Regional Assemblages of Rights: A Geographic Framework for Analysis and Critique of Actually-Existing Human Rights

Authors: Austin Kocher*,
Topics: Political Geography, Human Rights, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: migration, human rights, legal geography, deportation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Despite its well-documented benefits to sending and receiving countries, human migration has sparked one of the most hotly-contested areas of human rights today. For instance, while Central Americans flee corruption and gang violence by moving northward to the United States, and many Africans flow north towards Europe seeking economic and political stability, both migrant groups have been subject to a roll-back of rights in order to facilitate their exclusion and deportation. Through my research on the growing apparatus of immigrant control, I have found the literature on national legal frameworks and the literature on individual human rights lacking in their ability to account for basic questions about the dynamic, contested, and everyday nature of immigrant rights as a practice. I propose a “regional assemblages” framework in order to understand how rights are constructed through the territorializing power of the state to construct the context in which law operates. In my paper, I draw upon two case studies. I focus on the expansion of, and resistance to, immigration enforcement infrastructure to the US Midwest, where newly-established networks of ICE offices, detention centers, and immigration courts have increased deportations, and on the rise and fall of maritime rescue organizations in the Central Mediterranean Sea, where high numbers of migrants have led to a tragic loss of life. Although the cases are distinct, I highlight the ways in which immigrant rights – and human rights more broadly – are constructed through complicated jurisdictional, institutional, and inter-personal networks rather than simply enacted or withdrawn.

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