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Free Content Feeling/being ‘out of place’: psychic defence against the hostile environment

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What is it like to be an immigrant worker in a ‘hostile environment’ in the UK? How does the form of discursive environment, which sees immigration as a social epidemic, impact on an immigrant worker’s experience of their cultural (dis)localities and subjectivity? In this article, I draw on my personal, psychoanalytically informed voice to explore these questions, by foregrounding the materiality of the hosting environment as the place in which the present relational matrix takes place, in which the internal dynamics of object relations are lived in the present sense, and the idiosyncratic expression of selfhood assumes forms.

The materialised reality of the place matters not least because it is drenched in power relations but also as it is where an immigrant worker seeks to live. The hostile host, in this sense, sees immigrants not simply as its guests (Derrida and Dufourmantelle, 2000), but as unwelcome yet persistent guests to be yoked to their place of otherness and inferiority. By presenting vignettes of my encounters with the Home Office, I call into question the existential conditions of the immigrant worker and the potentiality for object-relatedness on relational grounds problematically punctured by hostile rhetoric. Could an immigrant’s sense of locality ever be anything but – evoking Said ([1999] 2013) – ‘out of place’? To address this, I will explore ‘out of place’ not simply as an emotional, lived experience, but also as a state of being that is embodied, psychically worked on and strategically evoked in resisting the power of the hostile host.
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Keywords: hostile environment; immigrant worker; out of place; psychosocial

Affiliations: University of Edinburgh, UK

Appeared or available online: April 27, 2020

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