2015: The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions


 The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions


The Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe)

 Lancaster University, January 22-23th 2015

The Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University (CeMoRe) is hosting an ESRC sponsored conference “The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions” (which is the final event in part of a larger series of workshops titled  ‘Exploring Everyday Practice and Resistance in Immigration Detention’). Bringing together a range of leading academics, post-graduate researchers, 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 contemporary global detention practices.  “The Business of Immigration Detention” will consider the challenges facing academics and activists in the area of immigration detention and related border-security practices.

The administrative detention and deportation of adults classified as ‘illegal’ escalated in the late 1990s with a policy shift from the detention of very small numbers of migrants in mainstream prisons to the development of specialist migrant detention facilities. Successive UK governments have argued that this escalation in detention is ‘an essential, everyday facet of immigration control’ and ‘regrettable but necessary’ (see Silverman 2012). However, while arguments about the ‘necessity’ of detention are grounded in notions of deterrence, threat and security, the expansion of immigration detention, and the practices that determine who is taken into detention, are also driven by business interests.

Detention is a business, and the profits to be made are key determinants of both transnational and state-level policy formation and everyday detention practices. Further, this global business is proliferating new markets for global securities companies which extend outside the detention estate into the provision of services, such as housing and welfare for migrant and increasingly ‘citizen’ populations (for example in running prisons, policing and schools services).

At this conference we will consider what Frances Webber describes as ‘the vexed question of when, if and how we should engage with statutory bodies and whether it is possible to do so without jeopardising the principles which led us to get involved in this work in the first place’? (Weber, 2012).

Should activism and activist-scholarship aim to resist state practices of detention entirely, or work with private and state actors in order to change detention practices? What forms of critical intervention and resistance are useful or possible in this field?

To address these and other questions, we have invited leading scholars, artists and activists to address to share their research and experience, and to reflect, listen, learn and debate questions of resistance to immigration detention, from local, national and global perspectives.

Schedule of Events:

On Thursday 22nd Jan There are two free PUBLIC events

1. Public Lecture:

“The business of detention, the death of asylum, and the life of activism” Professor Alison Mountz

Thursday 22th January 5.30pm-6.30pm Marcus Merriman LT, Bowland North, Lancaster University chaired by Imogen Tyler

Professor Alison Mountz, Professor of Geography and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. Professor Mountz’s work explores the tension between the decisions, displacements, and desires that drive human migration and the policies and practices designed to manage migration. She is author of Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border (2011) and leads the ‘Island Detention Project’ http://www.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=2599&p=21545

Followed by:

2. Public Performance ‘Asylum Monologues’: Thursday 22th January 7pm-8pm, Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University

Ice&fire will be performing specially adapted version of their ‘asylum monologues’ at the Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre at 7pm on Thursday 24th January, followed by a wine reception and book launch. It is FREE to attend this event – but you must register as numbers are strictly limited:

book here

FRIDAY 23rd Jan: The Conference

“The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions”  Lancaster University FASS building rooms 2/3, 9.am- 5pm


Draft Conference Programme  “The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions”

9am Registration

9.30am Welcome from Professor John Urry (Director of CEMORE) and Dr Imogen Tyler (conference organiser)

10am-12.30 Activisms in and around detention (20 min papers followed by roundtable discussion) Chaired by Dr Celia Roberts

Christine Bacon (Ice&fire) on using performance to raise public awareness of human rights issues about detention

WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together), Talk about their support group and activities (see http://www.wast.org.uk/)

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince) Talk about experiences of immigration system and detention and Liverpool Migrant Artists: Mutal Aid (see http://migrantartistsmutualaid.wordpress.com/)

Eiri Ohtani from The Detention Forum ‘How immigration detention “works”‘

John Grayson (writer, activist) ‘How to use housing to hurt people – ‘soft detention’ in G4S asylum housing’

12.30-1.30pm lunch

1.30-3.30pm Research as Resistance (20 min papers followed by roundtable discussion). Chaired by Professor Anne-Marie Fortier

Professor Alice Bloch (Manchester University) ‘Living illegality: Multiple exclusions and uncertainties’.

Dr Alex Hall (York University)

Dr Maja Sager (Lancaster and Lund University)

Professor Gillian Whitlock (The University of Queensland) ”The Hospitality of Cyberspace’

Professor Mary Bosworth (University of Oxford & Monash University) “Inside Immigration Detention: Methodological and Ethical Challenges of Studying Border Control”

In this talk I will draw on my on-going research in British IRCs to discuss a range of methodological and ethical challenges I face. In so doing, I explore the tensions inherent in maintaining research access while building a critique of current practice.  What are the pressures, risks and benefits?  How, under conditions of radical uncertainty and vulnerability can we build relationships of trust with research subjects or with research gatekeepers?

3.30pm – 4pm coffee break

Dr Jenna Loyd. Closing Keynote

‘The business of detention and wages of innocence: Ending detention without exception’

4pm-5.30pm Friday 23rd January (Chaired by Professor Lucy Suchman)

Dr Jenna Loyd is an Assistant Professor in Public Health Policy at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, as well as a prison and detention abolitionist activist. She is the author of Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978 (2014) and co-editor of Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis (2013). Beyond Walls and Cages takes an explicitly abolitionist and transnational political approach to issues of detention and forced imprisonment. Inspired by Jenna’s activist-scholarship, we are seeking to emulate the philosophy of Beyond Walls and Cages at this conference, with scholars, activists, artists, and the formally imprisoned speaking together form a range of disciplines, experiences and perspectives—from local struggles against immigration detention and strikes and protests against the privatisation of policing and prison-services, to trans-national networks which seek to expose and undo the increasing hold of global securities companies within the fabric of the state.

