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Birth of the Humanitarian Border.The single word ”border” conceals a multiplicity and implies a constancy where genealogical investigation uncovers mutation and descent.

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posted by Hughes Songe alias bernawy hugues kossi huo on Sunday 14th of February 2016 07:47:31 PM

Historical research reveals that diverse political rationalities have framed the political means and objectives of state frontiers and borders, just as the difficult work of making borders actual has drawn upon a great variety of technologies The single word ”border” conceals a multiplicity and implies a constancy where genealogical investigation uncovers mutation and descent. Historical research reveals that diverse political rationalities have framed the political means and objectives of state frontiers and borders, just as the difficult work of making borders actual has drawn upon a great variety of technologies and heterogeneous administrative practices, ranging from maps of the territory, the creation of specialized border officials, and architectures of fortification to today’s experimentation with bio- digitalized forms of surveillance. This chapter argues that we are witnessing a novel development within this history of borders and border-making, what I want to call the emergence of the humanitarian border. While a great deal has been written about the militarization, securitization and fortification of borders today, there is far less consideration of the humanitarianization of borders. But if the investment of border regimes by biometric technologies rightly warrants being treated as an event within the history of the making and remaking of borders (Amoore 2006), then arguably so too does the reinvention of the border as a space of humanitarian government. Under what conditions are we seeing the rise of humanitarian borders? The emergence of the humanitarian border goes hand in hand with the move which has made state frontiers into privileged symbolic and regulatory instruments within strategies of migration control. It is part of a much wider trend that has been dubbed the ”rebordering” of political and territorial space (Andreas and Biersteker 2003). The humanitarian border emerges once it becomes established that border crossing has become, for thousands of migrants seeking, for a variety of reasons, to access the territories of the global North, a matter of life and death. It crystallizes as a way of governing this novel and disturbing situation,and compensating for the social violence embodied in the regime of migration control.The idea of a humanitarian border might sound at first counterintuitive or even oxymoronic. After all, we often think of contemporary humanitarianism as a force that, operating in the name of the universal but endangered subject of humanity, transcends the walled space of the inter-national system. This is, of course, quite valid. Yet it would be a mistake to draw any simple equation between humanitarian projects and what Deleuze and Guattari would call logics of deterritoralization. While humanitarian programmes might unsettle certain norms of statehood, it is important to recognize the ways in which the exercise of humanitarian power is connected to the actualization of new spaces. Whether by its redefinition of certain locales as humanitarian ”zones” and crises as ”emergencies” (Calhoun 2004), the authority it confers on certain experts to move rapidly across networks of aid and intervention, or its will to designate those populating these zones as ”victims,” it seems justified to follow Debrix’s (1998) observation that humanitarianism implies reterritorialization on top of deterritorialization. Humanitarian zones can materialize in various situations – in conflict zones, amidst the relief of famine, and against the backdrop of state failure. But the case that interests me in what follows is a specific one: a situation where the actual borders of states and gateways to the territory become themselves zones of humanitarian government. Understanding the consequences of this is paramount, since it has an important bearing on what is often termed the securitization of borders and citizenship. Foucault and Frontiers It is probably fair to say that the theme of frontiers is largely absent from the two courses that are today read together as Foucault’s lectures on ”governmentality” (Foucault 1991; 2007; 2008). This is not to suggest that frontiers receive no mention at all. Within these lectures we certainly encounter passing remarks on the theme. For instance, Foucault speaks at one point of ”the administrative state, born in the territoriality of national boundaries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and corresponding to a society of regulation and discipline” (Foucault 1991: 104).1 Elsewhere, he notes how the calculation and demarcation of new frontiers served as one of the practical elements of military-diplomatic technology, a machine he associates with the government of Europe in the image of a balance of power and according to the governmental logic of raison d’état. ”When the diplomats, the ambassadors who negotiated the treaty of Westphalia, received instructions from their government, they were explicitly advised to ensure that the new frontiers, the distribution of states, the new relationships to be established between the German states and the Empire, and the zones of influence of France, Sweden, and Austria be established in terms of a principle: to maintain a balance between the different European states” (Foucault 2007: 297). But these are only hints of what significance the question of frontiers might have within the different technologies of power which Foucault sought to analyze. They are only fragmentary reflections on the place borders and frontiers might occupy within the genealogy of the modern state which Foucault outlines with his research into governmentality.2 Why was Foucault apparently not particularly interested in borders when he composed these lectures? One possible answer is suggested by Elden’s careful and important work on power-knowledge and territory. Elden takes issue with Foucault for the way in which he discusses territorial rule largely as a foil which allows him to provide a more fully-worked out account of governmentality and its administration of