Contesting the shape of political space: an investigation of the "Threat of Asylum" in Britain.
Asylum, Right of
Immigration policy (Analysis)
Asylums (Political aspects)
|Publication:||Name: Refuge Publisher: Centre for Refugee Studies Audience: General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Centre for Refugee Studies ISSN: 0229-5113|
|Issue:||Date: Spring, 2009 Source Volume: 26 Source Issue: 1|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom|
Defined in terms or a national security discourse, Britain's asylum policy facilitates a disturbing dissociation of the asylum seeker from the identity of the refugee. The roots of this discourse can, this paper argues, be understood if the asylum seeker is seen as the site of a clash between two conceptualizations of political space--one that sees only the international state system, marked by the rights of sovereign states and exclusive political spaces, and one that sees a more complicated global political structure, marked by spaces of danger and of opportunity, in which human beings, as such, have a right to demand hospitality and inclusion from the state. Aiming to understand this clash, and the possibilities for moving beyond it, this paper analyzes British asylum policy through the lens of Michel Foucault's account of sovereign biopower in Society Must Be Defended, read together with Giorgio Agamben's work on the homo sacer and spaces of exception. These texts point towards the counter-narrative of the asylum seeker who refuses to disappear into discourses of national security, and who suggests a "rival structure" of political space. Understanding this clash requires uncovering the violence, discernible in British asylum policy, which sustains the international state system and in doing so, creates and marginalizes the asylum seeker. This paper draws out the deeply challenging and complex nature of the "problem of asylum," working against the simplification that a national security discourse imposes on the issue.
Definie en termes de discours autour de la securite nationale, la politique d'asile de la Grande Bretagne facilite la dissociation du demandeur d'asile de l'identite du refugie. Cet article fait valoir que pour comprendre la racine de ce discours, il faut voir le demandeur d'asile comine le point de conflit entre deux conceptualisations de l'espace politique--l'une qui ne voit que le systeme international compose d'etats caracterise par les droits des etats souverains et des espaces politiques exclusifs; et l'autre qui voit une structure politique globale bien plus compliquee, marquee par des espaces de danger et d'opportunites, et ou les etres humains ont le droit de demander l'hospitalite et l'inclusion de la part de l'etat. Dans le but de comprendre ce conflit, et les possibilites de le depasser, cet article analyse la politique du droit d'asile de la Grande Bretagne a travers les lentilles du compte-rendu du bio-pouvoir souverain par Michel Foucault dans Society Must Be Defended, lu de concert avec l'oeuvre de Giorgio Agamden sur le homo sacer et les espaces d'exception. Ces textes pointent vers la contre-narration du demandeur d'asile qui refuse de disparaitre dans les discours sur la securite nationale, et qui au contraire propose une "structure rivale" d'espaces politiques. Pour comprendre ce conflit, il faut enlever la couverture cachant la violence qui peut etre discernee dans la politique d'asile britannique, qui soutient le systeme international d'etats et, ce faisant, cree et marginalise le demandeur d'asile. Cet article met a jour la nature profondement difficile et complexe du << probleme de l'asile >>, et s'insurge contre la simplification qu'un discours de securite national impose sur le probleme.
... we would know far more about life's complexities if we applied ourselves to the close study of its contradictions instead of wasting so much time on similarities and connections, which should, anyway, be self-explanatory. --Jose Saramago, The Cave
There is something disturbing about the severity of the British reaction to asylum seekers. They are described as threats to national security, engendering increasingly strict border controls, are held in detention centres, are the focal point for xenophobic sentiments, and are generally assumed to be something other than refugees. This severity is also conspicuous in the protests of asylum seekers in Britain, especially among those who are detained, which take the form of hunger strikes, riots, escapes, and suicides. Such violence can be understood if the asylum seeker is seen as the site of a clash between two conceptualizations of political space--one that sees only the international state system, marked by the rights of sovereign states and exclusive political spaces, and one that sees a more complicated global political structure, marked by spaces of danger and opportunity, in which human beings, as such, have a right to demand hospitality and inclusion from the state.
Political space is not neatly defined in the way that the international state system suggests. It is chimerical and incoherent, shifting form depending on which activities and whose identities are recognized as political. Looking at political space from the perspective of a figure who finds him/herself on the margins of the international state system reveals both its instability and the violence with which its position of monopoly on political space is asserted. The asylum seeker is one such figure. Along with the refugee, she/he emerges as "a figure of the 'inter'--or in-betweeness--of the human way of being, as a figure of the 'inter' of international relations .... >> (1) The asylum seeker is one site at which the disciplining of the borders of the state and of identity takes place, and therefore at which the character of political space and identity is revealed and consequently also challenged.
Framed by Michel Foucault's account of sovereign biopower in "Society Must Be Defended" read together with Giorgio Agamben's work on the homo sacer and spaces of exception, this paper aims to uncover the violence, discernible in British asylum policy, which sustains the global political order and, in doing so, creates and marginalizes the asylum seeker. It draws out the contradictions that become obvious at the margins of this order, in the movements and claims of asylum seekers, and that suggest a "rival structure" of political space. (2)
The asylum regime, different from the refugee regime, brings a demand for refuge and recognition onto the territory of the state and is consequently more threatening and more directly subject to state efforts at control. (3) Asylum seekers are at odds with the international state system because of their generally clandestine movements across borders and because of their self-assertion, in the moment of demanding asylum from the state, as sovereign individuals and international political actors. The challenge implicit in their presence is countered by biopolitical maneuvering that sets them outside the nation, as a threat to national security. They are fit into the map of the international state system by being placed in a state of exception, where they can be understood according to Agamben's description of the homo sacer--a life divested of all identity except that of being human, excluded from the space of rights and politics. (4) The international state system is traditionally assumed to be all encompassing, to regulate the lives of all people. In the case of asylum seekers, it can only do so by pushing them to the limits of the system, by making them invisible. This violence must be hidden beneath a myth of civility; however the more assertive the violence, the more evident it, and the fragility of the system it supports, becomes. Asylum seekers themselves draw attention to it. Even from within a space of exception, they assert their presence as political subjects and thereby interrupt the discourses that attempt to define them. As objects of biopolitical control and exceptional measures, but also as political subjects, asylum seekers make visible a more complicated picture of overlapping, divergent, and sometimes conflictive political spaces, identities, and narratives.
The challenge that the asylum seeker poses to the normalcy and legitimacy of political space, as defined by the international state system, can be seen in three aspects of the relationship between this figure and the British state. It can be seen in the contradiction between the state's roles of "making live" and "letting die," evident in British asylum policy; in the language of emergency and establishment of a state of exception which, for the most part, constitute the reaction of Britain to asylum seekers and which reveal the challenge posed to the sovereign account of the political; and in the counter-narrative found in the asylum seeker who refuses to disappear into discourses of national security. The transformation of political space suggested by this challenge will be considered in the last section of the paper. This paper will first establish the background of the "problem of asylum," looking at the asylum seeker as he/she appears in international law and United Nations (UN) declarations, and in British law and policy.
