Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Building and Blurring the Intimate Boundaries of Nation, Race and Geopolitics in a Suburb Neighbouring a UK Immigration Removal Centre

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Building and Blurring the Intimate Boundaries of Nation, Race and Geopolitics in a Suburb Neighbouring a UK Immigration Removal Centre

Article excerpt

Abstract

Drawing on analysis of qualitative interviews with 25 residents of an affluent, highly militarised suburb neighbouring a British immigration detention centre, this article analyses how constructions of place and home interrelate with nationalist, racialised and geopolitical boundaries. The article begins by introducing the fieldwork site before discussing the centrality of feminist geopolitics frameworks to the subsequent data analysis. The findings sections demonstrate how the centre and its detainees are routinely obscured by participants in relation to a suburb portrayed as simply 'nice' and homely. Analysis suggests that the mundane, everyday practices discussed by participants conceal the formation of simultaneously global, local and intimate boundaries rooted in nationalist and geopolitical distinctions with militarised and colonial histories. These boundaries are, however, partially unobscured locally for participants in relation to questions evoking the prospect of more intimate connections with detainees, and it is only by disavowing anxieties raised by this prospect that the legitimacy of detention and feelings of homeliness can be justified affectively and ethically. The conclusion argues that these findings are important for studies of contemporary border controls, as the same nationalist and racialised structures underpinning detention regimes are fundamentally implicated in embodied and emplaced notions of suburban homeliness.

Keywords

Place, miltarism, immigration detention, race, nationalism, feminist geopolitics

Introduction

When viewing Haslar Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) and its surroundings, striking contrasts can be drawn between the removal centre with its high, forbidding fences and the local residential area in which it is situated. The motivation for the present study came from this first impression following a visit to the highly militarised suburb known here as Southcreek, (1) and from the subsequent realisation of the starkly racialised division of population either side of Haslar's looming fences. The study involved qualitative semistructured interviews with 25 'white' residents of suburban Southcreek about their views of the area and the IRC within it, enabling an analysis of their constructions of place and the IRC in relation to race, nationalism, migration and militarism.

The findings sections below critically explore how the IRC and its detainees are routinely obscured by participants in relation to a suburb they portray as simply 'nice'. It will be demonstrated, through a refocusing of scale influenced by feminist geopolitics approaches, how nationalist, racialised and global boundaries are produced at simultaneously local and global levels through mundane, everyday practices. The banal everydayness of the centre's fences can however be disturbed for participants in relation to anxieties regarding the prospect of intimacy with detainees. These anxieties can disrupt both the legitimacy of detention and the homeliness, the 'niceness', of Southcreek affectively and ethically. This sense of unease is partially remedied for most participants by its disavowal in relation to the disembodying rationalities of nationalism. Complex, embodied and emplaced, emotions and disavowals relating to Haslar IRC, and underpinned by nationalist and racialised structures, are therefore found to be fundamentally implicated in participants' constructions of suburban homeliness. It will be argued in the conclusion that these findings provide an important, hitherto neglected, perspective on how contemporary detention and removal practices, intertwined with global inequalities and colonial histories, are obscured and legitimised in everyday, localised and intimate, spheres in places beyond the vicinity of Haslar.

The article will first introduce Haslar and Southcreek, then the feminist geopolitics framework of the study and the fieldwork, before the empirical sections in which original data are presented. …

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