Deportation, air travel and unfeeling

Authors: Angela Smith*, UNSW
Topics: Migration, Political Geography, Transportation Geography
Keywords: political geography, deportation, migration, exclusion, borders, air
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Director's Row H, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Deportation has become a migration policy cornerstone for liberal states seeking to regulate the boundaries of the nation state. While migration scholars have given important focus to irregular maritime migration arrivals - focusing on the legal, geographic, affective and spectacular dimensions - comparatively little work has been done on theorising forced departures by air – that is, deportation. This paper will examine the specifically un-sensational nature of deportation and the role of the plane in securing and sealing the cabin pressure of public affect. The routine and familiar nature of traveling by plane helps to shape a public response that is qualitatively different to the public concern with maritime migrations. There is often a lack of sensation surrounding deportation by air – unwanted bodies are sent off into the ether. Nonetheless, certain cases of deportation are mobilised by activists and advocates, disrupting and re-politicising the otherwise routine practise. Deportation by plane has a further relationship to desensitisation and numbness – a long history can be traced of deportees being forcibly sedated, rendering them passive for their forced expulsion. This practise too has been opposed and largely outlawed. The anaesthetic quality of air travel – enabling deportation to be rendered routine - is resisted by activists, advocates and deportees themselves. To consider an anaesthetic geography of deportation, therefore, is to think of the disassociations, feelings and unfeelings, and sanitising effects at the level of the body, the plane, global air routes, and publics.


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