The Milieu as Border

This is Theresa May’s Hostile Environment: The no­tion of mak­ing ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices like health care, ed­u­ca­tion, bank ac­counts, hous­ing, dri­ving lessons de­pen­dent on im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

You can ar­gue that this turns teach­ers, lec­tur­ers, dri­ving in­struc­tors into bor­der po­lice, ex­pand­ing the bor­der into the coun­try.

This is par­al­lel to other, more nat­ural en­vi­ron­ments (ie. the Mediterranean, the desert) are be­ing made hos­tile and dan­ger­ous to mi­grants, used to en­force bor­der lines. These ar­eas might have some geo­phys­i­cal prop­er­ties that make them nat­ural bor­ders, but this is am­pli­fied through spe­cific pol­icy. Similar poli­cies are at work in the open en­vi­ron­ment. Immigration pol­icy no longer about in­di­vid­ual peo­ple, but the mi­lieu. Maybe we can de­velop an un­der­stand­ing of both of these places at the same time.

The na­ture of bor­ders

The idea that bor­ders are de­ter­mined by nat­ural fea­tures is an old trope. See France ex­pand­ing to the at­lantic in the west, and the Rhine in the East. Of course this is crit­i­cised since the 19th cen­tury.

Churchill Semple: Influences of en­vi­ron­men­tal ….

Designing Hostility

The Mediterranean is a use­ful thing to be turned into a weapon, be­cause mi­grants deaths can be called nat­ural dis­as­ters, ef­fec­tively blamed on the sea. Border con­trol is re­ally a se­ries of con­cen­tric cir­cles that ex­tends well be­yond the coun­try it­self.

At sea, the process of cross­ing a bor­der can be ex­tended into mul­tile days, the bor­der line be­comes a zone that is mul­ti­ple miles wide. IN the mediter­ranean there all kinds of over­lap­ping zones of con­trol (rescue, in­ter­cep­tion). Things are chaotic.

These things aren’t ac­ci­dents, but strate­gies that al­low states to po­lice the sea. It’s not the ab­sence of law (the law­less sea) but the op­po­site: Man over­lap­ping laws, con­trol zones that gen­er­ate vi­o­lence at sea. These zones are re-drawn all the time.

Death by Rescue (2016).

Cutting back res­cue op­er­a­tion is a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to de­ter mi­grants. This is a form of in­di­rect liq­uid vi­o­lence not only at sea, but through the sea.

Sensing prac­tices within and against the bor­der

What makes the sea hos­tile is vis­i­bil­ity. The sea is a tech­no­log­i­cally me­di­ated space. Vessels and coasts have radars, com­mer­cial ships have track­ing transpon­ders, me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal de­vices col­lect data about cur­rents, wind etc. All of this sens­ing ap­pa­ra­tus has come to play an im­por­tant role in bor­der polic­ing.

Surveillance data in the mediter­ranean is­n’t ho­moge­nous, rather patchy. There’s no way to im­age the whole sea in high enough res­o­lu­tion to track small mi­grant ves­sels. Instead, sen­sors are pointed at fo­cal routes that are dic­tated by ge­og­ra­phy (straight lines, shortes routes etc.). But rather than re­duc­ing mi­gra­tion, this has led to mi­gra­tion routes splin­ter­ing (which leads to mi­grant deaths).

Of course we see the ex­act same thing in the desert be­tween the USA and Mexico. Massive con­cen­tra­tion of bor­der po­lice in places where it is easy to cross (urban ar­eas) forces mi­grants to cross through deserts, where they die. The US has for­malised this into the Border Calculus.

FA is able to turn sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy around to in­stead doc­u­ment the vi­o­lence against mi­grants.

Left to die boat in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Combining satel­lite im­agery with mod­el­ling of ocean cur­rents.

[lily, ngo boat im­pounded by italy case video]

This is the dis­obe­di­ent gaze. Re-directing the gaze of the sen­so­rium away from il­le­gal mi­gra­tion back to the act of bor­der polic­ing.

Border Environmentality

Using the hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment pol­icy as a lens to in­ves­ti­gate the re­al­tion of bor­ders, tech­nol­ogy and me­dia. Environments are far more than a neu­tral back­ground for hu­man ac­tion. They’re shaped and shape hu­man ac­tion and in­ac­tion in var­i­ous ways. Kind of the op­po­site of this di­a­gram from The mea­sure of man by Henry Dreyfuss:


The cen­tral aim of er­gonom­ics is to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment around the work­ing sub­ject.

The en­vi­ron­ment can’t be seen just as the site of bor­der polic­ing, but one of its modes of op­er­a­tion. May’s pol­icy cre­ates a kind of per­va­sive, dis­trib­uted form of racialised form of vi­o­lence against mi­grants - not un­like deaths in the mediter­ranean sea.

Also: apline passes are eing turned back into hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments (after be­ing do­mes­ti­cated for the last cen­turies).

This an­a­lyt­i­cal frame­work of hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments al­lows us to un­der­stand eu­ro­pean cities and nat­ural spaces to­gether. Struggles around bor­ders are be­com­ing not just about the free­dom of move­ment, but also the free­dom to stay. Borders are a way of pro­tect­ing rel­a­tive, tem­po­rary sta­bil­ity of a few priv­iledged peo­ple against the per­ma­nent move­ment of most peo­ple.