Harsha Walia Breaks Down Borders: Speaking on Climate Migration, Racial Capitalism and Empire


Harsha Walia SPPGA Talks Borders Event

“Empires crumble, capitalism is not inevitable, gender is not biology, whiteness is not immutable, prisons are not inescapable and borders are not natural law.”

On April 6, UBC had the pleasure of hosting Canadian activist, writer and organizer Harsha Walia for an engaging talk on border imperialism and the deeply interconnected issues of climate change, racial capitalism and anti-migrant xenophobia. This event was presented by UBC’s Centre for Climate Justice, Centre for Migration Studies, and School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.

Walia shared insights from over 10 years of activism and community engagement, advocating in arenas of migrant justice (co-founding the justice movement No One is Illegal), Indigenous solidarity, such as with women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Working with and co-directing a documentary for the February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee), Vancouver’s Southeast Asian community (as a board member of South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy), and more.

Harsha Walia SPPGA Talks Borders Event

Harsha Walia and Naomi Klein

“Even amidst omnipresent violence we have to remember that the future is a process we generate through our collective commitment to organizing together today and every day.”

In her talk, Walia’s argument moved seamlessly between the micro and macro, demonstrating the deeply layered and trickle-down impact of state-regulated, racialized, and predominantly ideological divisions, such as how borders of prisons mirror the borders of countries. From an unflinchingly feminist, abolitionist, anti-capitalist and anti-racist standpoint, Walia addressed the ways in which borders function, on both local and national levels, to enforce and maintain systematic oppression and “exclusionary projections,” particularly against Indigenous, non-white immigrants. She went on to illuminate how bordering regimes “are based on the idea of categories of undesirables and desirables […] those that are considered desired and those that are considered disposable,” while operating on “an underlying and inherent ideology of us versus them.” In recognizing this, her stance called for “a rigorous analysis of the border itself.”

UBC students, staff, faculty and members of the greater community had the opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussion after the talk, delving deeper into Walia’s extensive grassroots work, writings and, in cautiously tempered optimism, “dream of collective liberation.”

For further reading, Walia’s award-winning publications include Undoing Border Imperialism (AK Press, 2013) and Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism (Haymarket, 2021), as well as her co-authored work Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration and Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouvers’ Downtown Eastside.