Performing Sovereignty 2b - Performance of Sovereignty


The Performance of Sovereignty

[imagecaption]A poster desgined for the Australia government depicts a boat in the middle of the ocean. Dark waters and gloomy skies frame bold text that reads 'No Way You Will Not Make Australia Home'. An icon shows a map of Australia with a cross through it. At the bottom text reads 'The Australian Government has introduced the toughest border protection measures ever. If you get on a boat without a visa, you will not end up in Australia. Any vessel seeking to illegally enter Australia will be intercepted and safely removed beyond Australian waters. The rules apply to everyone: families, children, unaccompanied children, educated and skilled. No matter who you are or where you are from, you will not make Australia home. Think again before you waste your money. People smugglers are lying.' An Australian Government is shown at the top centre. ‘No Way’ advertising campaign, 2014. Image: Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This advertising campaign, which emphasised that no one who came to Australia by boat would ever be resettled in Australia, is a component of the ‘Operation Sovereign Borders‘ policy. The policy comprises both offshore processing and boat interceptions and turn-backs, which the government claims would achieve the objective of ‘stopping the boats’. Amnesty International released a report in 2015 that critically examines the legal and human rights implications of Australia’s turn back policies. The Labor government used similar advertisements to accompany the 19 July policy announcement, though at the time they were subject to criticism by the Liberal opposition.[/imagecaption]


Australia’s ‘offshore processing’ system began with the ‘Pacific Solution’ in 2001 in the aftermath of the ‘Tampa affair’ and the 9/11 terror attacks. This policy meant that Australia’s border both contracted — through the excision of outlying Australian territories, like Christmas and Cocos Islands, from the migration zone — and expanded — through the annexure of spaces in other sovereign states. Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru have been effectively appropriated by Australia in ways that extend Australia’s borders, while also disowning Australia’s accountability for actions that take place within these extended spaces.

The practices by which Australia seeks to exert and extend its sovereignty over spaces and bodies include attempts to contain Indigenous sovereignty through the consolidation of national borders on the one hand and regional expansionism on the other. These forms of sovereign violence are clearly enacted through the ‘Pacific Solution’ and ‘Operation Sovereign Borders‘ (OSB). Refugees and asylum seekers are positioned as the ultimate non-citizens through whose bodies Australia seeks to perform its ‘stateness’ and consolidate its ‘nationness’ in the renewed emphasis on the nation-state that accompanies the war on terror (Perera, 2007).




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