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Female Asylum Seekers: A Critical Attitude on UK Immigration Removal Centres

  • Maria De Angelis (a1)


The context to this article is sovereign biopower as experienced by female asylum seekers in the confined spaces of UK Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs). With approximately 27,000 migrants entering immigration detention in 2017, the UK’s immigration detention estate is one of the largest in Western Europe. Through an empirical study with former detainees, this article outlines how women experience Agamben’s politically bare life through IRC practices that confine, dehumanise, and compound their asylum vulnerabilities. It also explains how micro-transgressions around detention food, social relations, and faith practices reflect a Foucauldian critical attitude and restore a degree of political agency to asylum applicants. Centrally this article argues that everyday acts of resistance – confirming their identities as human / gendered / cultural beings with social belonging – can be read as political agency in women’s questioning of their asylum administration. As such, this article offers a rare insight on biopower and political agency as lived and performed by women inside the in/exclusive spaces of the IRC.



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