Student Michael Castrovilla attends ISA Conference

International Affairs student Michael Castrovilla attended the 2019 annual International Studies Association Conference held in Toronto, Canada. He highlights his experiences and research below: 

I was invited to present at the International Studies Association’s annual conference last March in Toronto, Canada on how international human rights law and refugee law operate within three unique liminal spaces on the periphery of the European Union (a part of my thesis research). Due to page limit constraints the final product wound up being a comparative study between two out of the three spaces I originally intended to study.

My research sets out to study two liminal spaces located on the periphery of Europe: Greek island space located in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey and the space of the Mediterranean Sea located between Italy and Libya. My focus is on how different laws, policies and bilateral agreements are interpreted and enforced by a range of different actors within these spaces, and what result this has on human rights for those seeking asylum. I first conduct a brief historical tracing of border externalization within an international and European context, before theorizing about the concept of liminality and what role this concept plays into each space before conducting a more in-depth analysis of each case. My main conclusion is that within these two liminal spaces human rights violations are more likely to occur due to the support, assistance, and persistent pressure by the larger European Union apparatus onto Member States to stop such large numbers of migrants from arriving to European shores through any means necessary. My paper outlines some of the creative practices implemented to achieve this goal.

In preparation for the conference, I had to create a poster to present my research during the poster series exhibition that was on migration, climate change and healthcare. My discussant, Professor Debbie Lisle from Queen’s University, actually mistook me for a PhD student due to the complexity and depth of my research! Professor Lisle took careful time and consideration to review my work; she printed out a small copy of my poster and provided me detailed and thoughtful feedback that I applied to my work once I returned to the United States. I received essential critiques to further develop my argument from Professor Lisle as well as other scholars and students visiting the session. Overall, the conference was a great experience to meet scholars and practitioners in panels and poster series, and a valuable opportunity to fine-tune my own work. The most rewarding aspect for me was having to synthesize multiple layers of my research and argument into a few sentences each time someone new was presented with my work for the first time. I highly recommend people to attend this conference and take on this challenge in order to help progress their own work, but also see what sort of analysis is being conducted by other scholars within the international relations field.