The Problem of Asylum
The asylum seeker enters the state as a spectre of a "migration crisis," part of an imprecise category that is neither that of the citizen nor that of the refugee, making claims based on international declarations of human rights in a space dedicated to citizen rights and already defined by the state as a threat. He/she is effectively unprotected by international ideas of obligation and legitimacy, which can act as a check on state behaviour. This ambiguous identity allows asylum seekers to be pushed to the obscure limits of national and international law, rights, and politics.
The transnational movement of asylum seekers is part of a larger trend of global migrations, which is eluding the control of governments and the international state system more generally and is proclaimed, by politicians across the political spectrum, to be unprecedented and menacing. International migration has grown dramatically in volume and scope since the Cold War and has had massive social and economic impacts, becoming a priority security concern in domestic and international politics. (5) These trends are framed as a crisis, generating harsh efforts to prevent unwanted immigration that have nevertheless proved imperfect, due to such factors as the demand for migrant labour and the difficulty of preventing such methods of entry as visa overstay and involvement with human traffickers. (6) This lack of control augments the image of crisis--a "crisis" that will continue for as long as the pressures that drive people to move in search of work and refuge, such as conflict, ecological degradation, and poverty, last. In Britain, the desire to "put migration at the heart of our foreign policy relationships" places migration on par with the traditional issues of high politics, such as war and the national economy, and is demonstrative of this widespread unease. (7)
International agreements suggest that the asylum seeker has a right to request refuge from the state, but go no farther. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, with the modifications adopted in the 1967 Protocol, defines the refugee as a person who, "owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country...." (8) The UN defines the "asylum seeker" as someone who claims refugee status and is waiting for this claim to be decided by the state in which the claim is made. The UN, further, identifies many of the asylum seekers who do not qualify as Convention refugees as "persons of concern" who are fleeing "serious threats to their life and liberty." (9) The position of the asylum seeker in relation to the state tends, however, to be neglected and the category of the asylum seeker to occupy a grey zone between refugee and not-refugee. This is seen, for example, in the rules governing refugeeness, laid out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which state explicitly that refugees must be neutral, apolitical, receptive of aid but not active. (10) Asylum seekers transgress these rules as soon as they demand to be recognized as refugees, necessarily dividing themselves from the category of the refugee.
Human rights documents that could be expected to speak to the position of those excluded from refugeehood demonstrate an ambiguity that allows the asylum seeker to again slip from sight. The Declaration of Human Rights states that all humans "should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood" and that everyone "is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized." (11) The alternative map of political space suggested in such statements is, however, reconciled with the traditional map of the international state system through a series of moves that leave the asylum seeker largely unprotected by standards of international legitimacy. These include articles that provide for a state of emergency, allowing for derogation from the Bill for the public good, leaving the definition of an emergency and the public good to the determination of states. (12) Ambiguity is also present in the prohibition of arbitrary detention, except in accordance with the law. (13) The law of the state is left as the ultimate author of the political.
One of the defining characteristics of the state is control of the physical spaces in and through which one can legally move. The principle of asylum challenges this fundamental characteristic by granting another entity--the individual in search of asylum--the right to move onto the territory of the state. The asylum seeker falls into the space of ambiguity described above when he/she asserts this right against the state. Asylum policy in Britain manifests as an issue of national security and public well-being. British policy documents and legislation relating to asylum therefore focus almost exclusively on deterrence and control rather than on humanitarianism, asylum, and rights. The current situation is described in crisis terms, with asylum seekers often framed as frauds, as something other than refugees and, sometimes, discursively coupled with "terrorists and others intent on harm." (14) This language of crisis is joined by that of exceptional measures. In 2002 it was announced that Tony Blair had taken over control of asylum policy and was considering, among other measures, deploying warships to fend off asylum seekers trying to reach Britain with the aid of traffickers. (15) The aggressive nature of this response has only augmented since 2002 and is generally supported, and in turn conditioned, by public opinion and the British press. (16)
The language of the five-year strategy for asylum and immigration, entitled "Controlling Our Borders" Making Migration Work for Britain," released by the Home Office in 2005, is oriented around policing, securing borders, and safeguarding the national interest, presenting asylum seekers and others who enter illegally as a major threat that the Home Office is committed to dealing with. (17) This strategy includes increasing the number of failed asylum applicants detained until it "becomes the norm that those who fail can be detained." It also proposes to take a tougher stance on removals through, for example, making clear to the governments of source countries that "failure to co-operate [by receiving failed asylum claimants] will have repercussions." Removals of principal asylum applicants increased by 237 per cent between 1996 and 2006, with the largest numbers removed to Iraq, Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. (18) This strategy, moreover, aims to minimize contact with asylum seekers in the first place, by "exporting ... [British] borders around the world" with the aim of preventing asylum seekers from physically getting to British soil. (19) Though numbers continue to fluctuate, there was a recent drop in the number of asylum seekers entering Europe more generally, but particularly in Britain, where the lowest yearly intake of asylum seekers since 1993 was experienced in 2007. This is presented in the light of an achievement by the Home Office. (20) Whether the toughening of the asylum system in Britain has prevented "fraudulent" asylum seekers or "legitimate" asylum seekers from entering Britain is not considered. A strategy that focuses on detention and removal, and that makes it more difficult to enter Britain to claim asylum, is indicative of a system oriented towards national security rather than humanitarian concerns. (21)
Defined by the state as a threat and a fraud, the asylum seeker is distanced from the category of the refugee, allowing the state to approach the asylum seeker according to the imperatives of state security and sovereignty, rather than human security, without losing face internationally. British asylum policy displays the sovereign logic that works to recapture anomalies, netting them with categories that fit them into a map of sovereign nation-states. In the case of asylum seekers, this amounts to their disappearance as seekers of asylum under definitions that mark them as threats to the nation.
The democratic nation-state is Janus-faced, presenting the paternal face of protection to the nation and the harsh face of the sovereign to those excluded from it. The contradictory characters of these two faces are reconciled by the idea of their radical separation; however this idea is made vulnerable by the unreliability of anything "two-faced." This tension is evinced in the state's response to asylum, which advertises itself as building a wall of protection around the people who belong to the state. At the same time, it reveals the sovereign power of the state to which every citizen is bound, bringing to light the state's dual role of threat and protector.
