Roger Hood Lecture at University of Oxford

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Anthony Metzer QC, Christobel McCoey and Sangeetha Iengar of Goldsmith Chambers attended the Annual Roger Hood Lecture, part of the All Souls Criminology Seminar Series held at the University of Oxford. This year’s lecture was entitled ‘(De)constructing the crimmigrant other: migration, citizenship and penal power’ and was delivered by Professor Katja Franko of the University of Oslo.

The lecture considered firstly what social conditions are required to give certain ‘acts’ the meaning of crime, as against the immigration context where illegality is an entirely existential condition not defined by acts.  Exceptionally then in the immigration context, the Crimmigrant is the unwanted ‘other’, a theory that inorganically connects the insecurity of migration with penal power.

The lecture explored the everyday practises of constructing the Crimmigrant Other, as this ‘other’ is an existential condition, the practises themselves involve ‘following the body’ (Foucault 1977).  The first step of criminalising the other is through the body – the taking of fingerprints, logging biometric data, using dental information for age assessments etc.  Statecraft then becomes a practice of creating legible people.  It is their bodies that are trusted whilst their stories of seeking refuge are not believed and they are not trusted.

It is this physical/bodily conception of migrants and migration that has led to the ‘crimmigrant other’ becoming the subject of knowledge production rather than considered as sentient beings whose vulnerabilities are assessed.  Governments are routinely collecting data to measure the numbers of legal and illegal entries through their borders rather than creating systems to assess and amend the victimisation occurring at their borders.

Through the overlap between criminal and immigration law this ‘other’ is subject to a distinct penal regime that citizens are not subject to, penal power is used not to correct or to reform but to create alienage.  The theory of penal power as an arm of moral reform is instead usurped in the migration context as a weapon to force exclusion. 

Professor Franko argues that states are increasingly legitimising the use of force in a field lacking traditional forms of legitimacy.  She admonishes that in so doing there is little consideration given to the moral economy of the border (E.P. Thompson), or of the humanitarian consciousness of the border.  Franko concluded by noting that the overlap between crime and immigration law, or rather the deploying of penal power within the immigration context, has produced a moral indifference which is now pervasive.

Those who attended the lecture were then invited for drinks afterwards, which strengthened the already close bonds between Chambers and the Borders Criminology Centre.