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Refugees and the “Crisis” of States: Rethinking Border Regimes and the State Technologies in the EU
October 30, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Instead of a refugee “crisis” that often frames refugees as the problem, this panel locates the problem with existing states and border regimes. We seek to understand the state and state-making practices through refugee experiences. We ask what we learn about the shortcomings of current systems of governance and territoriality through an examination of state-refugee interactions and state policies targeting refugee populations.
This event is part of the conference “Encountering Difference, Embodying Boundaries, and Unsettling Borders: Middle Eastern Refugees and Immigrants in the European Union”. Conference events take place Fridays October 9-November 6 from 12-1:30pm ET.
Paper Abstracts & Bios
“Confine to protect”: forced migration and the multiplication of hygienic-sanitary borders
Goldsmiths, University of London
This talk investigates how the security-humanitarian rationale that underpins migration governmentality has been restructured by and inflected in light of hygienic-sanitary borders which enforce racialised confinement in the name of both migrants and citizens’ safety from infection by the Covid-19 virus. Focusing on the politics of migration containment along EUrope’s external frontiers, examining in particular border reinforcements carried out by Italy and Greece, I interrogate how the pandemic has been exploited to enact deterrence through hygienic-sanitary border enforcements. These enforcements are underpinned by an ambivalent security-humanitarian narrative that crafts migrants as subjects who cannot be protected by EU member states from the pandemic if allowed inside, and, at the same time, as potential vehicles of contagion – ‘Corona spreaders’ – and thus as dangers on a bacterial-hygienic level. In the talk I show how the pandemic has been seized as an opportunity to strengthen existing deterrence measures and hamper migrants’ access to asylum through biopolitical and spatial tactics that aim to restructure the border regime in the long-term. While emphasising the historical trajectories and continuities underwriting these current developments, I contend that the pandemic functions as an accelerator of dynamics of migrant incarceration and containment.
MARTINA TAZZIOLI is Lecturer in Politics & Technology at Goldsmiths. She is the author of The Making of Migration. The biopoltics of mobility at Europe’s borders (Sage, 2020), Spaces of Governmentality: Autonomous Migration and the Arab Uprisings (2015) and co-author with Glenda Garelli of Tunisia as a Revolutionised Space of Migration (2016). She is co-editor of Foucault and the History of our Present (2015) and Foucault and the Making of Subjects (2016). She is on the editorial board of journal Radical Philosophy.
Invisibilization as a Technology of the State: Syrian Refugees in Turkey
Banu Gökarıksel, Devran Koray Öcal, Betül Aykaç
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Focusing on Turkey’s policy towards Syrian refugees, we analyze how everyday discrimination and exclusion against Syrians are enabled and empowered by the state’s active disregard, trivialization, and negligence of Syrian suffering despite its official humanitarian rhetoric and “open door” policy towards Syrians. With over 3.5 million Syrians, Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world today. Different segments of the public have been skeptical of, if not outright against, the policy of supporting Syrians whom they see as racial and gendered threats to social order and beneficiaries of social and economic programs that are rarely available to citizens. State action and politicians’ statements regarding Syrians have fluctuated while Syrians have been granted “temporary protection” with no path to refugee or citizenship status. Despite widely known reports of the exploitation of and discrimination against Syrians, there is very little state action to address these issues. Various units of the state bureaucracy, from ministries to police officers, either trivialize or ignore the discrimination and exploitation Syrians face through legal, bureaucratic, and informal processes. Focusing on workplaces, the home, and public institutions, we argue that the state engages in willful non-production of knowledge and actively invisibilizes Syrians. We theorize these mechanisms as a technology of governance that exploits Syrians’ vulnerability in Turkey.
DR. BANU GÖKARIKSEL is Professor of Geography and The Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education at The Graduate School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She received her PhD in Geography from the University of Washington, Seattle and MA in Sociology/Anthropology from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. She served as the co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (2014-18) and co-directed the Duke in Istanbul summer program in 2012 and 2013 and Duke Middle East in Europe summer program (based in Berlin) in 2018 and 2019.
Her research examines bodies, intimacy, and everyday spaces as key sites of politics and geopolitics. Her research trajectory started with projects on contemporary formations of Muslim femininity, embodied and lived religion, and Islamic fashion industry in Turkey. She’s currently working on a book project (with Anna Secor) about the emergence of sectarian difference in encounters between neighbors in urban Turkey and developing a project about the state through an analysis of refugee and migrant experiences focusing on Syrians in Turkey. She is also broadly interested in the embodied, racialized, and gendered politics of populist political movements from Trump to Erdoğan. With Michael Hawkins, Christopher Neubert, and Sara Smith, she co-edited Feminist Geography Unbound: Discomfort, Bodies, and Prefigured Futures (West Virginia University Press, inaugural series title: Gender, Feminism, and Geography, 2021).
DR. DEVRAN KORAY ÖCAL is a political and cultural geographer. He is currently an adjunct lecturer and teaches a geography class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Öcal is broadly interested in political geography, feminist geopolitics, diaspora studies, transnational migration, geographies of religion and refugees. His dissertation research engaged intimate state formations and everyday geopolitics with a focus on the Turkish-Sunni mosque communities in Germany. In collaboration with Dr. Banu Gökariksel and PhD student Betül Aykaç from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is also conducting a new research project on Syrian refugees in Turkey and Germany through the lenses of race, gender, everyday (geo)politics and state-making.
The politics of embodied encounters in asylum seeking
Kirsi P Kallio, Jouni Häkli
Our presentation introduces a theoretical approach on embodied encounters that we have found characteristic to situations of asylum seeking in the context of transnational migration control; including both the eventful coming into contact by bodily subjects and the broader contextual forces that mediate and shape these encounters. Building on existing work that looks at the role of embodiment in the political struggles of refugees, our approach draws from Helmuth Plessner’s philosophical anthropology of social embodiment. In this political dynamic, we have identified different modes of ‘struggle for personhood’ by exploring two logics of governing: ‘objectivization’ and ‘subjectivization’ that work to contain the personhood of refugees and render them more governable subjects, in specific ways. To conceptualize the role of human embodiment in these power-laden encounters, we turn to empathy – the human capacity to understand the point of view of the other – to show how it opens up a force field between asylum seekers who stand there in person as bodily subjects, and the truth-seeking migration regime exposed to this power. To conclude we take up some examples from our recent research with asylum seekers to discuss how this perspective may be helpful in making better sense of refugee governance as well as the (latent) resistance involved in it.
KIRSI P KALLIO is Professor of Environmental Pedagogy at the Tampere University. Her research focuses on contextual political agency and subjectivity, spatial socialisation and subject formation, and refugeeness and humanitarian governance. Recent publications include “Refugeeness as political subjectivity: Experiencing the humanitarian border” (with Jouni Häkli and Elisa Pascucci, Environment and Planning C, 2019), “Radical hope in asylum seeking: Political agency beyond linear temporality” (Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2020, with Isabel Meier and Jouni Häkli), and “Bodies and Persons: The politics of embodied encounters in asylum seeking” (Progress in Human Geography, 2020, with Jouni Häkli).
JOUNI HÄKLI is Professor of Regional Studies and directs the Space and Political Agency Research Group (SPARG) in the Tampere University. His research lies at the intersection of political geography and global and transnational studies, with focus on political subjectivity and agency, forced migration and transnationalization. His recent publications include “Becoming refugee in Cairo: The political in performativity” (International Political Sociology, 2017, with Kirsi Pauliina Kallio and Elisa Pascucci); “On becoming political: the political in subjectivity” (Subjectivity, 2018, with Kirsi Pauliina Kallio), and “Bodies and Persons: The politics of embodied encounters in asylum seeking” (Progress in Human Geography, 2020, with Kirsi Pauliina Kallio).
West Virginia University
The “refugee crisis” is often perceived as a European or American crisis, but it is increasingly global too. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of internally displaced people (IDPs), international refugees, and asylum seekers are seeking safety in the less wealthy states of “global south” like Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Thailand, or Jordan. In my recent research, I grapple with different refugee crises – of the state’s attempt to “protect” its territory and of refugees seeking protection from violence and persecution – through an in-depth study of Syrian refugees in Jordan. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a sustained and impressive history of accepting refugees. As a result, it has incredible diversity of refugees and one of the highest refugee populations per capita in the world. The millions of different refugees in Jordan have, of course, countless different lives and experiences; and their range of experiences reveal a powerful story of the contradictions and tensions that exist within the crises of “protecting” both territory and people’s lives. In this presentation, I outline the Jordanian state’s different and confusing policies and practices towards Syrian refugees, highlighting the increasing securitization of its territory since 2012 and how these policies frame Syrian refugee experiences in Jordan.
KAREN CULCASI – I am an associate professor of Geography in the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University. I received my PhD in Geography from Syracuse University in 2008. My research uses critical and feminist geopolitical frames to critique dominant discourses and practices. My work focuses on the “Middle East,” the Arab world, and more recently in Appalachia. I am currently working on a book under contract with the University of Chicago Press titled Displacing Territory: Geographical Imaginings of Belonging for Syrian and Palestinian Refugees in Jordan. I have recently begun a new funded project on Islamophobia and Muslim’s daily lives in rural West Virginia. My older work within critical cartography continues to influence my research on spatial imaginings and representations. I teach undergraduate courses on Political Geography and Geographies of the Middle East, and graduate level courses on Geopolitical theories and Geographic thought. My colleague-husband, two kids (ages 9 and 7), and I are all working from home and are keeping up good spirits with frequent short trips around West Virginia. The kids are a great support and like to ask me quite frequently: “mom, how’s the book going.”
The Unsettling Borders 2020 Conference is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, and co-sponsored by the UNC Center for European Studies, the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, UNC Global, the UNC Center for Middle East & Islamic Studies, and the Duke Middle East Studies Center. The conference is organized by a team of academics from the UNC Department of Geography and Purdue University.
The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.