"Making Live" and "Letting Die"
A central myth of the modern nation-state describes it as a space of unity, order, and civility in which life is able to flourish, in contrast to the anarchical, violent, international space that lies outside its borders. (22) The violence of exclusion and exception, however, is required to manage the border between national unity and external threat, such that the state of nature where "anything can happen," which is described as prior and external to the state, hides within it. (23) In order for the state to appear as the protector of life and order, this violence must disappear. The exclusion of the asylum seeker from the space of politics and rights is one of the acts of state power that must be buried under other stories--stories of "making live." (24)
Foucault describes the political power operative within the modern democratic state as existing in three forms: sovereign power, disciplinary power, and biopower; or ultimate power vested in a sovereign entity by the people, normative power applied to the individual man-as-body [sic], and power applied to the collective body of man-as-species [sic], to the population. More specifically, Biopower refers to the exercise of power to nurture and protect the life of the nation, through the regulation of collective political and biological phenomena such as national identity and processes of birth, death, and production. (25) The first and last forms of power conflict as sovereign power's right over life and death, which is manifested as the right to "let live and make die," gets tangled with biopower's role of "making live and letting die." (26)
In order to make biopower work in concert with sovereign power, Foucault tells us that state racism is needed. (27) "State racism" offers an apt description of the relationship between the state and the asylum seeker. It refers to the discourse that creates a struggle between the race that wields power and defines social norms and the race that deviates from these norms and thereby threatens the biological identity, in other words the national identity, of the society. (28) Asylum seekers fall into this latter category. As non-citizens who enter the state to demand rights and recognition, they are deviants and constitute an invasion of the pure space of the nation. Racism functions to divide the population into those who the state must protect and nurture--the People--and those who can be detained, placed outside the law and exposed to death in order for the People to live, that is, to exist as more than just a collection of individuals. (29) This division of the population is part of the discourse of national security. The mantra of war--for the People to live, the other must die--becomes the mantra that the other must disappear or be excluded in order for the purity, vitality, and security of the People to be upheld. (30) Under the auspices of biopower, both internal and external security practices concentrate increasingly on "the enemy within," who is generally equated with the unwanted immigrant, the outsider who is also an insider. (31) That the state cannot achieve complete control over entry to its territory is not important to its security efforts, which are more concerned with creating and protecting the national border. (32) While British asylum policy proposes to achieve a completely airtight state border, this is generally admitted to be impossible and even, from an economic point of view, given the reliance of the economy on illegal migrant labour, undesirable. (33) What this policy achieves with greatest effect is the division of the population within the state. The continued transgression of the territorial border is, in fact, necessary to the security project from which the state draws legitimacy, as it creates "the enemy within." (34)
The discourse of threat to, and protection of, a distinct national identity is present in the text of British border policy. The new policy direction for 2007 is described, for example, as "building progressively to a robust, secure, risk-based system of identity management" in order to "safeguard people's identity and the privileges of citizenship." (35) Management of the border between the British identity and other identities, in order to determine who belongs and who does not, is a central element of British policy initiatives oriented towards the protection of the nation. This management will occur as part of the National Identity System, through the use of biometric identity documents, which are central to the modern biopolitical project. These will be phased in over the next few years to function as internal borders. They will be checked by employers, government agencies, government service providers, and police--who are increasingly making use of mobile biometric readers to determine from people's fingerprints whether they are illegal. (36) Biometric technologies resolve the problem of practically identifying the enemy/other, which, in multi-ethnic states, can no longer be done on the basis of observable characteristics. They also hide their discriminatory function behind an objective, technological face. (37)
The politics of division is also evident in the dichotomy that is established in British policy documents to separate the good migrant--a source of benefit for the British nation--and the bad migrant--a source of harm. This language appears, for example, in a statement made by the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, which reads: "we need to ensure that we let in migrants with the skills and talents to benefit Britain, while stopping those trying to abuse our hospitality and place a burden on our society.... " (38) The dichotomy generally appears in a form that explicitly links the good migrant with legality, vital economic contributions, and tax support for the welfare system, and the bad migrant with illegality, fraud, abuse of the welfare system, a flood of un-British values, organized international crime, and terrorism--in other words, with threat to the population. (39) In the words of a Refugee Council report, a constructed link between asylum seekers and negative subjectivities, particularly that of the terrorist, has helped to create a community of fear willing to respond to the asylum seeker through harsher, exceptional measures. (40) The linkage of the asylum seeker to negative subjectivities makes the asylum seeker distinctly other and provides a generically threatening identity that can be called to mind whenever one is forced to remember him/ her. Hiding the asylum seeker beneath these negative categories is a necessary feature of state racism because in "the grammar of the biopolitical, 'one not only forgets the face of the other, but one must also forget that one has forgotten.'" (41) the asylum seeker is turned into a generic symbol of threat, without individual subjectivity and so without a face that could be forgotten.
The corollary of creating an other that can legitimately be subjected to the sovereign power to "make die" is the creation of the nation as a unified, distinct entity that can, and should, be protected. Defined in terms of explicit rules and associated values, the state has only a thin identity, one into which outsiders could integrate with relative ease. The national identity, based on myths of historical continuity and familial bonds, gives the state a thicker identity and thereby draws a reassuring dividing line between inside and outside. (42) The character of this identity escapes the need for definition, standing in relief against an outside threat. Moreover, discord and conflict, including that which is authored by the state under the auspices of "exception," are exported to the outside, onto such externalizable bodies as the asylum seeker. (43) Jef Huysmans explains that existential threats are part of a "peculiar process of constituting a political community of the established that seeks to secure unity and identity by instituting existential insecurity." (44) This process is underscored when the security measures taken in response to the threat from outside are themselves written into the text of the national identity. In a speech delivered by Liam Byrne, Minister of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, in June 2007, the National Identity System is said to be the modern equivalent of the nineteenth century railways and twentieth century national grid--a public good that will quickly weave its way into the nature of British life. (45)
A Blurring of Boundaries
The reconciliation of the contradiction between biopower and sovereign power is fragile and imperfect. A suspicion of the potential universality of the sovereign power to make die, in other words of the state of exception, raises its head as soon as this power is seen to be exercised, as in the case of asylum.
The exercise of sovereign power through the state of exception has traditionally existed, generally in times of war, as the temporally and spatially bounded legal suspension of all specific laws, in order to preserve the nation from what is identified as an existential threat. (46) For asylum seekers, this state is permanent, meaning that the state of exception is always present in democratic political spaces. It both bolsters the continuity of these spaces and the interests they support, and poses a permanent threat to their vitality by standing as their contradiction. (47) The possibility of suspending the law indefinitely points in the direction of Agamben's warning that the exception has spilled over spatial and temporal boundaries to become the rule. (48) That the exercise of sovereign power is constantly required in order for the normalcy it protects to exist means that this power is always in the background and that citizens themselves are in some way subject to it, as well as being party to its exercise. It suggests that citizens are objects of sovereign biopower first, only given the identity and rights of the citizen second. (49) If this is true, then citizens are in an insecure position that is the mirror image of that of the asylum seeker. Biometrics point to this conclusion. They are not used only to divide authentic from "fraudulent" asylum seekers, but to manage all identities, dividing authentic from inauthentic, such that the politics of asylum could be described as "writ large." (50) The nation and the outside inevitably cross into one another. The "space between discourses of belonging and unbelonging blurs, one bleeds into the other, and the logic that informs dichotomous hierarchies of being is exposed for what it is: an alibi for the legitimacy of the project of sovereignty." (51)
The contradiction between the sovereign and biopolitical powers exercised by the state and the omnipresence of sovereign power become evident as soon as the asylum seeker who is subject to the power to make die is recognized. This recognition is inhibited, however, by the nature of spaces of exception themselves, discussed in the following sections, which work to remove the asylum seeker from the political space of the nation and therefore to assert state control over political space and render asylum seekers invisible.
