Institutions of Confinement as Sites of Passage

The Mètis of Foreign Nationals Caught in the Wars on Terror, Drugs and Immigration

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

Never have so many foreign nationals been confined and deported from Europe and the USA as within the past decades. Yet a minority succeeds in remaining undeported for years and sometimes decades, in spite of being targets of enforcement practices related to the wars on drugs, on terror and on immigration. As they are brought into forced circulations between prisons, detention centres and the public spaces of penalized neigborhoods, they join a ‘floating population’ of exiles, transforming spaces of confinement into sites of passage. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and biographical interviews at different moments of the trajectories of ‘the undeported’, this article examines how their ability to avoid deportation develops and increases. The notion of mètis is mobilized to analyse how individuals adapt tactically or strategically to shifting, uncertain situations, and to understand the changes that they can sometimes bring to bear on the larger social forces that constrain them.

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