The Irregular Migrant as Homo Sacer: Migration and Detention in Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand
Article first published online: 25 FEB 2004
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 33–64, March 2004
How to Cite
Rajaram, P. K. and Grundy-Warr, C. (2004), The Irregular Migrant as Homo Sacer: Migration and Detention in Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand. International Migration, 42: 33–64. doi: 10.1111/j.0020-7985.2004.00273.x
- Issue published online: 25 FEB 2004
- Article first published online: 25 FEB 2004
Abstract This paper looks at aspects of the detention of irregular migrants in Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand. The principle intention of the paper is to study detention of irregular migrants as a means of understanding politics and how notions of political participation and of sovereignty are affected by the detention of certain sorts of individual. What does the identification of certain “forms of life” to be detained say about the political norms of different societies? The conduit for this examination will be the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben's concept of homo sacer. Homo sacer is a term Agamben extrapolates from “ancient Roman law”. It denotes a naked or bare life that is depoliticized. Homo sacer is the excess of processes of political constitution that create a governable form of life. Homo sacer is thus exempt or excluded from the normal limits of the state. At the same time, however, homo sacer is not simply cast out but is held in particular relation to the norm: it is through the exclusion of the depoliticized form of life that the politicized norm exists. This essay seeks to contextualize aspects of Agamben's argument by looking at detention as a form of exclusion in three different contexts.