Capturing Political Space in the State of Exception
The asylum seeker unsettles the trinity of territory, state, and nation, which describes the political geography of the nation-state system, (52) by entering the territory of the state despite being prevented from entering the nation and by demanding entry to the nation by right and thereby acting as a sovereign body within a territory presumed to belong solely to a sovereign state. This trinity is reasserted through a national security discourse.
There is a feedback function between security discourses and understandings of political space and subjectivity. The former only make sense in terms of the latter, but the latter relies on the former in order to be reproduced as necessary and normal. Security crises are mobilized in the capture of political space, (53) as is visible in the security discourse surrounding asylum in Britain. However, in the exercise of state power to define the nature of political space can be seen both the power of the state and the instability of its project. Foucault describes this project as one side of a war that permanently divides society in two. The political organization of society is underwritten by relations of war, whereby some are able to "defend their victory and perpetuate it by subjugating others." (54) This war is a struggle not for domination, but to assert political reality. (55) The creation of a state of exception, to which asylum seekers can be relegated, defends the victory of the sovereign nation-state in the determination of political reality; however simultaneously reveals that the shape of political space is contestable.
The "Outside" Inside the State
As, in Barry Buzan's terms, a securitized issue, asylum policy is moved out of the public realm of political debate and is constituted instead as an area of existential threat that calls for actions not subject to public questioning or even to public sight, in other words, actions that occur in an exceptional space. (56) This move functions to exclude asylum seekers, but also to (re)constitute a certain vision of political space.
The space of exception refers to any space in which the ordinary rule of law has been suspended. (57) It exists at the limit of the state--simultaneously excluded from and captured by it. Inside-outside distinctions are made ambiguous in the space of exception, which in fact depends on this ambiguity to create a twilight quality that permits the impermissible and renders anomalies to the nation-state system invisible, or at least indistinct. In this space, the law applies in not applying. It is in this form, as pure law, that it has the greatest force. To be faced with pure law is to be faced with the endless potentiality of the law such that anything can happen without a law being broken--it is to be faced with sovereign power. (58) Asylum seekers are excluded from the space in which the legal rights of citizens operate as a check on state power. Britain deals with asylum seekers through a separate set of rules, which are subject to indefinite change as new policy documents are released, although some of the harshest policy decisions are occasionally ruled against by the courts. (59)
The state of exception does not only manifest as a space in which anything can happen, but also as a space that must remain excluded and invisible in order to exist. Physical and emotional distance must be created between citizens and asylum seekers in order to regulate the boundaries of inside-outside and normal-exceptional. This distance is established through moves that take place in, and create, the state of exception. Paramount among these is the detention of asylum seekers in centres that are remote and prison-like and that place a physical wall between these asylum seekers and the British people. (60) They form part of the internal border of the nation. Importantly, detention centres also function to augment the image of the asylum seeker as criminal, which is sometimes exacerbated by the practice of handcuffing asylum seekers in public. (61) Such moves serve to cement a relationship of fear and difference, setting up physical and psychological boundaries to encounter and making the state of exception seem necessary while causing what happens within it to disappear.
Detention centres are paradigmatic examples of spaces of exception. They house thousands of asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be processed or waiting to be deported--a wait that is indefinite, sometimes amounting to eighteen months or more. (62) (Detention centres operate like prisons, making use of solitary confinement, strip searches, and a general atmosphere of punishment, but without the safeguards of prisons, lacking the suicide prevention strategy of the prison system, having lower health care standards, and falling largely under private sector control. (63) The use of detention in Britain has been heavily criticized for infringing on human rights and failing to meet British standards of lawful detention, and has suffered a series of scandals, including riots, accusations of abusive treatment, and suicides. (64) Recently, there were disturbances at the Harmondsworth and Campsfield detention centres. Detainees engaged in hunger strikes and, at Campsfield, fires were lit and several among those detained escaped. (65) The exceptional treatment to which asylum seekers are subject can also be seen, more generally, in the fast-tracking of claims presumed to be unfounded, which denies the right to an in-country appeal, the poor quality of decisions, the absence of judicial oversight of the decision to detain an asylum seeker, which can be based on random selection and the number of spaces available in detention centres, the curtailment of publicly funded legal aid, and the limited access asylum seekers have to information about their case or about any legal recourse open to them. (66) A space of exception is also evident in the underground lives of failed asylum claimants who are not detained and who have not signed up for voluntary return. These people are cut off from access to welfare support, as well as being denied the legal right to work, and end up destitute or working in poor conditions in the underground economy. (67) The use of biometric identification will mean that these people, who have often lived in Britain for years, will face the omnipresent risk of being picked up off the street, out of schools, or at work to be detained and deported. Pushing these bodies to the limit of political space, into the realm of the exception, contains the outside inside the state and serves to re-establish the split in the population between those of the nation and those not of the nation.
Along with internal bordering mechanisms that establish spaces of exception within the state, Britain has expressed an interest in creating external spaces of exception that would be even less visible. In 2003, Britain proposed that the UNHCR, together with the EU, establish "Regional Protection Areas," which would be set up in unstable areas to provide protection for fleeing populations, and "off-territory Transit Processing Centres" outside EU borders, where asylum seekers would be detained and their claims processed, although the proposal for the latter has since been dropped. Both would remove the asylum seeker from the territory of the state, where it is difficult to render them, and the practices used to exclude them, entirely invisible. (68)
The pervasive use of exceptional measures has become necessary in order to defend the conception of political space that links state, nation, and territory to form an international state system that divides the world into exclusive political units. "The camp [the space in which the exception becomes the rule] is the fourth, inseparable element that has now added itself to--and so broken--the old trinity composed of the state, nation (birth), and land." (69) It serves to reconstitute the link between state, nation, and territory by containing the residual to the political system this link describes; however it also upsets this link by showing its imperfection. The space of exception exists, therefore, as a site of "dislocating localization" at the heart of the state. (70
The Instability of the Sovereign Project
While it defends the sovereignty of the international state system, the state of exception also functions as a site of resistance to it. (71) It demonstrates the need for a defense, indicates the existence of conceptions of political space different from those that are "sovereign," and exposes the sovereign state that uses exceptional measures to the risk of being accused of criminal actions.
