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Abstract

In a legally transitory category, irregular refugees- experience a double precariousness. They risk their lives to travel across treacherous seas to Europe for a better life. However, upon the long-awaited embarkation on the European land, they are exposed once again to the precariousness of the asylum application. They are “powerless”, “with no rights” and “to be sacrificed” as Giorgio Agamben and Hannah Arendt suggested in their respective understanding of a “bare life”, la nuda vita. In light of the administrative difficulties in managing asylum application, the European Union introduced the “Dublin Agreement”, which stipulates mandatory biometric data collection for irregular refugees. However, the unprecedentedly high influx during the 2015 EU refugee crisis put the European legal structures in tension with humanitarian reasons, calling for a moment for critical analysis of refugee management as an institution. Facing Dublin Agreement’s biopolitical control, irregular refugees appear to be even more vulnerable, having no choice but to conform. Yet, in the documentary Qu’ils reposent en révolte by French film director Sylvain George, removing one’s fingerprints through self-mutilation represents an interesting ‘agency’ against the State’s control. This raises the question: is their life absolutely bare?

This research paper is aimed at answering this question in a theoretical fashion. It begins by exploring the history of fingerprinting as an identification tool and by introducing the notion of a ‘bare life’. Through examining related EU Directives and member state laws, the paper first identifies conditions constituting a bare life for irregular refugees. Shifting the focus to the practice of self-mutilation as an agency for resistance, the second part of the paper examines the practical and theoretical significance of this resistance and makes recommendations with insights from psychoanalysis on returning from hostis to hospes in contemporary European refugee management.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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