The Meaning(s) of Immigration at the Limits of European Civilization: Detention Centers and the Suspension of Law

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    This article examines the cultural and political meanings of detention centers for
    undocumented migrants in Greece. Through the consideration of the Dublin Regulation, which holds that asylum seekers’ applications can be evaluated and adjudicated only in the country where they first enter, and the presence of Frontex at Greece’s borders for an integrated border management, the article situates Greece’s immigration detention centers within the wider context of state sovereignty and policies of admission and detention. Following the theoretical elaborations of Carl Schmitt (2013) and Wendy Brown (2010) on territorial division, the state of exception and waning sovereignty, in conjunction with reports from the Human Rights Watch and the Greek Council for Refugees, the article argues that immigration detention centers have three meanings for EU citizens and migrants. First, the building of detention centers for unregulated immigrants is an explicit attempt to assert the EU member-state as a ‘total state’ where it can discern between friend and enemy and rule by limiting or eliminating diverse forces that might develop in its interior. This rule does not, however, depend on the implementation of the law but on its suspension and consequently this suspension acquires a permanent status. Second, detention centers communicate anxieties regarding order in the interior of the state and fear and danger in the exterior. Detention centers demarcate where European notions of civilization end but they also highlight the point where the civilized
    subject can be legitimately violent and uncivilized. Third, detention centers not only prevent unregulated immigrants from entering the EU and the nation state but also produce their content. By safeguarding the national and European territories from the threats which unregulated immigration is thought to pose, detention centers help to produce a defensive national subject in fear of being contaminated by the arrival of anonymous, stateless people.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJOMEC Journal: Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2015


    • Detention centers
    • Borders
    • Greece
    • European civilization
    • Unregulated immigration
    • Violence


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