Asylum camps as geopolitical spaces of embodied violence and migrant agency

Authors: Kara E. Dempsey*, Appalachian State University
Topics: Political Geography, Migration, Feminist Geographies
Keywords: asylum camp, European Union (EU), Sovereignty, irregular migration, migrant agency
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Migrants who reach EU asylum camps face various forms of spatialised violence that are bolstered by or produced within these geopolitical protracted spaces of waiting. Segregated from society, migrants experience processes of displacement, alienation and vulnerability as their legal status restricts their mobility and postpones employment or education opportunities. They are simultaneously suspended in a state of continuous disruption as they move through a series of camps while waiting for a decision on their applications. In remonstration, some migrants develop advocacy networks within and across camps in an attempt to challenge the hierarchical control of the everyday spaces and politics that migrants encounter in camps. Drawing on original fieldwork, this paper interrogates the intersection of the spatial production of geopolitical violence in camps and migrant agency within these distinctive political spaces. I argue that a state-centred examination of spaces of violence and migrant agency fails to attend to embodied and emotional landscapes when problematizing the geographies of camps and those waiting in interim zones of confinement. In contrast, this examination of the embodied migrant experiences and advocacy networks brings the geopolitics of human and affective matter to the forefront. In this way, the article highlights migrant agency in response to their lived experience and the embodied geopolitical violence of control, categorization and exclusion that is produced in the various spatialities of asylum seeking.

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