Sheltering as a destabilising and perpetuating practice in the migration management architecture in Mexico
Number of pages
SourceThird World Quarterly, 42, 1, (2021), pp. 105-122
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OW MAW [owi]
Third World Quarterly
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies; Institute for Management Research
This paper discusses shelters in relation to the migration industry that shapes irregular migration from Central America to Mexico. Whereas the migration industry literature often separates migration facilitation from migration control, we instead position shelters at the intersection of the two domains. We use an assemblage approach to better understand how different institutions, policies, responsibilities, actors and discourses meet, clash and intertwine at shelters. Based on our ethnographic material, we distinguish three significant processes that characterise sheltering practices (attraction, multiple performativities, (dis)location) and analyse how these processes display different, sometimes contradictory, discourses and power relations. With these insights, we conclude that sheltering practices reinforce as well as destabilise migration management architecture in Mexico. They undermine the presupposed 'rigidity' of migration management, but they simultaneously attract violence and control, and incorporate state-like practices of administration and discipline. In particular, the notions of 'humanitarian aid' and 'mobility control' are floating signifiers in these practices in the sense that they are constantly open to different ascriptions of meaning. Following this observation, we consider the migration management architecture as a form of plasticity. Its shape and function might appear to be rigid, but it is able to bend, bow and change in forms rather easily.
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