Black Skin, Bare Life: Carceral Spaces and the Migrant Body in Detention

Miss Julie Youssef1
1The University Of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia

The apex of the migration crisis in Europe saw over one million arrivals in 2015. In the wake of the increasing clandestine arrivals, the French response has been largely to adopt a policy ‘à l’Australienne’, involving the use of their ‘Administrative Retention Centres’ as quasi-punitive spaces to at once, regulate the influx of ‘illegal’ arrivals, and dissuade forthcoming asylum seekers from undertaking similar journeys. The centres in Calais (Coquelles) and Marseille (Canet) have in recent years, appropriated architectures from the Australian approach in Nauru and Manus island, which are ultimately inextricable the carceral diapositives underpinning the prison complex.  The State construction the camps as ‘temporary’ spaces are therefore absent of the rehabilitative and recreational tenants of a productive correctional system. Both the Australian and French camps entail a sombre culture of hunger strikes, self-mutilation, and suicide. They represent a regression to the Foucauldian spectacle of punishment pre-dating the 19th century, in which sanctions entailed the public punishment of the body. The criminalisation of clandestine migration results in the refugee body’s systematic reduction to Agamben’s notion of homo sacer, a status in which they are stripped of their rights and can be killed without legal consequence. In this sense, the conditions of the camps outsource the physical punishment of the criminal’s body to the suffering refugee themselves, and the state is able to enact physical punishment for the crime of illegal migration without ultimately touching them, serving to create the ultimate human deterrent.


Julie Youssef: student in Honours of Criminology at the University of Melbourne


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