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No borders on a fragile planet.

Introducing four lay models of social psychological precarity to support global human identification and citizenship


Measures such as Identification with all humanity (IWAH) and global identification and citizenship (GHIC) are positivity correlated with measures of humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism and environmental concern. Research using these measures suggests that most citizens have low-global identification scores. This article sheds light on this finding by investigating how global identification relates to precarity and migration (neither of which are measured in the IWAH/GHIC).

The study conducted in England, Scotland and Sweden introduces a qualitative dialogical approach to GHIC. This involves measuring migration-mobility in dialogical interviews and controlling and removing borders on world maps—using an interactive world mapping task (N = 23). Participants articulate four social representations relating to a fragile earth, enduring colonial settler/native conflict, ingroup/outgroup conflict or, in contrast, a cooperative plentiful planet where borders are unnecessary. Such social representations demonstrate the importance of planetary consciousness and relate to four lay models of social psychological precarity related to intergroup competition, global conflict, economic rationality and human-made borders.

In conclusion, all participants employ lay models of social psychological precarity when discussing sovereignty, migration and belonging. We recommend psychologists investigating GHIC include measures of social psychological precarity and migration-mobility.


Measures such as Identification with all humanity (IWAH) and global identification and citizenship (GHIC) are positively correlated with measures of humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism and environmental concern. Despite this promise, most citizens, as these studies readily admit, have low global identification scores. The present study, conducted in England, Scotland and Sweden, argues that understanding both migration-mobility and social psychological dimensions of precarity has the potential to increase global identification, citizenship and cross-border cooperation more generally.

We propose the cross-border nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and refugee-related forced migration has exposed the world's precarity and point to the importance of studies into the relationship between bordering and social psychological precarity. As this Special Issue explores, social psychology has the potential to open up and deepen conceptualizations of the way that precarity is understood beyond individualizing ‘blame’ discourses (Coultas et al., 2022). The field of empirical psychological study into precarity is too nascent to offer definitions, however, as an initial point of departure, social psychological precarity can be understood as locating uncertainty and unpredictability within self-other and self-world relations. Understanding people's sense of social psychological precarity in relation to controlling borders helps to understand decisions to impose borders on the world to restrict and control migration and other resources, as well as the desire to remove borders to increase cooperation and collaboration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has simultaneously resulted in high levels of cross-border cooperation, for example gene sequencing and vaccine development, as well as high levels of protectionism in the form of vaccine hoarding, the relative failure of vaccine sharing and re-bordering to restrict migration and travel. The study presented here is located within these oppositional tensions between open-border cooperation, nation-bordered and regional cooperation and closed-border protection.

The study is dialogical in design, analysing citizens' decisions to control or remove borders when given the opportunity to rule the world during an interactive worldview mapping task. Exploring citizen decision making when in this hyperagentic position begins to examine how migration-mobility (degree of migration on a continuum from generational non-mobility to serial migration; Mahendran, 2013), and social psychological precarity can support studies into GHIC. The current study builds a dialogue between two distinct lines of research preoccupied with border crossing. First, the social and political psychology of global human identification and citizenship (GHIC; Loy et al., 2022; McFarland, 2011; McFarland et al., 2012) which is preoccupied with symbolic identity-related boundaries. Second, transdisciplinary critical-reflexive approaches to migration studies concerned with cross-national-border movement (Dahinden, 2016; Favell, 2019; Paret & Gleeson, 2016; Schiller et al., 2006; Schinkel, 2018).

The study asks two questions:

Does migration-mobility impact on how individuals enact global human identification when controlling/removing global borders?

What is the relationship between how individuals' control/remove borders and social psychological precarity?

Three theoretical steps are taken to locate these two questions. First, we make the case for global identification to consider planetary consciousness. In the second step, this is related to reflexive migration research. In the third step, existing studies into precarity are reviewed to support our articulation of some potential dimensions of social psychological precarity.

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