Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention: Critical perspectives, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention

Critical perspectives, 1st Edition

Edited by Deirdre Conlon, Nancy Hiemstra


244 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-08-15
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International migration has been described as one of the defining issues of the twenty-first century. While a lot is known about the complex nature of migratory flows, surprisingly little attention has been given to one of the most prominent responses by governments to human mobility: the practice of immigration detention.

Intimate Economies of Immigration Detention provides a timely intervention, offering much needed scrutiny of the ideologies, policies and practices that enable the troubling, unparalleled and seemingly unbridled growth of immigration detention around the world. An international collection of scholars provide crucial new insights into immigration detention recounting at close range how detention’s effects ricochet from personal and everyday experiences to broader political-economic, social and cultural spheres. Contributors draw on original research in the US, Australia, Europe, and beyond to scrutinise the increasingly tangled relations associated with detention operation and migration management. With new theoretical and empirical perspectives on detention, the chapters collectively present a toolbox for better understanding the forces behind and broader implications of the seemingly uncontested rise of immigration detention.

This book is of great interest to those who study political economy, economic geography and immigration policy, as well as policy makers interested in immigration.


‘This impressive and wide-ranging collection brings together leading scholars to expose the intimate economies, experiences, and processes that shape immigration detention. From the pocket money provided for asylum seekers in Danish detention centres, to the growing capacity of the detention estate across Europe, this collection traces a series of politically astute linkages between intimate experiences and global processes. By placing detention at the heart of contemporary migration, Conlon and Hiemstra have produced a volume that makes a critical intervention into debates over mobility, governance, and the politics of citizenship. In foregrounding the entangled relationships of detention, this volume contributes both a theoretically innovative focus on the intimate, whilst also calling attention to the political and ethical urgency of challenging detention across the world. Anyone interested in understanding the immigration detention industry, and in actively contesting it, will find inventive, insightful, and powerful resources in this book.’ — Jonathan Darling, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Manchester, UK

‘Deirdre Conlon and Nancy Hiemstra have pulled together an astonishing collection of essays which focus on the intimate economies of immigration detention and shed light on the lived experiences of being detained in several countries. The wide geographic range presented in this collection is impressive and helps give the reader a sense of the extent to which immigration detention has become a global phenomenon. The collection is theoretically and empirically innovative, providing us both with new ways of thinking about the increasingly-common practice of detention as well as new insights into the significant physical and emotional toll detention takes on migrants’ lives. The editors creatively build on concepts of accumulation and dispossession to advance our conceptual understanding of the intimate economies of immigration detention. This important set of essays brings that which is often hidden - immigration detention - to light and does so in provocative ways. This book will be a critical addition to classes on immigration, political economy, and state repression. Moreover, anyone interested in migrant rights anywhere in the world should read this volume.’ — Tanya Golash-Boza, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Merced, US

‘Intimate Economies of Immigrant Detention powerfullybrings to life the best of feminist theory by showing how and why the seemingly banal, the familiar, and the everyday matter—and matter in profound ways. From the price of toothpaste immigrant detainees are compelled to pay to humanitarian efforts to "improve" what are inherently dehumanizing detention practices, this invaluable volume illuminates the messy connections between political economic processes, state practices, and experiences imprisoned migrants endure. In doing so, the book demonstrates the simultaneous hardening of various boundaries and their increasing blurriness given the myriad connections that transcend and produce them, and that they reflect.’ — Joseph Nevins, Associate Professor of Geography, Vassar College, USA.

Table of Contents

Foreword: On the depth and importance of intimate economies

Alison Mountz

Chapter 1: Introduction: Intimate economies of immigration detention

Deirdre Conlon and Nancy Hiemstra


Chapter 2: Detained beyond the sovereign: conceptualising non-state actor involvement in immigration detention

Michael Flynn

Chapter 3: Discretion, contracting, and commodification: privatisation of US immigration detention as a technology of government

Lauren Martin

Chapter 4: In the market of morality: international human rights standards and the immigration detention "improvement" complex

Julia Morris

Chapter 5: Bearing witness and the intimate economies of immigration detention centres in Australia

Caroline Fleay

Chapter 6: Managing capacity, shifting burdens: social reproduction and the intimate economies of immigrant family detention

Jill Williams and Vanessa Massaro

Chapter 7: On exterior and interior detention regimes: governing, bordering, and economy in transit migration across Mexico

Mario Bruzzone



Chapter 8: Captive consumers and coerced labourers: intimate economies and the expanding US detention regime

Nancy Hiemstra and Deirdre Conlon

Chapter 9: Intimate economies of ambiguity and erasure: Darwin as Australia’s 2011-2012 ‘capital of detention’

Kate Coddington

Chapter 10: Pocket money: everyday precarities in the Danish asylum system

Malene Jacobsen

Chapter 11: Health and intimacies in immigration detention

Nick Gill

Chapter 12:Intimate encounters with immigrant criminalisation in Arizona

Matthew Lowen

Chapter 13: Intimate economies of state practice: materialities of detention in Finland

Anitta Kynsilehto and Eeva Puumala

Chapter 14: The pleasures of security? Visual practice and immigration detention

Alexandra Hall

Afterword: Intimate economies, anomie and moral ambiguity

Dora Schriro

About the Editors

Deirdre Conlon is a Lecturer in Critical Human Geography at the University of Leeds, UK. Her research examines immigration enforcement and detention in policy and practice, their effects on migrant (in)security, citizenship and everyday life, as well as the wider reverberations of immigration control.

Nancy Hiemstra is Assistant Professor of Migration Studies at Stony Brook University in New York, USA. Her research analyses the geopolitical and socio-cultural reverberations of restrictive immigration policies and practices in the United States and Latin America, with a focus on US detention and deportation.

About the Series

Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy

In recent years, there has been widespread criticism of mainstream economics. This has taken many forms, from methodological critiques of its excessive formalism, to concern about its failure to connect with many of the most pressing social issues. This series provides a forum for research which is developing alternative forms of economic analysis. Reclaiming the traditional 'political economy' title, it refrains from emphasising any single school of thought, but instead attempts to foster greater diversity within economics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography