Globalization, Security, Paradox: Towards a Refugee Biopolitics


  • Benjamin Muller Queen's University, Belfast and University of Victoria



refugees, biopolitics, governmentality, globalization, security, United Kingdom, White Paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven


How can we think, imagine, and make authoritative claims about contemporary refugee politics? I believe this question must precede investigations into struggles/movements advocating rights and political voice for refugees. It is important to come to terms with the changing terrain of refugee politics, in order to (re)conceptualize it and provide some idea of how/where such struggles might be fought. Focusing on the colliding commitments to globalization and security, particularly since September 11, 2001, I argue that “paradox” is a core element of refugee politics. To some extent, this has been rehearsed elsewhere, and I point to the highlights in the existing literature. I suggest that an approach sensitive to Foucault’s account of governmentality and biopolitics is particularly helpful, stressing the diffuse networks of power in refugee politics among private and public actors, the increasing role of “biotechnology,” and some (re)solution to the globalization – domestic security paradox, leading to what I call the “biopoliticization of refugee politics.” Examined here are the politics of asylum and refugee movements in the UK. In particular, the 2002 government White Paper on immigration and asylum – Secure Borders, Safe Haven – provides an example of the changing terrain of contemporary (post-September 11) refugee (bio)politics.


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How to Cite

Muller, B. (2004). Globalization, Security, Paradox: Towards a Refugee Biopolitics. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 22(1), 49–57.

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