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Dr Deirdre Conlon (Leeds) "Reflections on the internal economies of immigration detention" & Dr Naomi Millner (Bristol) "Writing with the voices of others" – Human Geography Seminar, followed by PGR workshop

The Geography seminar series. All welcome.

Event details

Deirdre Conlon (University of Leeds) and Naomi Millner (University of Bristol) will be giving a seminar as part of the Human Geography seminar series - details below. This will be followed by a PGR workshop.

Deirdre Conlon, (University of Leeds, School of Geography)
Reflections on the internal economies of immigration detention: Reading between the (heavily redacted) lines
This presentation discusses and reflects on work examining the internal ‘micro’ or ‘intimate’ economies of immigration detention. Whilst a good deal of attention is given to the daily cost of detention (e.g. price per bed), considerably less is known about the costs, contracts, subcontracts, and dynamics associated with the day-to-day management and running of detention centres. A main reason for this is the apparent impenetrability to inspection of privatized immigration detention. In this presentation I use the U.S. detention system as a primary example and draw from an on-going collaborative project (with Nancy Hiemstra, Stony Brook) focused on the internal economies of immigration detention in the greater New York area. In this project, Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs) to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been a substantial source of data. Drawing from the mass of documents, many of which were heavily redacted, this presentation has two objectives. First, it scrutinizes the micro-economies of detention to illustrate ‘circuits of dispossession’ where immigration detainees are viewed as commodities, there is significant wealth transfer for some, and continued demand for and expansion of detention regimes in the U.S. and elsewhere. Second, it reflects on FOIA requests as a valuable source of data and insight. More specifically, I consider what redactions reveal about the permeation of ideological beliefs associated with privatization throughout detention’s infrastructure, and how this affects accountability, systems of checks/balances, and detainee experience. I conclude by highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities for research amidst such obfuscations.

Naomi Millner (University of Bristol, School of Geographical Sciences)
Writing with the voices of others: Calling for listening without ‘speaking for’
Questions surrounding the moral compulsion and/or ethical demand to ‘speak for’ oppressed others have long animated social scientific research. The work of the Subaltern Studies Group in the 1980s; the rise of concepts of performativity through the 1990s; Gayatri Spivak’s work to bring the two into dialogue; and critical engagements with humanitarian discourses are just some of the areas where dialogue around these issues has long fostered creative engagements within and beyond academia. Recently, the question has also been raised in relation to research with nonhuman participants and more-than-human landscapes (See for example Brigstocke & Noorani, 2016). In this paper I explore the implications of these debates for practices of writing, specifically writing academically about research data that arises from participatory fieldwork and engaged research practices. Reflecting on my own research with asylum-seekers in the UK and environmental ‘experts-by-experience’ in Central America I highlight important issues around translation, representation, and ‘voicing’, as well as changing institutional demands. Raising issues of researcher ethics I also emphasise the apparent clash between an apparent need to confront systems of abjection, and the opportunity to engage with the complexity and singularity of individual narratives in such a way that reaches beyond stereotypes. This leads me to share ideas that have developed from an inter-institutional reading group on the same topic, and thus to propose eight principles for writing with the voices of others. I conclude by drawing out the tensions this work highlights within the domain of academic authority and academic expertise more generally.

Brigstocke, J., & Noorani, T. (2016). Posthuman attunements: Aesthetics, authority and the arts of creative listening. GeoHumanities, 2(1), 1-7.

The Geography seminar series coordinators are Prof. S. Hinchliffe and Dr. A. Graham.


Amory C417