People And Planet Interview With James Evans

Impact caught up with MA Philosophy student, James Evans, co-founder of the People & Planet Student action group. In the last week, they launched their Undoing Borders campaign, which aims to decolonise our university by resisting internal borders. Internal borders are often enacted through systems the majority of us may find quite mundane, such as attendance monitoring, yet, as James explains, there is an unsettling side to these practices.

What issues are central to the People and Planet (P&P) student network? How did it start?

Fighting global injustices is the main concern of this student network. This is the general idea of the campaign group. I think the point of the network is to fundamentally ask ourselves who has power in the world and what are they doing with it? It is not just simply asking small questions, even though that is part of it, but getting to the root of poverty, climate change and abuses of human rights. It is about identifying what is the chain that links these issues together. These three issues are the main concerns of P & P. I would say to combat these issues, which the world system holds these together, we need political education, organisation and, importantly, action. Obviously, the problems themselves are complex and cannot be reducible to one cause, but understanding the political context we all find ourselves in is key. I think P & P, as a student group, is concerned with confronting the injustices that we see on a global scale that manifests itself in a localised environment like the University.

“We want to turn against racist narratives that have been produced by media institutions and governments”

What are the aims of P & P’s Undoing Borders Campaign?

I’d say context is again important. What is a Border? The usual narrative from Western states is that they are for safety, or even control, sovereignty, etc. Borders are, however, a very new phenomena which was designed to benefit and maintain the colonial states. The logic of this structure, the world system of neo-colonial power, manifests itself within current institutions. The campaign is about confronting this legacy and the current status quo. In the UK, the Home Secretary at the time, Theresa May, announced her ‘Hostile Environment’ which is a useful concept to describe this continuous logic of the British state. This is what the campaign is fighting against:

  • We are against the surveillance that the Home Office forces universities to take part in. We want to end data sharing with the Home Office.
  • We want universities to recognise the financial barriers that are in place for international students by offering bursaries and financial support.
  • We want to turn against racist narratives that have been produced by media institutions and governments – constructing the universities as a safe sanctuary for migrants.


“Anyone concerned with justice should be concerned with the injustices of their day-to-day space”

How prevalent are the issues of border control in our University?

Very prevalent. All institutions across the British state have been turned into a weapon in implementing a hostile environment for migrants. From the NHS supercharge to surveillance in schools, the University is no different in monitoring students and restricting freedom, having fees only afforded to a certain class of students and constructing a space that is hostile to non-white students. Anyone concerned with justice should be concerned with the injustices of their day-to-day space, and universities, like Nottingham, contribute to global injustice by following the Home Office in construction of the Hostile Environment.

Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted border controls in universities?

So, monitoring has stopped for now. Seminars and lecturers have obviously gone online and a lot of departments have stopped monitoring for attendance. Obviously, this is not a blanket statement and there could be exceptions. The major campaign movement for ‘Undoing Borders’ is making sure the monitoring is not put back in place. Monitoring and data sharing with the Home Office does nothing to further education and that is exactly why students are at universities. Why are some students monitored and threatened with action that their peers are not? The universities have a duty not to go back to the system that was in place before. It’s a big fight but is winnable.

How can students get involved?

Educate yourself. Talk to your friends. Then, follow the pages and join the P & P group at your university and become active in the ‘Undoing Borders’ campaign. There is a new one here in Nottingham, if you are at a university without one, start one! Injustices are only resisted through collective action.

Ellie Stainforth-Mallison

Featured image courtesy of People and Planet.  No changes made to this image.

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