Murphy, Michael P. A. 2019. The double articulation of sovereign bordering: Spaces of exception, sovereign vulnerability, and Agamben’s Schmitt/Foucault synthesis. Journal of Borderlands Studies Online First: 1-17.
With the rise of authoritarian populism and critical border studies, as well as the continued presence of the Minutemen and borderlands studies, it is safe to say that sovereign borders are receiving increasing attention from a diverse set of actors within and beyond academia. One strain of research, building on the work of Giorgio Agamben, has examined the border as a space of exception. However, Agamben’s conceptual development of biopolitical sovereignty has come under fire, as critics assert his uneasy synthesis of Carl Schmitt and Michel Foucault is disproven by the agency of migrants proving themselves capable of resisting sovereign control at the border. This article responds to Agamben’s critics by rebalancing the Schmittian and Foucauldian sources of Agamben’s work. While much of the conceptual development of the border-as-exception has focused on the experience of the border-crosser as a capillary manifestation of control, I argue that the exception is as important for the sovereign as for the object of sovereign power. Every decision on the exception is also a process of defining who the sovereign is, and if we understand the border is a space of exception, then we also must recognize the vulnerability that this produces for the sovereign.