Care, Control and Border Management. Looking into medical humanitarianism at a Southern EUropean border.

Authors: Nina Sahraoui*, European University Institute
Topics: Europe, Immigration/Transnationalism, Gender
Keywords: care, border, humanitarianism, gender
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 how medical humanitarianism is entangled in border management practices by looking into the articulation of the activities of a medical NGO with that of the administration of a state-run Centre for the Temporary Stay of Immigrants (CETI) in the Spanish enclave of Melilla. A Southern EUropean (Bialasiewicz et.al., 2013) border situated in North Africa, Melilla’s triple fence and barbed wires have come to epitomise the increasing militarisation of EUropean borders (Johnson, 2013; Andersson, 2015). Focusing on the spectacular display of control obscures however the complex interplay of control and care within border management (Pallister-Wilkins, 2017; Isleyen, 2018), what Walters (2011) calls ‘the birth of the humanitarian border’, defined by a hierarchical relationship of victims and saviours (Perkowski, 2016). In this paper, I examine the ‘care dimension’ of a border regime often studied through its practices of control and human rights violations from the perspective of medical humanitarianism. Beyond the conceptualisation of the humanitarian border (Walters, 2011; Williams, 2015), Pallister-Wilkins argues that adequate care tends to enter into tension with mobility (Pallister-Wilkins, 2018). This paper uncovers how medical humanitarians come to exercise various types of power over patients/migrants’ mobility. I further examine how these power relationships usher into the construction and use of frames of deservingness in everyday care practices. This paper relies on three months of ethnographic fieldwork in Melilla conducted in late 2016, including six weeks of fieldwork within the CETI during which I conducted semi-structured and biographical interviews with healthcare professionals and migrant women.

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