University of Technology, Sydney
"An airport is kind of a place between heaven and earth,"
said Danielle Yzerman,
spokeswoman for Charles de Gaulle. "He has found a home here."
1. The story of 'Sir Alfred', an Iranian man who lost his papers
while in transit and lived in Charles de Gaulle airport for more
than eleven years, occupied a significant, although decidedly eccentric,
place in the global news media throughout the 1990s. 'Sir Alfred',
whose real name is Merhan Karimi Nasseri, lived between the pizzeria
and an electronics store in the airport's Terminal One, "his
days punctuated by the rhythm of the flights", from 1988 until
confirmation of his refugee status in 1999 (Neuffer 1997). His nickname
apparently came from his desire to travel to England, his mother's
native country and his temporary home as a student in the 1970s.
Living in a transnational zone of business and tourism travel, he
neither spoke nor learnt French during his years in the terminal.
Even after he was granted French travel documents, he refused to
leave the airport, demanding that he be given permission to resettle
in the UK and that all immigration documents delete references to
his nationality as Iranian (Moseley 1999).
2. For more than a decade he managed to survive by taking advantage
of the airport's quasi-domestic infrastructure: shaving with an
electric razor every morning; washing up in the passenger lavatories;
taking his clothes to the airport cleaner; using the left-over complementary
first-class toiletry bags and meal coupons given to him by flight
attendants (Daley 1999). He passed the time by reading novels and
best-sellers and doing a correspondence course in business administration
(Daley 1999). After nearly seven years of advocacy by a French human
rights lawyer, Christian Bourguet, in July 1999 Belgian authorities
handed over papers proving that Mr Nasseri was a bona fide political
refugee. Finally, in September, the French immigration authorities
provided the residence and travel papers allowing Mr Nasseri to
resettle as a refugee within the European Union.
3. As a figure stuck on the threshold between the 'third world'
and the first, the situation of the stateless person has preoccupied
our historical era as an important marker of the limits of proper
social space. As Walter Benjamin observed of the Parisian chiffonier
(or ragpicker) during the industrial revolution, the ragpicker,
an itinerant scavenger of re-sellable rubbish, inhabited and contributed
to the city under modernisation, yet subsisted in medieval squalor.
In the modernising city of Paris, the gaze of the dandy and the
ragpicker met (Missac 1995, p. 97), with far-reaching consequences
When the new industrial processes had given
refuse a certain value, ragpickers appeared in the cities in larger
The ragpicker fascinated his epoch. The eyes of the
first investigators of pauperism were fixed on him with the mute
question as to where the limits of human misery lay. (Benjamin 1976,
4. 'Sir Alfred's' experience as a long-term resident of the airport
terminal certainly captivated journalists and filmmakers, with accounts
of his daily routines regularly surfacing in global media outlets.
He was the subject of at least one documentary on French television
during the early 90s, a French-Spanish feature film in 1993, and
a British mockumentary in 2001 (Lioret 1993; Luchford 2001). His
story has been catalogued and confirmed as 'true' in an internet
site devoted to urban legends ('Man who lived in an airport' 2002).
5. In these texts, his condition was explained as a hyperbole of
the condition of 'terminal boredom' familiar to many tourists and
global workers. A journalist from the Boston Globe introduced
Nasseri to readers in the first paragraph of her story, titled 'A
man without a country', by describing him as looking like any passenger
waiting for a flight:
sitting patiently on a red plastic bench
in Charles de Gaulle Airport's Terminal One, luggage piled neatly
by his side. He sips a cup of hot chocolate and scans the crowd,
occasionally cocking his head to listen to the airport announcements.
He peruses a book, Hillary Rodham Clinton's It Takes a Village.
6. Like the relationship between the ragpicker and the bohemian
described by Benjamin in his essay 'The Paris of the Second Empire
in Baudelaire', a refugee could never be part of the cosmopolitan
class we might designate as 'frequent flyers'; but everyone who
belongs to the highly mobile class of transnational workers and
global tourists "could recognise a bit of himself" in
'Sir Alfred' (Benjamin 1976, p. 20).
