Thickening borders: an anthropological understanding of the policing of internal borders
Paul Mutsaers (Tilburg University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper discusses an ethnography of the policing of internal borders that has become a major feature of statecraft that involves multi-agency networks which detect, detain and deport non-citizens. It deals with the consequences of the infrastructural violence that flows from these networks.
Paper long abstract:
Gilberto Rosas has persuasively argued that borderland conditions are no longer geographically fixed for migrants by the borders of the nation. For some people borders are virtually everywhere, resulting in what De Genova has called the experience of 'deportability' in everyday life; the palpable sense that deportation is always a possibility. Scant attention has been paid to these 'thickening borders'. On the basis of five years of ethnographic study (2008-2013) on ethnic boundaries in the policing of migrants in the Netherlands, a paper is written that discusses this notion of 'thickening borders' and shows that it is closely connected to the notion of 'infrastructural violence' (Rodgers and O'Neill). By discussing the life of a Somali immigrant in the Netherlands, it is argued that thickening borders are particularly felt as a form of disconnection and in very important ways this is a disconnection from the infrastructures of the localities in which people (like our key informant) linger. The access that non-citizens, or 'illegal foreigners', have to these infrastructures is increasingly dependent on multi-agency networks of policing (the practice, not the institution) that include a wide array of private, public and semi-public institutions. Exclusion from these infrastructures means a severe form of social suffering that is experienced in material and physical terms.
The anthropology of infrastructure: ordering people, places, and imaginaries