Shaping National Borders and Imagining National Belonging through the Professional Practices of Asylum

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Maja HERTOGHS , Social Sciences, Anthropology, PhD Student, Amsterdam, Netherlands
This paper is part of an ongoing ethnographic study of the Dutch asylum process. I explore how competing professional practices of ‘the asylum procedure’ shape a specific kind of (national) border-performance and works to produce images of national belonging.

         Non-Western migrants pose a dilemma for ‘nation states’ leading to a manifold of control measurements and monitoring strategies. In part this dilemma is dealt with in and through an asylum procedure that incorporates both the compassionate promise to protect ‘authentic refugees’ and repress a complexity of differently classified non-Western migrants. In this spatio-temporal asylum process the asylum applicant resides in a liminal manifold of interaction, in which professional negotiations and visualizations of ‘deservingness’ unfold between legal representatives of asylum applicants and well-trained IND officers representing the state. Such asylum practices can be understood as particular ways of performing the border (cf. Green, 2010). While, often, national borders are taken for granted as stable, fixed and as an ever-present reality, a national border is dynamically made and unmade, present or non-present. The presence and making of the border partly relies on that which stirs it; while non-western immigrants incite a strict and well-developed border regime, such borders radically disappear when flows of capital are of concern (cf. Appadurai & Holston).

Through the ‘problem’ of asylum and non-Western immigration the national border is made into a (liminal) space of separation; in various detention or ‘application’ buildings ‘asylum seekers’ are classified (separated) as either ‘good’ or ‘bogus’ and, accordingly, labeled as (un)deserving to enter the ‘sovereign’ domain of the ‘national community’. As such, the border-performances of the asylum procedure shape specific and diverging relationships between ‘the national self’ and ‘the immigrant other’. These professionalized border practices, consequently, produce and visualize images of national belonging.

[1] Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie en Naturalisatie Dienst)