7. This article, then, departs from the case of 'Sir Alfred'/Nasseri
to show how efforts to contain such extremes of transnationality
within border zones have produced additional sites of statelessness
and un-sovereignty. This project seeks to counterpose, or bring
into dialogue, two highly interdependent and analogous, yet qualitatively
different spatial practices: on the one hand, the practices of economic
globalisation, migration and tourism which produce the external
border of the transnational state in the consumption and leisure
spaces of the theme park, airport, resort and convention centre;
while on the other, the procedure of punishment, detention and correction
which produce internal border in the prison, the detention centre,
and the systematics of citizenship. The legally-defined extraterritorial
zones - in which the figure of the stateless person has materialised
- are a sign of the need for global trade centres and airport cities.
These ambiguous extraterritorial zones produce equally ambiguous
extraterritorial subjectivities. These subjects inhabit a dialectic
and waste. The discourse of 'border protection' - while not the
focus of this study - demonstrates that by invoking second-order
metaphors of 'virus detection' in the national body of data, the
nation state increasingly must discriminate between real and fake
identities, purely 'economic' and purely 'political' migrants.
8. By explaining and delving into the relationships between these
sets of spaces and the figures that inhabit them, the contingent
and historically specific nature of this fascination with border
control might be uncovered. It is hoped that this might undo the
continued disavowal of the ways in which these subjects are interlocked
in the traditional framework of nationalism.
When we buy a watch we don't have to go to
South Korea anymore; we can have South Korea come to 'us'. South
Korea comes cheap
we have it up our sleeve
9. As the architect and artist Vito Acconci has described the contemporary
cultural situation, world-scale consumption and its systems of material
exchange miniaturise and privatise foreignness and make distant
places intimate. Yet nations and borders do not disappear in global
consumption networks, but are hyperlinked through commodities and
economic exchange. According to Acconci, the availability of imported
material objects has transformed modes of travel and belonging.
10. Human subjects, irresolutely political and cultural, are awkwardly
incorporated into this world system. Certain transnational subjects
are invoked and encouraged as forms of liberalisation by the nation
state, while others are discouraged and highly disciplined. This
shift in the horizons of ordinary mobility sets up a tension between
economic and political definitions of sovereignty - and judging
by recent moves to absent the nation state from jurisdiction of
the sites of global migration - this tension is intensifying. In
order to manage this tension, governance of subjects by nation-states
is becoming equally the governance of subjects in spaces of transit
and exchange, of the locations of transnational subjectivity. These
contemporary spatial practices emerge from a highly contradictory
system of movement worldwide, a situation we might call the age
of uneven mobilities. While the grand narrative of the twentieth
century has been one of mobilisation: of capital, of commodities,
of people, it might be wise to consider the uneven effects and trajectories
of what Ulf Hannerz has called forced and voluntary cosmopolitanism
11. Enforced cosmopolitans - refugees, displaced persons, exiles
- are no longer kept out or let in at clearly defined 'edges' to
the nation-state, marked by the trope of the border zone in a military
patrolled fence or wall, but are encountered within the sites of
global communication and transnational exchange. The border becomes
uncanny; identity papers and bank balances are the means to a moment
of individuation that takes place not at the edge of national territory,
but in the heart of the global city. The discursive basis of this
border is clear in the history of the term 'airside'. The demarcation
of a new form of border through this legal and administrative term
- first used during the 1950s - clearly describes that part of the
global city which is not considered national territory for the purposes
of immigration and customs control. The Oxford English Dictionary,
in its second edition, defines "airside" as
the side of an airport terminal building
from which aircraft can be observed taking off and landing; hence,
the area of an airport beyond passport and customs controls which
gives immediate access to the aircraft, and in which only passengers
and airline and airport officials are permitted: contrasted with
*LAND-SIDE ('Oxford English Dictionary' 1989)
12. This ambiguous national border is materialised in the airport:
shopping mall, incarceration point, waiting room, city square all
in one. Claims to democracy - while negotiating flows of migration,
consumption, trade and tourism - in this new age of privatisation
are underlined by the 'partnership' model articulated in the newly
privatised Sydney Airport Corporation. [Sydney Airports Corporation
Limited (SACL) was established by the Commonwealth Government, after
it announced on 13 December 2000 that the SACL group would be separated
and privatised as two separate and competing companies. One company
would operate Sydney Airport; Bankstown, Camden and Hoxton Park
Airports would be operated as separate companies jointly managed
