Island detention: Affective eruption as trauma’s disruption

Author(s): Alison MOUNTZ


This article examines how remote detention facilities on islands function as transnational landscapes of sedimentation. Where trauma lies buried, affective eruptions move through seemingly fixed sites from hidden depths to surface. Detention facilities take many material forms in built landscapes: open and closed facilities, motels and military bases that have been repurposed, or state prisons. Much spatio-temporal logic surrounding island detentions assumes the possibility of enclosure and isolation of detainee bodies, subjectivities, and emotions. Research findings on island detentions debunk the assumption that people and emotions can be contained in the ‘total institution.’ On the contrary, detention facilities are transnationally embedded in families, communities, and material flows, and digitally wired in ways that connect detainees to others in their cohort who are either detained or free elsewhere. Trauma flows affectively and transcarcerally through encounters between people imprisoned and otherwise moving in and out of facilities. Often hidden and sedimented, trauma erupts into the present, making its presence known and haunting through affective eruptions. These eruptions connect colonial past and present, transmitting trauma between people inside and out. Data discussed in this article were collected from research on island detention carried out by Australia, Italy, and the United States.


Detention ; Migration ; Borders ; Trauma ; Affective eruptions ; Haunting

Tags: Autralia, Italy, United States, Refugees, Immigration detention, Refugee camps, Trauma

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