Quiet Voices: Resistance Against Disciplinary and Biopolitical Practices in the US Immigration Prison

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 14:30
Oral Presentation
Agnieszka RADZIWINOWICZ, University of Warsaw, Poland
The literature names examples of resistance by the people in immigration detention: hunger strikes, self-mutilations, or destroying identification documents and passports (Dow 2004; Fischer 2015). This paper draws upon the narratives of Mexicans deported from the United States of America, interviewed by the author in Mexico between 2012 and 2014, who in retrospective described their pre-removal detention. The paper seeks to address two objectives. The first is to show the voices of resistance of the people in immigration detention. The second is to explain why the interviewees accepted their deprivation of freedom and future deportation from the United States.

The author of the paper argues that: (1) Contrary to the above-mentioned examples, rarely did the research participants resist immigration detention. Generally they accepted their subordination and unequal power relations with the detention center staff. (2) Biopolitical and disciplinary practices in the US immigration detention circumscribe the agency of the detainees and hence limit the scope of their resistance. More precisely, (3) technological instruments of surveillance employed in detention demonstrate the US power to the detained migrants. (4) However, it is not only through the state-of-the-art technologies that the US sovereignty demonstrates to the detainees, but also through the disciplinary practices, such as frequent counting of detainees, highly-planned schedule of meals, and punishments. (5) Technologies of surveillance dehumanize detainees and deprive their life of the socio-political dimension. (6) Research participants did not resist immigration detention, but sometimes they tried to build a sense of security in the inhumane conditions of detention. Since they acknowledged the dominance of the US immigration apparatus, we should rather say about their modest counter-hegemonic acts in the hostile conditions of detention. Building strong ties with other detainees and community building or mind-distracting activities (making sports) were the most common examples of the counter-hegemonic acts of detainees.