population. Despite the fact that the term appears prominently in the title of Foucault’s lectures, ”the issue of territory continually emerges only to be repeatedly marginalized, eclipsed, and underplayed” (Elden 2007: 1). Because Foucault fails to reckon more fully with the many ways in which the production of territory – and most crucially its demarcation by practices of frontier marking and control – serves as a precondition for the government of population, it is not surprising that the question of frontiers occupies little space in his narrative.But there is another explanation for the relative absence of questions of frontiers in Foucault’s writing on governmentality. And here we have to acknowledge that, framed as it is previously, this is a problematic question. For it risks the kind of retrospective fallacy which projects a set of very contemporary issues and concerns onto Foucault’s time. It is probably fair to speculate that frontiers and border security was not a political issue during the 1970s in the way that it is today in many western states. ”Borders” had yet to be constituted as a sort of meta-issue, capable of condensing a whole complex of political fears and concerns, including globalization, the loss of sovereignty, terrorism, trafficking and unchecked immigration. The question of the welfare state certainly was an issue, perhaps even a meta-issue, when Foucault was lecturing, and it is perhaps not coincidental that he should devote so much space to the examination of pastoralism. But not the border. The point is not to suggest that Foucault’s work evolved in close, Humanitarian Government Before I address the question of the humanitarian border, it is necessary to explain what I understand by the humanitarian. Here my thinking has been shaped by recent work that engages the humanitarian not as a set of ideas and ideologies, nor simply as the activity of certain nongovernmental actors and organizations, but as a complex domain possessing specific forms of governmental reason. Fassin’s work on this theme is particularly important. Fassin demonstrates that humanitarianism can be fruitfully connected to the broader field of government which Foucault outlined, where government is not a necessary attribute of states but a rationalized activity than can be carried out by all sorts of agents, in various contexts, and towards multiple ends. At its core, ”Humanitarian government can be defined as the administration of human collectivities in the name of a higher moral principle which sees the preservation of life and the alleviation of suffering as the highest value of action” (Fassin 2007: 151). As he goes on to stress, the value of such a definition is that we do not see a particular state, or a non-state form such as a nongovernmental organization, as the necessary agent of humanitarian action. Instead, it becomes possible to think in terms of a complex assemblage, comprising particular forms of humanitarian.reason, specific forms of authority (medical, legal, spiritual) but also certain technologies of government – such as mechanisms for raising funds and training volunteers, administering aid and shelter, documenting injustice, and publicizing abuse. Seen from this angle humanitarianism appears as a much more supple, protean thing. Crucially, it opens up our ability to perceive ”a broader political and moral logic at work both within and outside state forms” (ibid.). If the humanitarian can be situated in relation to the analytics of government, it can also be contextualized in relation to the biopolitical. ”Not only did the last century see the emergence of regimes committed to the physical destruction of populations,” observes Redfield, ”but also of entities devoted to monitoring and assisting populations in maintaining their physical existence, even while protesting the necessity of such an action and the failure of anyone to do much more than this bare minimum” (2005: 329). It is this ”minimalist biopolitics,” as Redfield puts it, that will be so characteristic of the humanitarian. And here the accent should be placed on the adjective “minimalist” if we are not to commit the kind of move which I criticized above, namely collapsing everything new into existing Foucauldian categories. It is important to regard contemporary humanitarianism as a novel formation and a site of ambivalence and undecideability, and not just as one more instance of what Hardt and Negri (2000) might call global “biopolitical production.”The Birth of the Humanitarian Border In a press release issued on June 29, 2007, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) publicized a visit which its then Director General, Brunson McKinley, was about to make to a ”reception centre for migrants” on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa (IOM 2007). The Director General is quoted as saying: ”Many more boats will probably arrive on Lampedusa over the summer with their desperate human cargo and we have to ensure we can adequately respond to their immediate needs.... This is why IOM will continue to work closely with the Italian government, the Italian Red Cross, UNHCR and other partners to provide appropriate humanitarian responses to irregular migrants and asylum seekers reaching the island.” The same press release observes that IOM’s work with its ”partners” was part of a wider effort to improve the administration of the ”reception” (the word ”detention” is conspicuously absent) and ”repatriation” of ”irregular migrants” in Italy. Reception centers were being expanded, and problems of overcrowding alleviated. The statement goes on to observe that IOM had opened its office on Lampedusa in April 2006. Since that time ”Forced returns from Lampedusa [had] stopped.” Lampedusa is a small Italian island located some 200 km south of Sicily and 300 km to the north of Libya. Its geographical location provides a clue as to how it is that in 2004 this Italian outpost first entered the spotlight of European and even world public attention, becoming a potent signifier for anxieties about an international migration crisis (Andrijasevic 2006). For it was then that this Italian holiday destination became the main point of arrival for boats carrying migrants from Libya to Italy. That year more than 10,000 migrants are reported to have passed through the ”temporary stay and assistance centre” (CPTA) the Italian state maintains on