by one company. (SACL 2001b)] In June 2001, Sydney Airport was named
Best Airport Worldwide (15-25 million passenger category) at the
'Airport World Global Airport Service Excellence Awards', a factoid
heavily promoted in the Airport's advertising campaigns. In response
to these awards SACL's CEO Tony Stuart praised the partnership between
public and private sectors, commenting in a press release
that the commitment to deliver a world class
Total Journey Experience was strong in all Sydney Airport's partners,
including airlines, border agencies, retailers and ground
transport providers to deliver
[and ensure] this facility
meets the increasingly high demands placed on airports by passengers,
domestic and international. (Sydney Airports Corporation Limited
(SACL) 2001, emphasis mine)
13. This relegation of the nation state to the function of 'border
agency' masks a complex process of negotiation of state investment
and capital flows, and ultimately denies the difference between
enforced and voluntary forms of mobility. This newly privatised
zone in which the nation 'decides' what kinds of mobility are permitted
and inscribes it onto subjects - the border control point - is increasingly
conflated with the zone of free and uncontrolled mobility. The phrase
'Total Journey Experience' belies the experience of enforcedly mobile
subjects such as Nasseri. The partnership model must act as if all
subjects are equally participating in global mobility in order to
function. The border's extraterritoriality is transformed into a
space of consumption and free play, hence the equivalence of 'retailing'
and 'border control'. I wish to suggest in the next section that
by engaging in detailed comparative work on these new spaces we
might learn a great deal about the production of subjectivities
in an age of transnationality, translocality and transculturation.
I wish to ask, obliquely, through a reading of Benjamin's work on
the arcades, how is the worker in the global economy related to
the refugee? How is the transnational academic related to the stateless
person? In such an unevenly speeded-up and hypermobile world, we
still need to understand how these subjectivities are geographically
and politically specific, how they are mutually constituted and
defined by boundaries that are intensifying at the same time as
they are becoming more capricious. This project, then, has to both
foreground the material networks that both enable and block the
movement of bodies, while balancing this material analysis with
an understanding of how subjects are increasingly discursively formed
through changes to the understandings of social value that circulate
around the keywords of freedom, democracy, and liberty.
The global arcades
We have the chance in this century to achieve an open world, an
open economy, and an open global society with unprecedented opportunities
for people and business.
Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister, Davos, January 2000 (Glover et al.
2001, p. 13)
14. This contemporary situation of transnational exchange turns
on ongoing historical changes in the relationship between cities,
nations and global space, begun during the industrial revolution.
The physical construction of the world city has also been a modernisation
of the global imaginary. During the Haussmannisation of Paris, which
took shape in the 1860s with the institution of the grand boulevards,
imperial facades, and intertwining of visible poverty and underdevelopment
with modernisation, Benjamin identified the arcades - now past their
prime - as the last refuge of the bohemian and dandy, forced off
the city streets by increasing traffic. Priscilla Ferguson in her
book Paris as Revolution notes that "The physical remodelling
of the city topography ... [was] only the most visible [manifestation]
of a more profound transformation of urban society," and considers
Haussmann's Paris as "revolutionary because it is modern ...
with individuals crossing geographical and social boundaries and
with the boundaries themselves shifting" (Ferguson Parkhurst
1994, p. 133).
15. Haussmann set to work in 1859. His work had long been regarded
as necessary and the way for it had been prepared by legislation.
'After 1848,' wrote Du Camp in [Paris, ses organes, ses fonctions
et sa vie dans la second moitié du XIXe siècle],
'Paris was about to become uninhabitable. The constant expansion
of the railway network . . . accelerated traffic and an increase
in the city's population. The people choked in the narrow, dirty,
convoluted old streets where they remained packed in because there
was no other way.' At the beginning of the fifties the population
of Paris began to accommodate itself to the idea that a great face-cleaning
of the city was inevitable. It may be assumed that in its incubation
period this clean-up could have at least as great an effect upon
a good imagination as the work of urban renewal itself. (Benjamin
1976, p. 86)
16. This profound transformation of the imaginary of nineteenth-century
metropolis, from the physical alteration of transportation routes
and architectural refurbishment to ideological changes in class
mobility, foreshadowed the changing relationship of national borders
to the capital: no longer spatially distant, the technologisation
of borders created ambiguous social spaces of transit. New administrative
techniques had to be built into the physical structure of the terminal,
as Benjamin, cited in Buck Morss, describes, whereby "[r]ailways
penetrated to the heart of Paris, and railroad stations took over
the function of city gates" (Buck-Morss 1989, p. 89).
