Blog Carnival Conclusion
My first task in this post is to collect all of the other posts in one place:
- Hidden Borders and Operation Gull
- Probing the Citizenship Regime
- An Invisible Social Group – Sexual Minority Asylum Seekers in Ireland
- Irregular Migration in Ireland
- Social Welfare and the Protection Regime
- The Culture of Control and Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers
- Legitimate Victims, Illegitimate Agents
- Anti-Racism and Lived Experience
- Travellers and the Irish Politics of Belonging
- National Belonging: The View from France
- Belonging to Irish society in a social welfare context.
Now, I said early this morning that I would not attempt to draw together the various strands of the posts which have been contributed to our blog carnival, but – at the risk of oversimplifying, and of suggesting a unity of theme and purpose where perhaps none exists – I want to highlight some of the most important themes which have emerged from the carnival.
When we talk about the ‘politics of belonging’ we are drawing on the sense that formal legal status is intercut with informal distinctions between ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups. Within legal categories such as ‘refugee’ or ‘citizen’, are hierachised divisions, which mirror political boundaries between a ‘we who belong’ and a ‘they who do not’, or even between a ‘we who belong’ and a ‘they’ who may be divided into a ‘they who are worthy of our acceptance’, and a ‘they who are suspect’ in some way. Our focus on status – on the bundle of entitlements and duties which the state confers – can often obscure the fiercely contested boundaries, drawn and redrawn across a multiplicity of discourses, which those in positions of relative privilege erect to exclude their ‘others’ and undermine or deaden the proper impact of the laws in which we immigration scholars often place much faith. When I decided to invite submissions for this blog carnival, I had in mind that we would discuss themes such as those raised in Eoin’s post; an ‘Irish values’ debate akin to the national discussions of identity which have animated Britain and France in recent years. But, that is not where the blog carnival has led us. Rather, the carnival has highlighted the extent to which the Irish politics of belonging, at the close of the Celtic Tiger era, is explicitly defined by economic considerations. The debate that Eoin probes in his post is suffocated in Ireland because we have chosen to prioritise economic notions of belonging in what is left of our political discourse. The emotional and material considerations, which Agnieszka in particular foregrounded in her post, are similarly eliminated from view.
Although border drawing between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is a necessary aspect of the formation of identities, these boundaries seem least permeable and most tightly defended at times (even sometimes in the face of their own apparent futility) when the the relatively privileged beneficiaries of an identity find themselves under stress – globalisation and the recent globalised economic collapse are often cited as sources of such pressure. But we should take claims that we are living in ‘new times’ with a pinch of salt. As Darren’s post reminded us, Travellers’ inadequate economic subjecthood was at the root of their exclusion long before Ireland was a country of immigration.
That economic considerations are the measure of the dynamic of belonging at the heart of some of the most controversial issues in Irish immigration policy is all too clear. Our contributions from FLAC, PILA and the ICI highlighted the connections between the welfare system, the asylum and protection regime and the status of citizenship. Following Deirdre’s argument, we may discern two images of the migrant ‘they’ at the intersection of immigration regulation and welfare policy; the legitimate but necessarily abject victim ‘they’, to whom resources are given, and the illegitimately autonomous ‘they’, who actively take resources. The migration rhetoric of successive Ministers for Justice has relied on a strict division between these sets of ‘they’, to the point where there can almost be no migrant agency without transgression. The most difficult stereotype of migrants to Ireland – and the one most effectively deployed in support of an ever more restrictive immigration regime – is that of the illegitimate ‘they’ who has deliberately taken advantage of the immigration channels set aside for the ‘victim’ ‘they’, in pursuit of ‘economic’ migration. The boundaries of the (dangerous and undesirable) space of victimhood are in retreat; the space designated for those who are treated as illegitimately abusing Irish hospitality grows and grows. The illegitimate ‘they’, as Liam charts in his post, are subject to ever more stringent mechanisms of control, ever more tightly hemmed in, as the welfare regime is deployed to disciplinary effect. We are now in a position where, as the ICI argues, even the act of availing of welfare provision, however great one’s need – renders migrants subject to suspicion and discipline, and ultimately may exclude them from citizenship; barring them from the liminal space where members of the migrant ‘they’ can stake their claim to finally be one of ‘us’.
It falls to me now to bring some 12 hours of blogging on issues of immigration, integration and minority status in Ireland to a close. Many thanks to all of you who contributed to and read our blog carnival today. It has been a bumper day for readers as well as posts – so far over 800 individual readers have come to have a look at the carnival, which is a hefty number, even for us. We are hugely cheered by your response, and plan to run many more of this sort of event. Again, we extend an invitation to all our readers to contact us with proposals for future blog carnivals, live blogs, mini-symposia, podcasts, tweetups, wikis and other blog-type things that we haven’t even thought of yet. I want to extend a special word of thanks, on behalf of the small HRinI community to our NGO guest bloggers. The quality of research and of advocacy materials produced by the IRC, IPRT, FLAC, PILA and the ICI is stunning and their resilience in the face of a government which veers daily between indifference to human rights and a kind of malice is hugely admirable.
You may notice that the image capping off the blog carnival is another Wordle. This Wordle draws on all of the posts from today’s carnival. Compare it to the Wordle which has been the logo of the blog carnival. It’s a crude toy, but it shows that our world view, our emphasis is very far from the government’s. Can anything be done about it?