Speaker Biographies:

Christine Bacon is Artistic Director of ice&fire, who will be performing at a free public event at Lancaster University chaplaincy Centre on the evening of Thursday 23rd of January to mark the beginning of our conference.  Christine has been involved in numerous grassroots campaigns, including Actors for Refugees Australia. She moved to the UK in 2004 to complete an MSc. in Forced Migration at Oxford University. She founded ice&fire‘s outreach network Actors for Human Rights. Plays for ice&fire include On the Record (with Noah Birksted-Breen); Afghan Monologues, Rendition Monologues; The Illegals; Broke; Seven Years with Hard Labour (with Sara Masters); and Listen to Me (with Sara Masters).

Dr Mary Bosworth is Director of Graduate Studies at the Centre for Criminology at Oxford University, where she is a Reader in Criminology and, concurrently, Professor of Criminology at Monash University, Australia. Dr Bosworth conducts research into the ways in which prisons and immigration detention centres uphold notions of race, gender and citizenship and how those who are confined negotiate their daily lives. Dr Bosworth is currently heading a five-year project on “Subjectivity, Identity and Penal Power: Incarceration in a Global Age” and with colleagues from Monash is conducting research in Greek Immigration Detention Centres. Details of both of these projects can be found on the website http://bordercriminologies.law.ox.ac.uk

Dr Maja Sager is a COFAS Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Gender Studies, Lund University and, between 2012 and 2015, a visiting researcher at the Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK. Her PhD ‘Everyday Clandestinity: Experiences on the Margins of Citizenship and Migration Policies’ (2011) is based upon an ethnographic study with irregular migrants and migration rights activists and discusses how national belonging, citizenship and social organising are practiced and represented in the Swedish welfare state. Maja is currently undertaking her postdoctoral research with migrant activist groups in the UK, Sweden and Denmark.

Pa Modou Bojang (Prince) is the Director of Kibaaro Radio, a journalist, writer and refugee. Prince is also a former immigration detainee and a founding member of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid, a Liverpool based activist organisation comprised of migrant and ‘citizen’ artists, poets, writers and performers.

Dr Alex Hall is a lecturer in Politics at the University of York. Her research focuses on the international securitisation of mobility and contemporary border politics in the west, drawing on interdisciplinary work from international relations, anthropology and critical security and border studies. She has conducted research into the everyday production and experience of security within immigration detention, and the rise of ‘smart’ e-border targeting systems in the UK and Europe. Alex is currently conducting research on the role of discretion within smart border targeting programmes, as a way of understanding the contemporary working of sovereign power at the border and the international governance of mobility.

The Detention Forum is a network of over 30 NGOs who are working on immigration detention issues.  We are working together to build a momentum to question the legitimacy of immigration detention which has become such a normal part of the British immigration system.  We are now a membership-based network, a collective of organisations who want to work together to challenge immigration detention.  One of the aims of our work is to engage more politicians about this issue.  We now host regular Parliamentary Network Meetings on immigration detention twice a year, have written joint letters to influence and individually lobbied local MPs to be more vocal about detention issues.

Eiri Ohtani is the Co-ordinator of the Detention Forum in the UK and an independent consultant in the voluntary sector. She has worked with migrants and asylum-seekers for over a decade. A graduate of LSE, she also holds postgraduate degrees from SOAS and Birkbeck, University of London.

John Grayson is an independent researcher and adult educator. He was Senior Tutor for research at the Northern College for residential adult education until 2006 and taught Housing Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. He lives in Barnsley and is an activist and campaigner with SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group). John has published widely on anti racist issues for the Institute for Race Relations news service; and on immigration issues, especially on privatisation and asylum housing. He has been involved with the transnational ‘Stop G4S’ activist network.

See http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson.

Professor Alice Bloch is Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on understanding the lived experiences of forced migrants with a focus on marginalisation and exclusion, rights and agency, engagement in transnational relations, social and community networks, economic strategies and labour market experiences. Recent publications include, Sans Papiers: The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants in the UK (Pluto Press with Nando Sigona and Roger Zetter). She has recently completed an ESRC funded study (2011-14), with Professor Sonia McKay from the Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University, ‘Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities, traps or class-based constructs’. Her current research is a collaboration with Professor Milena Chimienti, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland and Professor Catherine Withol De Wenden Sciences Po Paris, on a project funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies, ‘Children of refugees in Europe: Aspirations, social and economic lives, identity and transnational linkages’.



2 thoughts on “2015: The Business of Immigration Detention: Activisms, Resistances, Critical Interventions

  1. Pingback: Event: Immigration Detention Conference at Lancaster Jan 22-23rd 2015 | Refugee Archives @ UEL

  2. Pingback: Attn SOSS PhDs: Immigration Detention Conference at Lancaster Jan 22-23rd 2015 | PGR Doc Blog

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