Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Innico, S.
Enacting Statehood in Places of Exception: The Structural Effect of Statehood on Greek Migration Management
(2021) Ethnopolitics

DOI: 10.1080/17449057.2021.1907932

The aim of this paper is to outline an analytic perspective on the notion of statehood, state authorities’ performance in situations of exceptionality, and to present some insights from ethnographic research in the context of migration in contemporary Greece. Following Timothy Mitchell’s thesis on the ‘effect of state’, taking into account Giorgio Agamben’s and Michel Foucault’s theories regarding the ‘state of exception’ and ‘exceptionalised institutions’, as well as Erving Goffman’s ‘dramaturgical perspective’ on the studies of social interactions, it is argued that 1. the ongoing cases of illegal and unsanctioned practices carried out by police and army officers in the Greek migration context should be interpreted, first and foremost, as mere practices of statehood enactment; 2. the ‘state of exception’ is not merely a useful spatialised device used by state authorities for mobility-control purposes, but rather an essential trait of statehood enactment itself. In order to reconcile the internal ambiguities inherent in the convoluted ensemble of perceived notions about what ‘a state’ is and how ‘a state’ does what it is supposed to do, it will be argued that, statehood enactment, by its very definition and constitution, frequently requires recurring to an ‘institutionalised state of exception’. From a broader viewpoint, these arguments question some supposedly non-problematic assumptions about the (concrete or abstract) nature of the state, while at the same time proposing an examination of the epistemological status of migranthood.

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