Asylum seekers: Suspended in time and space — ASN Events

Asylum seekers: Suspended in time and space (17152)

Rebecca Langley , Jean-Cristohpe Gaillard

The complex issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat has become highly politicised in Australia since 2001 and led to a polarization in the debate. This polarization in particular concerns the indefinite mandatory detention of asylum seekers both in Australia and off-shore, on Nauru and Manus Island. Detention centres used to house asylum seekers while they await the processing of their claims have much in common with traditional carceral spaces both in geography and in the way that the space is experienced and embodied by detainees. However, it has some important differences, notably the lack of a fixed time frame and the impact this has on the experience of the detainee.

These elements and experiences of space and time have been explored in the prison setting by Foucault (1977), and Moran (2012) and the work of McLoughlin & Warin (2008) which emphasises the importance of understanding them in the context of indefinite mandatory detention and the mental health of asylum seekers. These authors provide a framework involving not only the physical but the experiential aspects of incarceration, including the embodiment of carceral time and space which McLoughlin & Warin suggest could stay with the detainee after they have moved out of detention.

It has been the aim of this project to allow asylum seekers living in the community on bridging visas to share and reflect on their experiences and the impact that incarceration has had or continues to have on them. The potential continued embodiment of their incarceration is explored here through the use of participatory tools in support of the work of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project who provide support for asylum seekers in Melbourne.  

  1. McLoughlin, P. & Warren, M. 2008 Corrosive places, inhuman spaces: Mental health in Australian immigration detention, Health and Place, 14: 254-264.
  2. Moran, D. 2012 “Doing time” in carceral space: TimeSpace and carceral geography, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 94(4): 305–316.
  3. Foucault, M. 1977 Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, New York: Random House.