Authority and Affect in Immigration Detention: A Critical Account

Authority and Affect in Immigration Detention: A Critical Account
20 February 2018, 6.00pm - 7.30pm
IALS Council Chamber, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

The International Refugee Law Seminar Series, sponsored by the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, provides a public space for discussion, promotion and dissemination of research between academics, practitioners, students and others with an interest in the refugee and forced migration field.

8th International Refugee Law Seminar Series: ‘Refugee Law in the New World Disorder’

Following the 9/11 attacks on the USA, James Hathaway and Colin Harvey questioned ‘Refugee Protection in the New World Disorder’. Some 15 years later we return to this topic in light of new threats to global order through a series of lectures that investigate key challenges for refugee law today.

Authority and Affect in Immigration Detention: A Critical Account


Drawing on a long-term research project across a number of British Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), this paper considers the relationship between authority and affect. In contrast to much of the literature on the prison, which advances a liberal political account in which power is constantly negotiated and based on mutual recognition, in detention, staff authority rests on an abrogation of their self rather than engagement with the other. Officers turn away (deny) and switch off (emotionally withdraw) from those before them in order to do their job. In so doing, they construct a distinct form of power and authority, in which arguments over legitimacy have no currency. Under such circumstances, troubling questions arise over the limits of the power of the state, and how we might call it to account.


Mary Bosworth is the Director of the Centre for Criminology and Director of Border Criminologies (University of Oxford), an interdisciplinary research group focusing on the intersections between criminal justice and border control. Prof. Bosworth conducts research into the ways in which prisons and immigration detention centres uphold notions of race, gender and citizenship and how those who are confined negotiate their daily lives. Her research is international and comparative and has included work conducted in Britain, France, Greece, the US and Australia.

*Light refreshments provided after the seminar.


Refugee Law Initiative
020 7862 8668