Foucault News

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

Salmenkari, T., Aldawoodi, S.
Papers of the Paperless: Governmentality, Technologies of Freedom, and the Production of Asylum-Seeker Identities
(2023) International Migration Review.

DOI: 10.1177/01979183231154502

Refugees become asylum-seekers not only because the receiving country gives them the bureaucratic-legal status but also because they start to identify with the status. This article examines how refugees learn to be asylum-seekers even when they question asylum decisions. It uses Foucault’s idea of governmentality to assess how governmental policies become translated into asylum-seekers’ collective and personal conducts as asylum-seekers, sometimes in ways that undermine the official policy. This article introduces the idea of papered governmentality, in which the production of papers is a governmental technology to manage not only populations but also personal identities and conducts. It investigates how asylum-seekers’ own role in papered governmentality as receivers, producers, and users of various papers in the asylum process transforms their conducts and identities in ways that reshape how they are governed. The empirical research site was an asylum-seekers’ protest in Finland where the first author conducted participant observation about how papers included in the asylum process were collected, read, discussed, circulated, and co-produced. The article finds that when migration control utilizes laws, bureaucratic documents, and other liberal governmental technologies designed to modify autonomous individuals’ own decisions to migrate, it produces not only control but also identification with the host country and some freedom to choose how to act with governmental decisions. © The Author(s) 2023.

Author Keywords
anthropology of documents; asylum-seekers; counter-conducts; governmentality; technologies of freedom

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