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Archipelago of Risk: Uncertainty , Borders and Migration Detention Systems

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This essay takes Deleuze's 'Postscript' as a point of departure for a theory of risk analytics. It heeds the advice of the 'Postscript' to dispense with registers of fear and hope and instead focus upon the rough outline of coming forms of power, and the insight it gives to the dynamics of enclosure and flight. The illustrative case in this essay is the Australian 'Detention Network', a vast system of migration detention that has been wholly privatised since 1997 and has served as a laboratory for similar systems in other parts of the world. This illustration tests the limits of normative and constructivist theories of risk. Normative theories explain the ubiquity of risk as a consequence of 'globalisation', the rise of techno-scientific rationality, and the decline of 'traditions' (namely, the gendered division of labour and the family upon which industrial production depended); while the constructivist approach either neglects an explanation of the persistent reconstruction of bounded spaces and time-zones to the dynamics of risk and profit, or tends to place the assemblage outside the changing, conflictual socio-technical history of capitalism.

The principal argument in this essay is that contemporary analytics of risk are preoccupied with integrating uncertainty (or uninsurable risk) into formulations of risk, and that this necessarily gives rise to complex, archipelagic systems of abstract and physical dimensions. Flight transformed the enclosures. That is, this essay reads the Deleuzo-Guattarian concept of the assemblage not as the imperative, philosophical reconstruction of a Platonist 'parts-whole' paradigm, but as an initial step in a critical theory of assemblage. In doing so, it places the emphasis on contracts as mechanisms that assemble stochastic processes into sociotechnical systems and forms of value.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 20 October 2015

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  • new formations is an inter-disciplinary journal of culture, politics and theory. It covers a wide range of issues, from the seduction of perversity to questions of nationalism and postcolonialism.

    'essential reading for those who want to understand politics in the light of the most important trends in contemporary theory' Chantal Mouffe.

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