The ‘Found’ Infrastructures of Mobility and Deterrence: invention and temporariness in asylum seeking

Authors: Heather Johnson*, Queen's University Belfast
Topics: Migration, Political Geography
Keywords: Migration, mobility, refugees, infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the ways in which already existing objects and places are harnessed in the processes of asylum seeking. From the use of fishing boats to facilitate mobility itself, to the use of already-existing structures and spaces such as hotels and bases to provide emergency housing, the contemporary experience of mass migration across the maritime space is dominated by inventive practices and the reuse of ‘found’ infrastructures. Both migrants and states engage in this practice, to facilitate mobility and flight – but also to control and manage migration. Here, we look at the creative process of repurposing already existing infrastructures in asylum to explore the material traces of asylum seeking, and ways in which the banal, everyday material objects of urban life in coastal areas also carry the imprint of specific state responses to migration emergencies. The paper asks how we might ‘read’ these objects and places to understand the everyday lives and experiences of migrants, and specifically those who are ‘in transit’ and caught in the liminal and temporary spaces of migration that are harnessed for the purposes of control. In doing so, we might also begin to understand how creativity and invention also work to contest these controls, exert agency, and enliven solidarities and communities, even within such spaces.

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