the island. The vast majority had arrived in overcrowded, makeshift boats after a perilous sea journey lasting up to several weeks. Usually these boats are intercepted in Italian waters by the Italian border guards and the migrants transferred to the holding center on the island. Following detention, which can last for more than a month, they are either transferred to other CPTAs in Sicily and southern Italy, or expelled to Libya.Finally, there is a point to be made about humanitarianism, power and order. Those looking to locate contemporary humanitarianism within a bigger picture would perhaps follow the lead of Hardt and Negri. As these theorists of ”Empire” see things, NGOs like Amnesty International and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) are, contrary to their own best intentions, implicated in global order. As agents of ”moral intervention” who, because they participate in the construction of emergency, ”prefigure the state of exception from below,” these actors serve as the preeminent ”frontline force of imperial intervention.” As such, Hardt and Negri see humanitarianism as ”completely immersed in the biopolitical context of the constitution of Empire” (Hardt and Negri 2000: 36).Humanitarianism, Borders, Politics Foucauldian writing about borders has mirrored the wider field of governmentality studies in at least one respect. While it has produced some fascinating and insightful accounts of contemporary strategies and technologies of border-making and border policing, it has tended to confine its attention to official and often state-sanctioned projects. Political dynamics and political acts have certainly not been ignored. But little attention has been paid to the possibility that politics and resistance operate not just in an extrinsic relationship to contemporary regimes, but within them.12 To date this literature has largely failed to view politics as something constitutive and productive of border regimes and technologies. That is to say, there is little appreciation of the ways in which movements of opposition, and those particular kinds of resistance which Foucault calls ”counter conduct,” can operate not externally to modes of bordering but by means of ”a series of exchanges” and ”reciprocal supports” (Foucault 2007: 355). There is a certain paradox involved when we speak of Foucault and frontiers. In certain key respects it could be said that Foucault is one of our most eminent and original theorists of bordering. For at the heart of one of his most widely read works – namely Discipline and Punish – what does one find if not the question of power and how its modalities should be studied by focusing on practices of partitionment, segmentation, division, enclosure; practices that will underpin the ordering and policing of ever more aspects of the life of populations from the nineteenth century onwards. But while Foucault is interested in a range of practices which clearly pertain to the question of bordering understood in a somewhat general sense, one thing the reading of his lectures on security, governmentality and biopolitics reveals is that he had little to say explicitly about the specific forms of bordering associated with the government of the state. To put it differently, Foucault dealt at length with what we might call the microphysics of bordering, but much less with the place of borders considered at the level of tactics and strategies of governmentality.Recent literature has begun to address this imbalance, demonstrating that many of Foucault’s concepts are useful and important for understanding what kinds of power relations and governmental regimes are at stake in contemporary projects which are re-making state borders amidst renewed political concerns over things like terrorism and illegal immigration. However, the overarching theme of this chapter has been the need for caution when linking Foucault’s concepts to the study of borders and frontiers today. While analytics like biopolitics, discipline and neoliberalism offer all manner of insights, we need to avoid the trap which sees Foucault’s toolbox as something ready-made for any given situation. The challenge of understanding the emergent requires the development of new theoretical tools, not to mention the sharpening of older, well-used implements. With this end in mind the chapter has proposed the idea of the humanitarian border as a way of registering an event within the genealogy of the frontier, but also, although I have not developed it here, within the genealogy of citizenship. What I have presented previously is only a very cursory overview of certain features of the humanitarianization of borders, most notably its inscription within regimes of knowledge, and its constitutive relationship to politics. In future research it would be interesting to undertake a fuller mapping of the humanitarian border in relation to certain trajectories of government. While we saw how themes of biopolitical and neoliberal government are pertinent in understanding the contemporary management of spaces like the detention center, it would seem especially relevant to consider the salience of pastoralism. Pastoral power has received far less attention within studies of governmentality than, say, discipline or liberal government (but see Dean 1999; Golder 2007; Hindess 1996; Lippert 2004). But here again, I suspect, it will be important to revise our concepts in the light of emergent practices and rationalities. For the ways in which NGOs and humanitarians engage in the governance of migrants and refugees today have changed quite significantly from the kinds of networks of care, self-examination and salvation which Foucault identified with pastoralism. For instance, and to take but one example, the pastoral care of migrants, whether in situations of sanctuary or detention, is not organized as a life-encompassing, permanent activity as it was for the church, or later, in a secular version, the welfare state. Instead, it is a temporary and ad hoc intervention. Just as Foucault’s notion of neo-liberalism was intended to register important transformations within the genealogy of liberal government, it may prove useful to think in terms of the neo-pastoral when we try to make better sense of the phenomenon of humanitarian government at/of borders, and of many other situations as well.

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