Manus Island Prison Theory

Behrouz Boochani1


The events in Manus prison and the treatment of refugees there are best understood through the concept of what I call the kyriarchal system – a web of intersecting oppressions (racism, sexism, colonialism etc) that maintains society’s dominant hierarchies. This system has total control over the prison and is experienced as torture by incarcerated refugees. The kyriarchal system is highly mechanised, a twisted and extremely complex system of rules and regulations that draws refugees into an absurd labyrinth, and that functions as its own cruel form of incarceration.

In this presentation, I argue that this system is an implicit violence which also characterises institutions in everyday life, in hospitals, schools and universities. Manus Island Prison is the extreme example of this system. Attempts by refugees to get medical care reveal how it works. Ultimately, a sick refugee can do nothing other than endlessly search for his name on waiting lists for treatment. But no one ever receives medical care. Over time, the rules and regulations of the system wear down the prisoners’ mental health, producing psychological torture. Drawing on my book No Friend but the Mountains, this paper compares this treatment to the experience of the main character in a scene from the film, I, Daniel Blake. In this film, Blake’s young friend responds to Blake’s efforts to seek assistance from the state by saying: “Dan, they’ll fuck you around – I’m warning you. Make it as miserable as possible. No accident, that’s the plan.”


Behrouz graduated from Tarbiat Moallem University and Tarbiat Modares University, both in Tehran; he holds a Masters degree in political science, political geography and geopolitics. He is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. He is currently a political prisoner incarcerated by the Australian government in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (Papua New Guinea). Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time; collaborator on Nazanin Sahamizadeh’s play Manus; and author of No Friend But The Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison (Picador Australia 2018). This book has been awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Investigative Journalist Award for documentation of life at Manus Island detention centre.

‘Closure’ at Manus Island and Carceral Expansion in the Open Air Prison

Dr Claire Loughnan1, Maria Giannacopoulos2
1University of Melbourne, 2Flinders university

Since 1992, Australia has had a policy of mandatory immigration detention which was extended in 2001 to offshore processing on the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).  These centres have a history of violence and suffering.  The 2017 ‘closure’ of the Lombrom offshore processing centre on Manus Island followed a decision by PNG’s Supreme Court that the centre breached the PNG Constitution. We argue that this is best understood as a declaration of ‘closure’ which obscures the carceral expansion that such closures enable.     By placing the 2017 ‘closure’ of the detention centre on Manus Island within the broader context of immigration detention and colonialism in Australia, we extend Maillet, Mountz and Williams’ (2018) use of Elden’s imperio to argue that the closures of camps like the one at Manus Island, are constitutive of carceral expansions that are imperial in form, while also recalling earlier patterns of colonial violence.


Claire teaches in criminology and socio-legal studies. Her research interests are in border protection, immigration detention and forced migration. Her doctoral thesis argues that contemporary border protection policies in Australia amount to a failure of responsibility, in ethical terms. Australia’s system of mandatory immigration detention is thus examined through the lens of ‘office holding’ as a site for rethinking the ethical relations of those who work within the institutional life of migration, whether politicians, judges, guards or health care professionals, in order to argue for an ethics of office which might contribute towards a deeper understanding of responsibility beyond mere accountability to a role. She is extending her work to an analysis of institutional conduct in diverse sites such as youth detention, prisons, aged and disability care.

Where are the Tampas?

Prof. Willem de Lint1
1Flinders University, Happy Valley, Australia

In August 2001, the MV Tampa was denied entry into Australian waters, an executive decision which precipitated the current neorealist asylum seeker policy of boat turnbacks. Arguably, the policy was awaiting the event; the fixed image of the arrested ship contrasted with the speed and efficiency with which the new off-shore processing policy was implemented. Today, under that policy and Operation Sovereign Borders, Tampa-like spectacles are avoided.

Tampa and its aftermath revivified the neorealist position that sovereignty claims are superior to human rights claims and that individual needs of dispossessed individuals are subordinate to the security needs of the state. The appearance of human rights is an avoidable epiphenomenal spectacle, suggestive of weaknesses in the maintenance of border security.

This view of the significance of the Tampa as an illustration of the suppression of human rights as the subaltern discourse to security and sovereignty is reviewed and further unpacked in this paper.


Willem de Lint is Professor in Criminal Justice. He is the author or editor of books and articles on public order, counter-terrorism prosecutions, transnational criminology, victimology and policing and security studies. He is on several journal editorial boards and has provided expert advice to governments in Canada and Australia on policing and security. He is currently interested in the critical forensics of criminal events.


Deathscapes: Mapping Race and Violence in Settler Societies A Dialogue

Professor Joseph Pugliese1, Dr Maria Giannacopoulos2
1Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, 2Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

With the ultimate aim of ending deaths in custody, the Deathscapes project maps the sites and distributions of custodial deaths in locations such as police cells, prisons and immigration detention centres, working across the settler states of Australia, the US and Canada, as well as the UK/EU as historical sites of origin for these settler colonial states ( Six months on from the launch of the Deathscapes website Professor Joseph Puglisese (Co-Chief Investigator with Professor Suvendrini Perera of the Deathscapes project) will be in dialogue with Dr Maria Giannacopoulos about the site.  The dialogue will foreground the ways that Indigenous deaths, in a colonial context operate as an ongoing clearing of the land and together with deaths of other racialized bodies within the nation and at its borders–including Black, migrant and refugee deaths– function to reaffirm the assertion of settler sovereignty.   Both speakers have used Deathscapes for teaching (in Cultural Studies and Criminology respectively) and so will be reflecting on the teaching value of the site.


Professor Joseph Pugliese is Professor of Cultural Studies and Research Director in the Department of Media Music Communication and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University.  He is author of State Violence and Execution of Law: Biopolitical Caesurae of Torture, Black Sites, Drones and is Co-CI (with Suvendrini Perera) of ARC Discovery Project “Deathscapes: Mapping Race and Violence in Settler States”

Dr Maria Giannacopoulos is Senior Lecturer in Socio-Legal Studies in the College of Business Government and Law at Flinders University.  She conducts critical legal and critical race research with a focus on the areas of sovereignty, asylum/migration and colonialism.

Climate Change Migration and the Political Management of Risk

A/Prof. Elizabeth Stanley1
1Victoria University Of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

In recent times, populist narratives of the risks posed by ‘non-citizens’ have led to extreme political antagonism to those deemed ‘unknowable’, ‘undesirable’ or ‘illegal’. Subsequent measures to exclude or control ‘non-citizens’ regularly engage systemic violations of human rights. This presentation reflects on the situation of climate change migrants in relation to this heavily politicized narrative of risk. While illustrating how the risks of climate change are inequitably caused and distributed, it focuses on how New Zealand, in particular, has sought to manage, emphasise and police the ‘risks’ from climate change migrants.


Elizabeth Stanley is a Reader and Rutherford Discovery Fellow at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington. Her research focuses on state crimes, human rights, detention and social justice.

Her publications include ‘Torture, Truth and Justice’, ‘State Crime and Resistance’ (with Jude McCulloch), ‘The Road to Hell: State Violence against Children in Post War NZ’ and ‘Human Rights and Incarceration’ (edited collection published Sep 2018, by Palgrave).



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