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ESRC Seminar Series ‘Exploring Everyday Practice and Resistance in Immigration Detention‘.

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

1/09/1231/12/14

Detention is a pressing empirical, conceptual, and political issue. Detained populations, detention facilities, and industries have expanded globally. We argue that developments in detention practices have not been given the academic attention they deserve and that a multi-disciplinary approach can shed light on some of the most salient issues that detention expansion raises. These include the everyday experience of detention which is still only poorly understood, the complex relationship between detention and borders, the flows of material and policies between detention and mainstream incarceration, the ways in which detention might be resisted, the ethical/methodological challenges of studying detention, and the meaning and methods of 'supporting' detainees. Operating through these issues are contradictory sets of logics such as the containment of immigrants in order to secure their exclusion, the extra-territorial detention of immigrants in order to secure territory, the indefinite and lengthy detention of immigrants in order to expedite their removal, and the shrouding of detention and removal in a language of voluntarism and co-operation. The first principle of this seminar series is that a multi-disciplinary approach to detention practices that combines both academics and non-academics will allow us to unpack these numerous and powerful contradictions in contemporary detention practice.

The UK has experienced a range of changes to its own detention regime in recent years, including the fast-tracking of many immigration detainees (resulting in a pared down legal process), the privatisation of detention facilities (which has implications for the comprehensiveness of care offered to detainees, see Flynn and Cannon, 2009), and the expansion of the detention estate, albeit through the construction of privately run, secure facilities for immigrants that the British government does not recognise as detention. This said, a number of features of detention in the UK have also remained remarkably resilient to change, including the continued use of indefinite detention despite the overwhelming majority of European countries implementing a time limit (Detention Action, 2010; Schinkel 2009), the prohibition on paid work whilst in detention and the detention of children (Crawley, 2011; BID, 2011). The UK is also among the most active country in terms of interdiction and detention of would-be immigrants during their journeys (Mountz, 2010).

By bringing together a range of established academics, early-career academics, postgraduates, practitioners, artists, activists and former detainees this seminar series will investigate the ways in which the UK experience of detention reflects and re-produces the contradictory logics inherent in modern global detention practices. Through five one-day workshop events the seminar series will span the academic disciplines of criminology, geography, politics and sociology in order to examine the phenomenon of detention as it relates to supporting detainees, penology and prisons, everyday experiences of detention and the politics of, and resistance to, detention practices. Additional themes that will overlay these various workshops, to be held in London, York, Birmingham, Oxford and Lancaster include the ethical/methodological challenges that the study of detention produces and the tension, running throughout work in this area, between outright resistance to detention practices or a reformist approach based on working with the state on behalf of immigration detainees (Gill, 2010).

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