Charles Heller (Border Forensics, Genève, Switzerland): Bordering Europe through VIOLENCE - Changing Modalities and Spatialities

Bordering Europe: A Transdisciplinary Lecture Series - Bordering Europe through VIOLENCE by Charles Heller

18:00 - 19:02
[0006EG0022] Hörsaal HS 06.02, Universitätsplatz 6, Erdgeschoß

 In his lecture, Charles Heller, director of the Border Forensics research and investigation agency, will seek to account for the recent transformations of the forms of violence inflicted onto illegalised migrants from the global south as they seek to cross the ever-shifting borders of Europe. He will focus on the one hand on indirect violence - which we see in the deaths of migrants at sea and in the outsourcing of border control – and on the other hand on direct and brutal modalities of violence – such as those perpetrated during push-backs across the perimeter of the EU’s external land borders. Each of these modalities and spatialities of violence raises distinct challenges that a critical forensic practice must address if it is to be able to effectively register and contest them. 

Charles Heller is the director of the Border Forensics research and investigation agency and a Research Associate at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. He is further co-president of the Migreurop network. A researcher and filmmaker whose work has a long-standing focus on the politics of migration and borders within and at the borders of Europe, in 2011 Charles Heller co-founded with Lorenzo Pezzani Forensic Oceanography, a collaborative project based at Goldsmiths that has developed innovative spatial and visual methodologies to document the conditions that lead to migrants’ deaths at sea. Together, they have also launched the WatchTheMed platform, a tool enabling nongovernmental actors to exercise a critical right to look at the EU’s maritime frontier and support migrants’ freedom of movement. In 2021, Heller and Pezzani established the Border Forensics agency in Geneva in the aim of addressing and contesting the proliferation of sites and modalities of border violence that shape migrants’ entire trajectories.

The lecture series is organized by the Cluster "Migration, Borders, and Mobilities in, around, and across Europe" of the Field of Excellence "Dimensions of Europeanization" - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Bilgin Ayata ( and  Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil. Ulrich Ermann (

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