Hostile state bureaucracies and the intersecting geographies of asylum and austerity in the UK.

Authors: Alistair Sheldrick*, University of Manchester
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Asylum, refugee, dispersal, austerity, welfare state, state bureaucracies, ethnography, encounter, political geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 3, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper presents findings from ethnographic research conducted in Rochdale, a town on the edge of Greater Manchester that has experienced a three-fold increase in asylum seeker dispersals since 2012, whilst being disproportionately impacted by UK welfare state restructuring and austerity (Beatty and Fothergill, 2014). The empirical material details how the UK’s increasingly hostile border and welfare bureaucracies are encountered and negotiated through local non-profit support work. Based on fieldwork conducted with both migrant-orientated and predominantly non-migrant-orientated organisations, the paper provides an analysis across systems divided by categories of citizenship. In doing so, the research queries an enduring absence of contact and collaboration across parallel local support systems that share much in the way of support practices, ethos, and roles in the everyday making of state effects. To remedy this ostensibly troublesome picture of segregation and disunity, the latent ‘generative possibilities’ (Massey, 2005) that exist at the spatial confluence of the UK’s border and welfare regimes are also discussed. Here, the paper details moments and practices which challenge the state-imposed separation of migrant and non-migrant support systems: the unexpected arrival of asylum seekers at a local homelessness centre; the dislocating ‘move-on’ period from Asylum to mainstream state support; and shared practices in response to punitive and disciplinary governmental technologies. From this, the paper ultimately seeks to direct greater attention towards nascent spaces of ‘throwntogetherness’ and the role such geographies can play in building alternative modes of resistance and response to divisive and hostile forms of statecraft.

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