The Post-Coloniality of Asylum Infrastructure

Seminars and Colloquia

This presentation takes as its object of analysis and investigation asylum seekers’ reception centres in a central Italian province. It builds upon literature concerned with the logistification of asylum to conceive these centres as nodes of the EU humanitarian border, yet it moves beyond the exclusive concern with the migrant-border dialectic that characterises most literature on the subject. In its attempt to dig deeper into the social ontology of the humanitarian border, the presentation de-centres the logistical gaze cast on asylum management characterising this literature by foregrounding instead the productive relation between the humanitarian border and the place-specific social dynamics that explain its emergence and reproduction in concrete settings. Accounting for the multiple and variegated histories, stories, agencies and trajectories that become entangled in the rooms of these reception centres, the paper argues that critical border scholars need to move beyond an exclusive concern with the border-migrant dialectic, and to reorient our attention towards an appreciation of borders’ place-specific configurations. In bringing to the fore the unevenness of these entanglements in each of these reception centres, the presentation also suggests recalibrating contemporary concerns with the coloniality of asylum, of migration, and of infrastructure. The expression ‘postcoloniality of asylum infrastructure’ wants to entangle colonial world-making legacies with everyday practices of place-making.

Paolo Novak is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Development Studies of SOAS University of London.

IWM Permanent Fellow Ayşe Çağlar moderated the evening.


The Seminar Series on Forced Migration is part of Europe-Asia Research Platform on Forced Migration at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) and Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG); and is hosted at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna.