DOI: 10.1177/23996544241232325 ISSN: 2399-6544

Blood, sweat and tears: On the corporeality of deportation

Lisa Marie Borrelli, William Walters
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Public Administration
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development

It is hard to imagine how deportation regimes could function without the threat or the exercise of force. Yet surprisingly a focus on forces and bodies, and more generally the question of corporeality, has rarely been foregrounded by migration scholars looking at deportation. Academic study of clandestine border crossing as well as detention abounds with descriptions and theorization at the level of the body. Why not deportation? Building on fieldwork with cantonal police units in Switzerland between 2015 and 2017, this paper calls for scholars of deportation to take corporeality seriously. We follow some of the corporeal practices implemented by state actors and related experts and authorities to understand how bodies feature in removal practices in terms of senses, feelings, affects, nerves, pulses, breathing. Violence overarches this scene, but it is by no means the whole story in the state’s struggle for sovereignty and racialised removal, since we should equally register the other moves that are integral to deportation operations such as calming, monitoring, medicating, consoling, dressing, undressing, and inspecting. To overlook the corporeal is to risk producing an overly sanitized, cleansed, tidy depiction of deportation.

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