Technologies of Sovereignty 4b - Technologies of Sovereignty: white panic


Technologies of Sovereignty: White Panic

Emerging from a frame akin to an old TV screen is the face of a white actress with wide eyes and her mouth open in shock.

[imagecaption] Vigil still. Artist: Tracey Moffatt. [/imagecaption]


In 2001, then Prime Minister John Howard articulated  a declaration of absolute control over maritime borders that has since become a core tenet of government: ‘We decide who comes into this country and the circumstances in which they come’. The declaration activated specific Australian imaginaries of sovereignty to produce, through the body of a fictionalised enemy of the refugee, a climate of emergency and a mentality of siege. This state of emergency and siege provided the conditions for the exercise of a form of necropolitics in the case of asylum seekers arriving in boats (Mbembe 2004: 18) , ‘the right to kill, to allow to live or to expose to death’.

The technologies of sovereignty leading to practices of violence at the border since 2001  include:

  • calculated dehumanisation of people seeking asylum by boat
  • the excision of landing places and their deterritorialisation from the migration zone
  • militarised practices of surveillance, interception and enforced turnbacks of boats in mid-ocean
  • a neocolonial geopolitics that seeks to exploit Australia’s former colonies and protectorates and impoverished countries of the region



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