Border Policing and Sovereign Terrain: The Spatial Framing of Unwanted Migration in Melbourne and Australia

This paper investigates the spatial frames that are mobilised in the discourse and practice of border policing in the Australian context and the ideological content in which those frames are embedded. On the one hand, a deterritorialised frame positions unwanted migrants as a global threat from beyond. On the other, a territorialised frame enables the possibility of sovereign territorial defence. Neither of these frames, I contend, adequately captures contemporary techniques of border policing which increasingly open borders to global market ideology in the very act of their defence. Nor do they capture the strategic opportunities that exist across different places and scales to resist sovereign logics of control. The paper drills down to the level of the city and the experience of asylum seekers in Melbourne in order to further highlight the limits of simplistic spatial frames. I show that both in local sites and at territory’s edges, border policing is indicative of a new terrain of sovereign practice. Accordingly, I present an analytical and normative case for a multidimensional approach to spatial framing. I argue for theoretical openness to spatial metaphors that assist in the tasks of empirically investigating and politically unsettling technologies of contemporary border control.

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