Sovereignty is supposed to go unquestioned, therefore defending it points to its vulnerability. The efficacy of a defense of sovereignty, which occurs through the labour of marginalizing anomalies, relies on its being forgotten. (72) While rationality is built up on top of the violence and contradictions that characterize exceptional measures, making them forgettable, it forms an imperfect cover. As it constructs justifications that explain increasingly harsh measures and that take it further from this discord, this rationality gets "more and more fragile, more and more wicked, more and more bound up with illusions, chimeras, and mystification." (73) In the almost hysterical harshening of border and asylum policy in Britain, desperation seems to take the place of control. The more severe the measures taken, the more obvious and graceless the effort to capture political space becomes.
Crisis situations are the foil against which the stability and desirability of normalcy are thrown into relief, and yet they challenge the permanence of normalcy by being pointed to as a crisis, an exception. They highlight what does not fit into dominant discourses and therefore indicate the possibility of conceptualizing political space and subjectivity in different ways. In other words, the "state of emergency is also always a state of emergence." (74) The state's decision to approach the entry of asylum seekers into the state as a crisis, calling for exceptional measures, indicates that asylum seekers are aberrations to the normal order of politics and therefore necessarily pose a challenge to the sovereignty of the nation-state. Exceptional spaces themselves act as aberrations, or exceptions, such that "a system of sovereign, contiguous, discrete, and exclusive nation-states" is no longer a perfectly apt description of global political space, if it ever was. (75) They are the outside inside the state. (76)
Spaces of exception are not only damaging to the asylum seekers placed within them, but also to the policy makers who put them there. Agamben writes that the Sovereign itself exists in a permanent state of exception. That the sovereign state is the maker of laws places it, paradoxically, both inside and outside the law. The state declares the law to be absolute and yet has the power to suspend it, to decide on the exception. (77) By creating an exception in which policies of indefinite detention and forced deportation become possible, the state goes outside the law and therefore risks being branded as criminal just as the asylum seeker has been branded by the state. (78) This kind of challenge is seen in the literature and protests of organizations that work with asylum or human rights related issues. (79) While the balance is tipped in favour of the legitimacy of the state's actions with regards to asylum seekers, this challenge draws attention to the contentious nature of these actions and threatens to damage their legitimacy.
While the state of exception channels an exercise of power that aims to concretize the boundaries of sovereign political space, it creates a space on the periphery that challenges the state even as it asserts its authority, that is neither outside nor inside, legal nor illegal, with those inside it caught between entry and exit, and so effectively helps to disorder these boundaries. (80) In the disorder caused by the state of exception, the nation-state is revealed as a contestable unit of political space, lacking ontological status and existing only, albeit compellingly, in the acts that constitute and defend its reality. (81)
Interrupting Sovereign Stories: From Homo Sacer to Political Agent
Removed from the national space in which voices can be heard and political interaction is possible, asylum seekers are inhibited from acting as political agents; however even from within this space of exception, they are able to assert their presence and to issue a challenge to the traditional structure of international political space.
The asylum seeker who is banned from political space to a space of exception can be described as homo sacer, or bate life, a life that can be killed without homicide being committed. (82) Bare life is life stripped of all identity except that of being human. As such, it is de-subjectified, without political identity, rights, or agency. "Just as the law, in the sovereign exception, applies to the exceptional case in no longer applying ... so homo sacer ... is included in the community in the form of being able to be killed." (83) The asylum seeker, as bare life, is an object of unease and subject of repression.
The concept of national sovereignty locates sovereignty in the life of the citizen. This location of sovereignty rests on a fiction that joins birth to entry into the nation, such that there is no separation between the two concepts. This means that the human becomes "the immediately vanishing ground (who must never come to light as such) of the citizen" such that human rights become citizen rights. (84) Asylum seekers, unless they are made invisible, make this fiction obvious. (85) While held up as threats to national security, the fear that attaches to them runs deeper. In existing as bare life, they demonstrate the vulnerability and rightlessness of the human and cause those within the nation to cling more tightly to the assurance of their citizenship. Asylum seekers exist in the in-between of political space; shadow figures that are inhibited from taking shape as legitimate political agents until they re-enter the category of citizen--the only category of political subjectivity that is typically recognized. (86)
Placing certain bodies, as bare life, in a relation of exception with the state functions to ban them from speaking and acting politically. (87) Their presence as political subjects seeking asylum is denied such that stories matching the citizen to the human can ring out clearly. They are described out of existence and a different script--of lawlessness and trickery--is spoken for them. Citizenship is not only a legal category. It is also defined in terms of certain practices or modes of being. (88) Spaces of exception work to prevent asylum seekers from displaying these modes of being--including belonging to a community or contributing to economic processes within the state, making rights claims, and engaging in political speech--by rendering them silent,
invisible, and isolated. The violence of exclusion and exception is itself made less visible by the fact that those who already, in a way, do not exist cannot be excluded or subject to exceptional treatment. When rendered subjectless and voiceless, the asylum seeker's exposure to suffering also becomes invisible and meaningless. (89) Under the rubric of exception, the British state cannot be responsible for homicide, violence, or even complicity in a death brought about by suicide. The logic of the sovereign ban consists of "the permissible violent inscription of sovereignty on the bodies of those who have been reduced to bare life ... [those who] are present, but their presence is absence." (90)
The movements and claims of asylum seekers can only be fit into the map of the international state system by being forced to disappear as bare life behind a discourse of threat. Treated as bare life, however, asylum seekers are turned into symbols of the vulnerability of life under the rule of the sovereign and of the violence on which the sovereign political order rests. To the extent that asylum seekers resist attempts to isolate and silence them, this vulnerability and violence become difficult to ignore.
