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Barak Kalir

Each year the Dutch authorities categorize scores of people as being “out of procedure” (uitgeprocedeerd). These are mostly “failed asylum seekers” who have exhausted all legal appeals in search of regularizing their status in the Netherlands. Out-of-procedure subjects, or OOPSs, have no formal rights and receive no state provision. They must leave the country voluntarily within one month or risk deportation. Many OOPSs who spent weeks or even months in Dutch detention centers are eventually released onto the streets, as the authorities cannot manage to deport them. This article interrogates the production and treatment of OOPSs as nonexistent human beings who are no longer considered by the state as “aliens” but merely as illegalized bodies. This intriguing case of the state deserting certain people within its sovereign territory is realized through a process of derecording OOPSs and formally pretending that they are not part of the governed population.

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Introduction

Nonrecording states between legibility and looking away

Barak Kalir and Willem van Schendel

In this theme section we explore why and when states knowingly refrain from recording people and their activities. States are not simply in pursuit of enhanced “legibility”; at times they also need to be able to “look away.” In explaining strategies of nonrecording, our focus is on how subjects negotiate with state recording agencies, how nonrecording relieves state agents from the burden of accountability, how the discretionary power of individual state agents affects (non)recording in unanticipated ways, and how states may project an illusion of vigorous recording internationally while actually engaging in deliberate nonrecording. Presenting case studies from China, Greece, the Netherlands, India, and Romania, we show that strategies of nonrecording are flexible, selective, and aimed at certain populations—and that both citizens and noncitizens can be singled out for nonrecording or derecording. In analyzing this state-produced social oblivion, divergences between national and local levels are of crucial significance.