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Undocumented Migrants and Resistance in the State of Exception

Ellermann, Antje (2009) Undocumented Migrants and Resistance in the State of Exception. In: UNSPECIFIED.

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    This paper examines the relationship between the state and the undocumented migrant by building on Giorgio’s Agamben concepts of “bare life” and “state of exception.” In particular, the paper explores the possibility of resistance by migrants in the state of exception, and the implications of noncompliance for the exercise of state sovereignty. Agamben’s notion of “state of exception” describes the augmentation of government powers during times of emergency when state sovereignty is perceived to be under threat. In states of emergency, governments suspend elements of the normal legal order and strip individuals of rights, even their legal identity. Whereas Agamben treats the state’s denial of a legal identity to migrants as the sine qua non of state power, this paper will examine what might be called the “reverse state of exception”: instances where migrants strip themselves of their legal identity in order to evade state control. Whereas Agamben treats legal status as the basis for individual rights, this paper will consider the circumstance where the possession of a legal identity constitutes a liability to the illegal migrant. The paper argues that in instances where migrants have lost all claims against the state and are confronted with expulsion, many will resort to an extreme act of resistance against the state: the destruction of their identity documents. By rendering themselves unclassifiable, illegal migrants oftentimes succeed in tying the hands of the sovereign who is forced to operate within the constraints of the international legal order that requires the possession of identity documents for repatriation. The paper concludes with the paradoxical finding that, under certain extreme conditions, the fewer claims migrants can make against the state, the more constrained the power of the liberal state to secure the obedience of the individual.

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > social policy > discrimination/minorities
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > Third Pillar/JHA/PJCC/AFSJ > immigration policy
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2009 (11th), April 23-25, 2009
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2013 16:56
    Number of Pages: 26
    Last Modified: 07 Jan 2020 19:44

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