Sovereign power is the power of capture--the capture, internalization, and domestication of what already exists. (91) It must always contend with the danger that what is captured will speak with its own voice and be heard. The bodies of asylum seekers have eluded capture to some extent, carrying the echo of a different politics even while they are categorized as threats, invaders, economic migrants, victims, or potential-citizens in an attempt to fit them into the narratives of the sovereign state. The asylum seeker is created through the conceptual work of categorizing, or boundary-drawing, but is simultaneously redrawing these boundaries. The very presence of the asylum seeker rendered as bare life speaks a challenge, stretching the bounds of political subjectivity. It is, in fact, this "production of 'presence' by those without power" that presents the most significant challenge to the exclusivity of citizenship. (92)
Agamben's description of bare life as lacking political subjectivity does not account for the politics of presence or the voice that breaks through the barriers of sovereign capture. (93) These moments of resistance are enough to stimulate a sense of unease, which fuels the hysteria characteristic of public discourse about asylum seekers. Trapped in a space of exception, bare, physical life can itself become a ground for political communication, as seen, for example, in the fifty-six or more suicides committed by asylum seekers detained in Britain since 1990 and, at the time of writing, occurring at a rate of one a month, the numerous hunger strikes held by detainees protesting the conditions of detention centres, the riots involving burned buildings and escapes, which turn invisible bodies into actively fleeing bodies, or the protest of a detained asylum seeker who sutured shut his eyelids and lips. (94) Different stories can be inscribed on these events, however stories of deviance and delinquency begin to ring hollow as the number of instances--in which the bare life of asylum seekers is turned into a symbol of protest, often echoed by an outcry from human rights groups--mounts. The subjectivity of the other cannot be completely erased. It rises through the threatening identity painted over it, evidence of the exceptional measures used against it. In asserting agency in the form of protest, those who are not citizens, and who are therefore not recognized as political agents, claim the subjectivity of the citizen and thereby put pressure on the boundaries of citizenship. (95)
When the subjectivity of asylum seekers is made visible, their decision to move, or "escape," emerges as a direct critique of the divisions of international political space. (96) Moreover, their suffering and protest within the state they have escaped to takes flight as a cry against the continuous, violent capture of political space by the state, which renders their escape meaningless. An encounter between citizens and asylum seekers then becomes difficult to avoid, as does the challenge asylum seekers pose. It is always through encountering the other that we learn about the stories we exist within. As Etienne Balibar writes, "even as they are 'from elsewhere,' [they] are also completely 'from here.'" They are "today's proletarians." (97)
The movement of asylum seekers across borders can be understood as an ontological activity. (98) It draws the self and other into a meeting, which is the basic moment in which new possibilities of being, or of seeing the self and the other, are formed. Their bodies push against the traditional, sovereign shapes of political space as they move through and between them. Along with the movement of these bodies, sovereign political space and the citizen also move. (99) This meeting of self and other is currently characterized by banishment and exception, which places the sovereign state and the citizen in a strained position of contradiction. The "imperatives of the political imaginary of the British state ... are concluded in a narrative that holds the line, so to speak, that holds the one who seeks refuge over the horizon, literally and figuratively. It desires a narrative in which there is no rupture, an identity in which there is no ambiguity." (100) And yet the other who must be hidden in order for the narrative to run smoothly is always in the peripheral vision of those following this narrative, challenging its simplicity. In the presence of asylum seekers, and perhaps more in our response to them, the political map determined by sovereign biopolitical power, which counts on their disappearance, begins to surface as something unstable. An awareness of the contradictions and violence used to maintain it begins to needle at the complacency of normal life, shaking its foundations and its image of civility. Rendering life bare may, in the end, be impossible.
Sketch of a Transformed Political Order
A revision of political space that would meet the challenge posed by the asylum seeker is worth considering, given the violence and contradiction that is necessary in order for it to be ignored. Asylum seekers' demands for refuge and recognition as human beings with political rights calls upon a conception of political space defined according to the principle of asylum, whose corollary must be hospitality, and according to the notion of human rights, which locates sovereignty in human life and does not define political subjectivity in terms of exclusion. This rebellious discourse, like the sovereign discourse of the state, is not based on truth or right, but on its ability to convince and to capture. (101) As suggested in the preceding sections, the force of this discourse, spoken through the movements, demands, and presence of asylum seekers, is demonstrated by its unsettling ability to draw attention to the contradictions of the sovereign political order and to create a space outside of this order that elicits continuous, imperfect efforts to recapture it.
The challenge posed by the asylum seeker can be elucidated by placing it in the context of the communitarian-cosmopolitan debate, which dominates discussions of whether and how the organization of political space should change. It is beyond the ambit of this paper to delve too deeply into the well-worn debate between the communitarian and cosmopolitan positions; however insofar as the asylum seeker challenges us to rethink these categories, a brief sketch, positioning the vision of political space suggested by the asylum seeker within this debate, is in order. In very rough terms, communitarianism captures the sentiment that states and those within them have a moral responsibility towards citizens before non-citizens, while cosmopolitanism is based on the instinct that moral obligations are to all humans, regardless of citizenship. The asylum seeker, in demanding the "right to have rights" (102) by virtue of his/her humanity, represents a cosmopolitan instinct, but in asking to enter the political community of the state, suggests the pertinence of communitarian value structures as well. This ambivalence resonates with the pervasive sense that both arguments give voice to an important moral intuition. The demands and movements of the asylum seeker suggest the inadequacy of the debate between the poles of cosmopolitanism and communitarianism. The challenge they pose is not an appeal for a borderless global community, as it is sometimes perceived to be, but rather for a fluid conception of community. More specifically, it seems to call for the denationalizing of citizenship, such that it is recognized to reside in anyone acting within a certain political space. (103) This call is seen in the asylum seeker's demand for the state's protection, for entry to the nation, and for the rights that, while termed human rights, manifest as citizen rights, as well as in their self-assertion as political subjects. Asylum seekers call for an expansion of the parameters of citizenship, demanding that the recognition and institution of citizen rights be located on the border instead of within it. (104) In other words, they call for citizenship to be renegotiated, according to the terms of hospitality, wherever a border is called into being to separate citizens from non-citizens, that is, wherever the other is encountered. Political community would thus become a continuously shifting concept, but inclusion would nonetheless be determined on the basis of concrete demands. (105) This challenge is not a call to bring down the state, but rather to accept as normal the permanent uncertainty of the blurring of inside and outside and to open a space for a limitless proliferation of insides and outsides, of potential communities and sites of negotiation. (106)
The vision of a more inclusive and more complex map of political space is, in fact, emerging in spaces and understandings that have slid into the map of political space, challenging the absolutism of the international state system. The "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and "Sanctuary City" initiatives, for example, have turned certain cities into solid representations of denationalized spaces in which inside-outside distinctions are blurred. Through these initiatives, essential services are provided to residents of cities by virtue of their presence, not their status. (107) The pressure that is being exerted on the international political order, in the movements and claims of asylum seekers, is powerful and is making ambiguous who is inside "the boundaries of civic and moral obligation" and who is within the space of rights. (108)
This is, admittedly, a rather compressed discussion of what a transformation of political space, in line with the challenge posed by the asylum seeker, might look like. It serves, however, to illustrate that essential to this transformation would be the decline of the nation, which is tied to the practice of state racism; the adoption of a skeptical attitude towards the sovereignty of the international state system, tied to a recognition of alternative, albeit nascent, forms of political space and subjectivity; and the recognition of the other who enters the political community, and claims political voice within it, as a citizen. While the entirety of the vision it calls for may remain elusive, the challenge conveyed by asylum seekers shakes the legitimacy of established structures and, moreover, gives rise to new forms of political space and subjectivity that emerge alongside and within these structures, denying their sovereign authority.
The difficulty of controlling the movement of asylum seekers and the enduring nature of the conditions that cause people to move across international borders mean that the tension between the sovereign account of the political and the account of the contradictions and violence of sovereign political space, evident in the movements of asylum seekers, is not about to fade. In the face of the contradiction between the British state's roles of safeguarding life and of banning life to a space of exception, the increasing desperation of moves to contain the asylum seeker and assert a traditional view of political space, and the assertion of political presence and rights on the part of the asylum seeker, the shape of political space may be driven into a more inclusive form.
