Research Seminar: Wednesday 17th March 12-1pm GMT

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Phe Amis (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Abolish UKBA? Notes on the difficulty of historicising the Home Office 

In 2006, in the aftermath of the so-called ‘foreign prisoner crisis’, the Home Office was declared ‘not fit for purpose’ by the incoming Home Secretary John Reid. The next year, responsibilities for the prison estate, sentencing and parole taken from the Home Office and invested in a newly created Ministry of Justice. By 2008 the Home Office had been further reorganised by the creation of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), an executive commanded by a Director of Operations rather than a Minister. Nonetheless, after further “crises”, in 2013 the UKBA was “abolished” by the Home Office, which internalised border control administration once more. This paper takes the state-sanctioned “abolition” of the UKBA as an opening to piece together the institutional history of the Home Office itself from a perspective invested in the abolition of policing, prisons, borders and other colonial projects. In this way, the paper explores the concept of “history” within the institutional culture of the Home Office, tracing its cultural practices and language around changing, reforming or even “abolishing” parts of itself. I scrutinise the life history of the Home Office in the hope of denaturalising the perceived power and permanence of the border regime and its institutions.

Helen Brewer (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Mobilising Solidarity Infrastructures 

The abstraction and imagination of immigration detention as a homogenized, solidified and impenetrable architecture is part of an implicit discourse communicated by the built environment, yet, one necessary to interrogate. Comprising formal and informal spatialities, the function of detention dictates separation, isolation and confusion, from waiting rooms to processing offices to decisions on cases to the constant threat of a deportation notice, all are rooted in the everyday experience of space and time.

In this way, detention architecture enacts and proposes violent possibilities, prefigured in the State’s imaginary. Spatial violence is “something architecture inflicts even as it follows its own practices and protocols”, in this respect, “architecture does not merely serve as illustration, symbol, or even representation” (Herscher, 2015) but succeeds in enforcing a highly affective constructed reality of the border and what the border could be.

Taking immigration detention as a site of border struggle, this paper beckons shifts in imagining and encountering physical enclosures in order to disrupt the durability and seeming totality of border space. In doing so, I consider the mobilisation of solidarity infrastructures that challenge the de-politicization and immobilization of people affected by detention as a form of this ‘architecture in the making’. Drawing on an abolitionist praxis, I conceptualise these infrastructures as a formulation of new possible relationships and connections across histories and geographies. Solidarity infrastructures can be difficult to locate in instances, as they are fundamentally temporal, incoherent, opaque, and always responsive, they are products of infrastructural space mobilised by the internal borders’ indeterminacy.