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The Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement



Alfred Dubs Lecture

Cambridge Centre for the Study of Global Movement


Race, Corporate "Sovereigns" and Corporate Borders

by E. Tendayi Achiume 

Alicia Miñana Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles and former UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance



Most legal theory treats border governance as a function of nation-state sovereignty, and as primarily the domain of the state. Yet transnational corporations have a long, colonial history of making and using borders and race together as technologies of economic profit. Even in the present, corporate enterprise plays a material role in constituting the meaning and application of national borders, and corporations profit immensely from forms of jurisdictional arbitrage made possible by legal categories, including racialized and racializing legal categories. The border is, in some meaningful but not totalizing sense, for and by the corporation, and “corporate borders” are racial borders. This lecture will explore a legal conception of, what I provisionally term racial corporate borders. It will also ask what difference it make to engage with corporations as de facto sovereign or super-sovereigns as the baseline from which border justice is re-imagined. If the neocolonialism of borders, and the racial injustices embedded in these borders are significantly a corporate affair, what sort of reorientation is required in legal scholarship, advocacy and policymaking on the future of borders and migration governance?



Tendayi Achiume is the inaugural Alicia Miñana Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, a research associate of the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand, and an extraordinary professor in the department of jurisprudence at the University of Pretoria. She is also the former UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and was the first woman to serve in this role since its creation in 1994. In 2023, she was appointed as a commissioner to the O’Neill-Lancet Commission on Racism, Structural Discrimination and Global Health. The current focus of her scholarship is the global governance of racism and xenophobia; and the legal and ethical implications of colonialism for contemporary international migration. In 2016, she co-chaired the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law, and is currently an editor on the board of the American Journal of International Law. She is also a recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award—the highest university-wide honor for excellence in teaching. Her publications include: Racial Borders, Georgetown Law Journal; Migration as Decolonization, Stanford Law Review; Governing Xenophobia, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law; Syria, Cost-Sharing and the Responsibility to Protect Refugees, Minnesota Law Review; and Beyond Prejudice: Structural Xenophobic Discrimination Against Refugees, Georgetown Journal of International Law. She is currently the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School. In 2023 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for “exceptional creativity” and “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment.”


This event is organised in collaboration with the Debordering futures: racial capitalism, coloniality and migrant justice conference and CRASSH (see on their website).


On the Dubs Lecture

In 2021 the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement has launched a lecture series on Migration and Refugees named after Lord Dubs, a renowned and tireless campaigner for refugee rights, famous for the two ‘Dubs Amendments’ to allow unaccompanied and separated refugee children in Europe to be reunited with family members in the UK.

The series as introduced by Professor Stephen Toope, then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and please find here our inaugural 2021 lecture.






Wednesday, 15 May, 2024 - 16:00
Event location: 
St John's, Old Divinity School, Cambridge