On the other hand, the crisis of asylum and the exceptional response it elicits may be drawn out far into the future; or in Agamben's words, the exception may be becoming the rule. (109) The longer it takes to turn our gaze towards this crisis, over which stories of necessity and legitimacy are being heaped, the longer the bodies of those who do not fit into the map of the international state system will suffer the violence needed to make them invisible. If we take an interest in these bodies and in our own authenticity, then "it is precisely this topological zone of indistinction, which had to remain hidden from the eyes of justice, that we must try to fix under our gaze." (110) To gaze in this way is to acknowledge and return the gaze of the asylum seeker, which contains a challenge to reconceptualize political space such that the asylum seeker is able to enter it as one of an "us" that becomes unstable. While this vision of change is mythical, the chronically immanent question "is it possible," which greets all visions of change, is increasingly becoming a question that can be asked with regard to the continuance of the current ordering of political space. The violence required to transform what is currently normal may be less than the violence that is needed to sustain it.
(1.) Michael Dillon in Peter Nyers, Rethinking Refugees: Beyond States of Emergency (New York: Routledge, 2006), 46.
(2.) Robert W. Cox, "Social Forces, States and World Orders:
Beyond International Relations Theory," Millennium: Journal of International Studies 10, no. 2 (1981): 127-130.
(3.) While the refugee, another "figure of the inter of international relations," is also an interesting subject for analysis, this paper takes the asylum seeker as its focus. Refugees differ from asylum seekers in two important respects. They are defined in less ambiguous terms, already labelled as victims and legitimate recipients of humanitarian aid and, at the same rime, are more easily ignored by "Western" states as they exist in refugee camps that are distant from the territory, and jurisdiction, of these states, only coming into contact with them when selected as part of an annual resettlement quota. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), "Basic Facts," 2007,
(4.) Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998).
(5.) Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller, The Age of Migration, 3rd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 2-4, 94.
(6.) Teresa Hayter, Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls, 2nd ed. (London: Pinto Press, 2004), 97; Castles and Miller, 94-120.
(7.) Home Office (HO) and Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Managing Global Migration: A strategy to build stronger international alliances to manage migration (Central Office of Information, 2007), 2.
(8.) UNHCR, "Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees" 2006,
(9.) UNHCR in Nyers, 60; BBC, "Who are asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants?" 2004,
(10.) Nyers, 118.
(11.) Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," 1948,
(12.) OHCHR, "Declaration"; OHCHR, "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," 1966,
(13.) OHCHR, "Covenant."
(14.) HO & FCO, A strategy, 8.
(15.) Matthew J. Gibney, The Ethics and Politics of Asylum: Liberal Democracy and the Response to Refugees (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 107-108.
(16.) Roy Greenslade, "Seeking Scapegoats: The Coverage of Asylum in the UK Press," in Asylum and Migration Working Paper Series, ed. H. Crawley and D. Sriskandarajah (London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2005).
(17.) HO, "Controlling Our Borders: Making Migration Work For Britain--Charles Clarke Sets Out Five Year Strategy For Immigration And Asylum," 2005,
(18.) Home Office Border & Immigration Agency (BIA), "Asylum Statistics," 2006,
(19.) Ibid.; HO, Borders, Immigration and Identity Action Plan: Using the National Identity Scheme to strengthen our borders and enforce compliance within the UK (Central Office of Information, 2006), 10.
Measures that "export the border" include visa requirements for nationals of countries that are major sources of asylum seekers and tines for airlines and passenger ships found to have carried people without proper entrance papers into Britain; (Gibney, 122-125).
(20.) HO & FCO, A strategy, 6; BIA, "Asylum Statistics"; HO, "Protecting the Public, Securing our Future: A New Home Office for the 21st Century," 2007,
(21.) Refugee Council (RC), Refugee Council Briefing: The New Asylum Model (London: Refugee Council, 2007); David J. Whittaker, Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the Contemporary World: The Making of the Contemporary World (London: Routledge, 2006), 41.
(22.) See, for example, Richard K. Ashley, "Untying the Sovereign State: A Double Reading of the Anarchy Problematique," Millennium: Journal of International Studies 17, no.2 (1988): 227-262; Hans Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956); Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State and War: A Theoretical Analysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); R. B. J. Walker, Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory, Cambridge Studies in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
(23.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 106-107.
(24.) Michel Foucault, "Society Must Be Defended," trans. D. Macey, ed. M. Bertani and A. Fontana, in Lectures at the College de France, 1975-76, ed. F. Ewald and A. Fontana (New York: Picador, 2003).
(25.) Ibid., 242-246.
(26.) "Making die" does not simply mean murder, but also the exposure of someone to death, expulsion, rejection, and so on; (Foucault, 247, 254, 256).
(27.) Ibid., 254.
(28.) Ibid., 61.
(29.) Anne Orford, "Abject Spaces: Frontiers, Zones, Camps," in The Logics of Biopower and the War on Terror, ed. E. Dauphinee and C. Masters (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 222-223; Seyla Benhabib, The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 18.
(30.) Foucault, 254-255.
(31.) Didier Bigo, "The Mobius Ribbon of Internal and External Security(ies)," in Identities, Borders, Orders: Rethinking International Relations Theory, ed. M. Albert, D. Jacobson and Y. Lapid (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 112, 96.
(32.) Ayse Ceyhan and Anastassia Tsoukala, The Securitization of Migration in Western Societies: Ambivalent Discourses and Policies," Alternatives 27, Special Issue (2002): 33.
(33.) Teresa Hayter, Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls, 2nd ed. (London: Pluto Press, 2004), 97.
(34.) David Campbell, "Introduction: On Dangers and their Interpretation," in Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy anal the Politics of Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 11-12.
(35.) BIA, "Our objectives and values / Protecting the public, securing our future," 2006,
(36.) HO, Action Plan, 3.
(37.) Benjamin J. Muller, "(Dis)qualified Bodies: Securitization, Citizenship and 'Identity Management,"' Citizenship Studies 8, no. 3 (2004): 284.
(38.) FIO, "Controlling Our Borders."
(39.) Jef Huysmans, The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration, and Asylum in the EU, New International Relations series (New York: Routledge, 2006), 3; Bigo, "Mobius Ribbon" 113.
This linkage appears, for example, in the following excerpt: "People who come here legally to work not only supplement vital public services, such as the National Health Service, but also contribute significantly to the gross domestic product. These developments also bring challenges. As with other prosperous and open nations, our country is attractive to people seeking economic and social stability. We face threats from identity fraud, illegal immigration, organized and international crime and global terrorism"; HO, Action Plan, 4.
