Andersson, Ruben (2018) 'Hic sunt dracones: Cartografía etnográfica del peligro global', Papeles de relaciones ecosociales y cambio global 142 13-28
Andersson, Ruben (2016) ' Brexit referendum: First reactions from anthropology. Contribution to joint special section', Social Anthropology 24 (4) 478-502
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 (2015) 'La olla a presión: cómo la seguridad fronteriza sigue aumentando el caos', Disparidades: Revista de Antropología 70 (2) 299-306
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
05 November, 2020
Ruben Andersson, Laura Rival awarded full professorships
23 July, 2019
New report co-authored by Ruben Andersson explores impact of Europe’s outsourcing of migration controls
04 July, 2019
New special issue co-edited by Ruben Andersson explores return of ‘remoteness’
25 March, 2019
New book by Ruben Andersson explores how the West has created a 'political geography of fear'
07 November, 2018
New article co-authored by Ruben Andersson compares fights against terrorism, drugs and irregular migration
08 December, 2017
New article by Ruben Andersson explores pitfalls of academic outreach
11 August, 2016
ODID welcomes Ruben Andersson as new Associate Professor
18 Nov, 2019
'The West’s Obsession With Border Security Is Breeding Instability'. Ruben Andersson and David Keen write for Foreign Policy magazine
27 Sep, 2019
'Anthropology at, and of, the Limit'. Ruben Andersson responds as part of an Allegralab book symposium about his new book 'No Go World'
13 Sep, 2019
'The Cobra Effect: “Fighting” Migration Gets Europe Nowhere'. Ruben Andersson interviewed about his new book 'No Go World' in the Green European Journal
24 Jun, 2019
'How the West is withdrawing into a bunker of its own making'. Ruben Andersson writes for The Conversation
14 Jun, 2019
'How fear is redrawing our maps and infecting our politics'. Ruben Andersson discusses his new book on The Majority Report
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.