Making Precarious: The Construction of Precarity in Refugee and Migrant Discourse

  • Edwin Hodge

Abstract

 

In popular media, and sometimes even in academia, people in movement across borders are described as “precarious”; their lives are precarious, their journeys are precarious, their existence is one of precarity. Yet, precarity is not—and never has been—an emergent property of people or their actions. Precarity is a function of the state. It is the state which defines precarity through policy, action (and inaction), and which inscribes that precarity onto those bodies it wishes to regulate. By attaching the label of precarity to migrants and refugees, rather than by describing the actions of states as “making precarious,” discourse obfuscates the disciplinary and normative powers of the state, both at its borders and throughout its area of control. By examining the experiences of non-binary, queer, and trans migrants at Canadian points of entry, and through a critical examination of the literature surrounding the concept of precarity, this paper argues that state interactions with vulnerable people in motion across borders constitute a claims-making process by which bodies are a) made precarious, and b) made into objects for moral regulation and discipline. Bodies in motion across borders are an empirical reality, but their precarity is constructed, reified by the state, and their existence subject to a normative discourse which paints them as threats to be regulated or repelled, or objects of humanitarian concern.

Published
2019-11-25
Section
Articles