(40.) Anja Rudiger, Prisoners of Terrorism? The Impact of Antiterrorism Measures on Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Britain (London: Refugee Council, 2007), 7, 45-46.
(41.) James Hately in Elizabeth Dauphinee, "Living, Dying, Surviving II" in The Logics of Biopower and the War on Terror, ed. E. Dauphinee and C. Masters (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 234.
(42.) William Walters, "Secure Borders, Safe Haven, Domopolitics" Citizenship Studies 8, no. 3 (2004): 241-242.
(43.) Bonnie Honig, Democracy and the Foreigner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).
(44.) Huysmans, 47.
(45.) HO, "Securing Our Identity: A 21st Century Public Good" (speech by Liam Byrne, ME Minister of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, to Chatham House, 19 June 2007),
(46.) Carl Schmitt in Agamben, Homo Sacer, 37.
(47.) Etienne Balibar, "Outlines of a Topography of Cruelty: Citizenship and Civility in the Era of Global Violence," Constellations 8, no. 1 (2001): 19.
(48.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 38; Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 86-87.
(49.) Slavoj Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real!: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (London: Verso, 2002), 95.
(50.) Muller, 289-290.
(51.) Dauphinee, 234.
(52.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 174-175.
(53.) Huysmans, 33.
(54.) Foucault, 18.
(55.) Ibid., 225.
(56.) Barry Buzan, "Security Analysis: Conceptual Apparatus" in Security: A New Framework for Analysis, ed. B. Buzan, O. Waever, and J. de Wilde (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998).
(57.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 64, 174.
(59.) See, for example, RC, "High Court rules Home Office in breach of Human Rights Convention", RC 2003,
(60.) Bulent Diken, "From Refugee Camps to Gated Communities: Biopolitics and the End of the City," Citizenship Studies 8, no. 1 (2004): 91, 94.
(61.) BBC, "Food protest by asylum detainees" BBC 2007,
(62.) Ibid..; Amnesty International (AI), "United Kingdom: Seeking Asylum is Nota Crime: Detention of people who have sought asylum," AI 2005,
(63.) Athwal Harmit and Jenny Bourne, "Driven to Despair: Asylum Deaths in the UK," Race and Class 48, no. 4 (2007): 110-112.
(64.) AI, "United Kingdom"; BBC, "Inquiry into riot at asylum centre," BBC 2002,
(65.) BBC, "Campsfield's troubled history," BBC 2007,
(66.) AI, "United Kingdom"; RC, "response"; Diken, 94.
The poor quality of decisions is suggested by the fact that, based on data from 2003, on average, one in five initial decisions were overturned on appeal, in non-fast-tracked cases; AI, "United Kingdom."
(67.) AI, "United Kingdom"; Refugee Council and Refugee Action (RC & RA) Inhumane and Ineffective--Section 9 in Practice; A Joint Refugee Council and Refugee Action report on the Section 9 pilot (London: Refugee Council, 2006); RC, "response".
(68.) HO & FCO, A Strategy, 12; Information Centre About Asylum and Refugees in the UK (ICAR), "Guide to regional protection zones and transit processing centres," ICAR 2005,
(69.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 175-176.
(70.) Ibid., 175.
(71.) Engin F. Isin and Kim Rygiel, "Abject Spaces: Frontiers, Zones, Camps," in The Logics of Biopower and the War on Terror, eds. E. Dauphinee and C. Masters (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): 198.
(72.) R. K. Ashley and R. Walker, "Reading Dissidence/ Writing the Discipline: Crisis and the Question of Sovereignty in International Studies," International Studies Quarterly 34, no. 3 (1990): 390, 412.
(73.) Foucault, 269.
(74.) Homi Bhabha in Nyers, 23.
(75.) Isin and Rygiel, 199.
(76.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 19.
(77.) Ibid., 15, 31-32.
(78.) Agamben, "Security and Terror," Theory and Event 5, no. 4 (2002); Nyers, xii.
(79.) See, for example, AI, "United Kingdom"; Barbed Wire Britain (BWB) "Network to End Migrant and Refugee Detention" 2006,
(80.) Didier Bigo, "Criminalization of 'Migrants': The Side Effect of the Will to Control the Frontiers and the Sovereign Illusion," in Irregular Migration and Human Rights: Theoretical, European and International Perspectives, ed. B. Bogusz, R. Cholewinski, A. Cyga, and E. Szyszcrak (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2004): 91.
(81.) Campbell, 9.
(82.) Agamben, Homo Sacer, 82.
(83.) Ibid., 82.
(84.) Ibid., 128; Agamben, "We Refugees" Symposium 49, no. 2 (1995): 117.
(85.) Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1951).
(86.) Nyers, 16.
(87.) Agamben, "We Refugees," 105.
(88.) Saskia Sassen, "The Repositioning of Citizenship: Emergent Subjects and Spaces for Politics;' New Centennial Review 3, no.2 (2003): 51.
(89.) Dauphinee, 236.
(90.) Ibid., 233.
(91.) Deleuze and Guattari in Nyers, xiii.
(92.) Sassen, 58.
(93.) Agamben, Homo Sacer.
(94.) Athwal and Bourne, 108; RC, "Shock"; BBC, "Campsfield's Troubled History"; Isin and Rygiel, 189. The last case took place in the Netherlands in 2004.
(95.) Etienne Balibar, We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 59.
(96.) Sandro Mezzadra, "The Right to Escape," Ephemera 4, no. 3 (2004): 270.
(97.) Balibar, We, the People of Europe?, 50.
(98.) Nyers, x.
(100.) Dauphinee, 238-239.
(101.) Foucault, 52.
(103.) See, for example, Balibar, "Topography of Cruelty"; Balibar, We, the People of Europe?; Joseph Carens, "Migration and Morality: A Liberal Egalitarian Perspective," in Free Movement: Ethical Issues in the Transnational Migration of People and Money, ed. B. Barry and R. Goodin (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992); Castles and Miller, 289-290; Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal, "Towards a Postnational Model of Membership," in Limits of Citizenship: Migrants and Postnational Membership in Europe (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994).
(104.) Balibar, "Topography of Cruelty", 28; Balibar, We, the People of Europe?, 49.
(105.) Balibar, "Topography of Cruelty."
(106.) Bigo, "Mobius Ribbon" 115; Diken, 104; Ashley and Walker, "Reading Dissidence" 22-24.
(107.) Isin and Rygiel, 198-199.
(108.) Yale H. Ferguson and Richard W. Mansbach, "Remapping Political Space: Issues and Nonissues in Analyzing Global Politics in the Twenty-First Century" in Political Space: Frontiers of Change and Governance in a Globalizing World, ed. Y. H. Ferguson and R. J. B. Jones (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002): 106.
(109.) Agamben, Homo Sacer.
(110.) Ibid., 37.
Sarah Doyle is a graduate of the International Relations M.Sc. program at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where her research focused on the politics of asylum, identity, and borders.
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