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Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.
This chapter introduces the main puzzle and themes of the book. It explores how borders and family connect in our contemporary moment before illustrating how this reveals the entanglements of empire. It discusses how intimacy and family are bordered and how this energises bordering. This establishes how the book is not only concerned with the violence done to family by borders, but also how claims to family can justify acts of bordering (for example, in the name of protecting ‘real’ family). It then sets out the main contribution of the book and how it relates to key debates in international politics, postcolonial feminist theory and migration studies. It also introduces key concepts and an overview of the archival and genealogical research approach underpinning the book.
This chapter develops a theory of domestication, which underpins the book’s approach to borders, family, empire, race and government. This begins with a unique reading of Jane Eyre, a key piece of nineteenth-century literature, and explores what the treatment of the character of Bertha Mason can tell us about family and empire. Domestication concerns the organisation of household rule and the push to domesticate untamed and uncivilised elements in the name of heteronormative capitalist order. Drawing from postcolonial, decolonial and black feminism, the chapter shows how the discovery of undomesticated populations was central to domesticating territory through imperialism. Historically, family has related to race just as much as it has to the more familiar inequalities of gender and sexuality. The chapter shows how the figure of Bertha Mason is dehumanised in Jane Eyre as an undomesticated presence within the English manor house. This works as an allegory for the contemporary racialised migrant and citizen.
Drawing upon the theory of domestication outlined in chapter 1, chapter 2 traces the history of family and borders across the British Empire from the early nineteenth century. This demonstrates how family was central to the making of the Empire and how this was tied to mobility. This chapter develops debates in migration and border studies by showing how borders were a key device of colonial and imperial rule. It shows how bordering formed around the management of undomesticated movement – that which either ran counter to the expansion of the state, emergent imperial capitalism, or the racialised-sexualised order of the colonial administration. This chapter shows that what we come to know as immigration policy/law was experimented with in the control of movement across imperial space before being institutionalised in the British metropole from 1905. The chapter also explores how immigration and citizenship law worked to arrange and dismantle intimacies of people moving from (ex)colonies to Britain throughout the mid/late twentieth century. This shows how bordering emerged and continues as a colonial project within Britain.
Chapter 3 demonstrates how the colonial politics of family and borders is adapted and resuscitated in contemporary Britain. It traces debates around sham marriage to explore how ideas of ‘genuine’ family and ‘subsisting’ relationships are coded with racial difference. In doing this, the chapter explores how colonial racism has adapted through the emergence of the ‘hostile environment’ and the Global War on Terror to make Muslim communities and other racialised populations a source of suspect intimacies. Appeals to modern liberal ‘love’ are used to present black, Asian and Muslim communities as ‘backwards’ and bound to underdeveloped forms of kinship (i.e. as undomesticated). Whilst existing studies of sham marriage focus on how borders and immigration policies work to exclude racialised migrants, this chapter analyses how border practices such as family migration visas connect up with the policing of settled communities. This is often arranged around attempts to save at-risk/risky ‘unintegrated’ women. Examples include forced marriages strategies, or in the move to monitor Muslim family patterns as part of the detection of radicalisation in the counter-terrorism programme Prevent. I call such interventions ‘intimate borders’.
Chapter 4 explores the significance of attempts to deprive criminals convicted of child sexual exploitation offences or ‘grooming’ of their citizenship. The case of grooming is used to explore where borders go, who they ‘stick’ to and what this tells us about the continuity of colonial hierarchies of race in Britain. Contributing to debates on race, masculinity and violence, this explores how monsters are created in contemporary Britain – in the figure of the ISIS terrorist, the street groomer, the gang member. The chapter examines how discovering monsters demands their eradication, such as in the form of deprivation, deportation and assassination. In the case of grooming, it is shown how this is made exceptional as a racial crime, one committed by dangerous ‘Asian’ and ‘Muslim men’ against ‘white girls’. Making certain people into monsters justifies the use of exceptional acts such as the deprivation of citizenship, which shape the treatment of all naturalised and racialised citizens. The chapter then shows how the state’s attempt to ‘protect’ white girls by depriving convicted criminals of their citizenship shares much in common with the far right/white nationalists’ appeals to protect the white family against deviant and perverse ‘invaders’.
This chapter asks what the expanding use of powers to deprive British citizens of their rights tells us about the impossibility of British citizenship after the Empire. Writing against existing studies which propose that deprivation of citizenship is a contemporary aberration, it reveals the colonial genealogy of deprivation. Whilst legal deprivation has expanded under the War on Terror and through the ‘hostile environment’, this is an expression of older logics of dehumanisation tied to appeals to developmental concepts of the family. De facto deprivation of not only political rights but personhood was central to colonial rule and the treatment of the colonised people deemed ‘undomesticated’. Because deprivation of citizenship is targeted at racialised subjects, this practice has the effect of making all British citizens of colour into potential migrants. It makes large swathes of the population, with formal citizenship, deportable. This is described here as the work of ‘sticky borders’.
Chapter 6 investigates how the promise of ‘inclusion’ also works to produce and shape borders. This explores how the ‘good’, familial or domesticated migrant is imagined. To do so, the chapter develops key debates on visuality to further understand how visuals (looking, imaging, being seen) are conditioned by colonial rule. Pushing forward recent work on borders and visuality, it shows how the colonial history of photography shapes border regimes in Britain such as in the hostile welcome of child refugees. In order to discover what the contemporary ‘good’ and ‘familial’ migrant looks like, the chapter explores how humanitarian approaches to the ‘refugee crisis’ in Britain and Europe have sought to photograph migrants in order to ‘humanise’ them. The ‘good’ migrant is imagined as a contributor, someone who brings ‘value’, happiness and heteronormative love into the (British) nation. The chapter shows how the politics of the included/domesticated migrant further justifies violence against ‘bad’ migrants and racialised citizens (the illegal, the terrorist, the unintegrated woman). It thus shows how humanitarianism and ‘compassionate nationalist’ projects of welcome continue to reproduce colonial hierarchies of whiteness.
Whilst the previous five chapters examine the adaption of colonial rule in Britain through family/borders, chapter 7 turns to practices of contestation and resistance. It draws from bell hooks’s provocation that ‘looking back’ was always/already a central strategy against racist subjugation historically and continues today – even in the face of insurmountable violence. Whilst focused primarily on visuality, this offers reflections on how various struggles contest the colonial politics of mobility, family, borders more broadly and how we can think this relationship differently. The chapter proposes three different ways of ‘looking back’: resistance, escape and decolonial aesthesis. Whilst all offer powerful challenges to the colonial power of borders and family, decolonial aesthesis, linked to a broader decolonial politics, offers important lessons for how we might think family and love other than with empire and colonial hierarchies of the human.
The conclusion reflects on the main arguments and analysis of Bordering intimacy. This reflects on how borders are part of a broader logic of coloniality in our current moment which ties into an intensification of authoritarian politics. The reader is reminded why it is important to recognise where these practices came from and how they are orientated towards the dispossession of particular populations over others. Without an understanding of empire, we are unable to properly grasp how government works, how violence and borders are organised in our contemporary moment. Without an understanding of the role that family plays in all of this, we risk ignoring how this is normalised/naturalised and how colonial conceptions of human worth are resuscitated and remade in our current moment (such as in liberal conceptions of ‘universal love’).