Steven A. Hirschler, Hostile Homes. Violence, Harm and the Marketisation of UK Asylum Housing, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021
About this book
This book explores the ways in which the state and private security firms contribute to the direct and structural harm of asylum seekers through policies and practices that result in states of perpetual destitution, exclusion, and neglect. By synthesising historic and contemporary public policy, criminological and sociological perspectives, political philosophy, and the direct experiential accounts of asylum seekers living within dispersed accommodation, this text exposes the complex and co-dependent relationship between the state’s social control aims and neoliberal imperatives of market expansion into the immigration control regime. The title borrows from former Home Secretary Theresa May’s pronouncement that the UK government aimed to foster a ‘hostile environment’ in its response to illegal immigration. While the Home Office later attempted to rebrand its hostile environment policy as a ‘compliant environment’, this book illustrates how aggressive approaches toward the management of asylum-seeking populations has effectively extended the hostile environment to those legally present within the UK. Through an examination of the expanded privatisation of dispersed asylum housing and the UK government’s reliance on contracts with private security firms like G4S and Serco, this book explores the lived realities of hostile environments as asylum seekers’ accounts reveal the human costs of marketised asylum accommodation programmes.
Steven A. Hirschler is Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology at York St John University, UK. His research interests include the privatisation of UK asylum housing and the relationship between law, social inequality and social control practices. Steven has previously published on topics ranging from the 2011 UK riots to structural violence in video games. His teaching covers themes including criminological theory, victimology, asylum and immigration, and state violence.
Chapter: From ‘Crimmigration’ to Governmentality: Theoretical Perspectives on the Management and Marketisation of Immigration Control
This chapter examines key theoretical positions employed in the examination of asylum seekers’ exceptional treatment by the state. It begins with the ‘crimmigration’ narrative advanced by Stumpf and expanded and adapted by others as a way of highlighting the convergence of crime control tactics, institutions and attitudes within immigration control practices. The second half of this chapter questions the appropriateness of adopting Giorgio Agamben’s interpretations of concepts like ‘bare life’ and ‘homo sacer’ in the study of the state’s role in victimising asylum seekers and other migrants through sovereign mechanisms of control and in using the law as a way of circumventing humanitarian responsibilities. Returning to Michel Foucault’s concepts of ‘biopower’ and ‘governmentality’, this chapter ends with an argument that Foucault’s articulation of power as diffuse and the state’s aim to ‘protect’ society—often at the expense of others allowed to wither and die—offers a much more promising theoretical approach, as it allows for the possibility of agency and resistance within highly controlled environments