Off-Limits? Border Regimes, Indefinite Detention, and the (Visual) Politics of Making Things Public PDF Drucken

Andreas Oberprantacher


If it is true that “the state of exception tends increasingly to appear as the dominant paradigm of government in contemporary politics” (Agamben 2005, 2), as Giorgio Agamben has recently argued in his book State of Exception, then it is at least as true that this “technique of government” (ibid.) is mostly removed from public scrutiny and that it does not target everybody indiscriminately. On a closer look, in fact, one may even contend that the production of a globalized, consumer-oriented “normality” is paralleled by the emergence of new forms of extra-legal, “abhorrent” subjectivity: The orange-dressed “detainees” of Guantanamo Bay may well be considered as the exemplary and effectively de-humanized expression of an indefinite extension of “lawless power” (Butler 2006, 63), but they are by far not the only ones subjected to the biopolitical regime of securitization. It is indeed necessary to extend one’s critical attention to all those border regimes and detention centers – may they be termed reception centers, refugee homes or deportation centers – that have become an almost undisputed and integral part of most, if not all, social democratic or liberal democracies. This is all the more disturbing because the simple fact that many of these State practices contradict in part or in general either national or international law reveals that under biopolitical imperatives the very rule- of-law administered by the State allows for an extra-legal confinement of those subjects considered to be constituting a potential “risk” to the local population.
In view of these general remarks, the aim of this contribution is to (a) provide a theoretical framework of the contemporary biopolitical power play that creates and administers “states of exception”, (b) to discuss a spectrum of visual politics (such as Transboder Immigrant Tool, zone*interdite, or Machsomwatch) that critically interfere with practices of restriction, confinement, and occupation, and (c) to discuss their potential for re-formulating a participatory politics that eventually brings “the res back to the res publica” (Latour 2005, 13).