17. Increasingly attendant to the intersections between texts, images
and their social context, Benjamin's theory of the dialectical image
sought out the opportunities to decentre mass cultural forms from
within. Possible sites of such production was exemplified for Benjamin
in the cultural form of montage. Montage as practiced by photomonteurs
such as John Heartfield, reconfigured the content of popular culture
as signs 'out of place', torn from their original, mass-produced
context and reinserted into publication and sites of display. Montage
as a practice complicated the professed unity of images and introduced
the sense of temporal and spatial simultaneity of cinema into photography.
As outlined in his exposition of the relationship between cultural
forms and political formations, 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction', Benjamin argued that in film, the technical and signifying
practices of the modern work of art merged, bringing together form
and content: "discontinuous images dissolve into one another
in a continuous series" (Missac 1995, p. 99). In the service
of avant-garde socio-political movements, artists used montage to
produce images that included comical or satirical captions. Such
captions set text against image, word against object, contradicting
their claims to singularity. The ultimate aim and achievement of
montage was to make "visible the gap between sign and referent"
(Buck-Morss 1989, p. 66). Benjamin's materialist philosophy of history,
thought through the detritus of the nineteenth century city of Paris,
returns again and again to as a montage effect present experience
in contemporary spaces of travel and consumption in post-industrial
cities like airports.
18. Benjamin's writings in the 1930s sought to define exactly how
these new public spaces also produced new spatial practices,
practices which are still with us today. Benjamin's unfinished
Passagen-Werk or Arcades Project, sought to understand how the
design of the arcades -"the original temple of commodity capitalism"
- contained within its incitement to wandering and disconnection
an emphasis on spatial transitoriness and ephemerality (Buck-Morss
1989, p. 83). In the arcades, the optical (visual) montage effects
discussed above were also paralleled by haptic (tactile) montage
because of the ways in which a walk through the arcades linked together
and distributed within the same site many incompatible and fantastic
spaces. These 'passages' that linked one shop to another, streets
to shops, one time to another, created a perambulatory montage effect
that could break the commodity free of "the phantasmagoria
of politics". As well as taking 'place' in the arcades, this
phantasmagoria worked through the spectacular presentation of the
wonders of modernity in urbanist events such as 'World Expositions'.
19. The new sites brought all urban classes into contact with each
other and, in so doing, gave rise to new identities that were embodied
in a series of publicly visible and representable figures: the flâneur,
the sandwichman, the street-corner-boy, the ragpicker, the dandy,
the prostitute (Benjamin 1968, pp. 186-187). These new figures,
specularised and 'botanised' on the asphalt of the big city represented
new, uniquely metropolitan subjectivities. These figures of modernity
expressed changed relationships between individual time and public
time in the increasing speed of urban traffic, as well as the changing
relationships between individual labour and public displays of commodities
in big cities. For Benjamin, these new figures embodied new human
capacities and reactions to stimuli in the metropolitan street,
as he described the new 'haptic' and 'optic' environment of the
big city: "Moving through this traffic involves the individual
in a series of shocks or collisions." (Benjamin 1968, 175)
The effect of these shocks and collisions was the development of
new subjectivities, as modern "technology has subjected the
human sensorium to a complex kind of training" (Benjamin 1968:
20. It is important to note that these figures, especially the flâneur
and the prostitute were excessive and hyperbolic subjects, as they
expressed the pathologies of modern life. The flâneur was
not a 'real' person but a figure who performed an implausible relationship
to modern life. Because the flâneur 'domesticated'
public space - "The street becomes a dwelling for the flâneur;
he is much at home among the facades of houses as a citizen in his
four walls" - he expressed the ambiguity of the social relationships
of modernity (Benjamin 1978, p. 157). The figure of the prostitute
coalesced discourses about working-class women's biological deviancy
and fears of their newly-found visibility in public space. As Guilana
Bruno has argued, such representations of the female prostitute
in the metropolis reveal as much about the category of 'normal'
femininity as they do about real women who made money from prostitution:
"it is the only activity that may satisfy the desire for idleness,
license, and indecency" (Bruno 1993, p. 71). The arcades, both
"house and stars", and the prostitute, both "saleswoman
and wares", housed and performed the utopian time of modernity
in one image, a dialectical one (Benjamin 1978, p. 157).
21. Benjamin thought that these new urban displays harnessed the
powers of carnival to industrial production in order to convince
the proletariat that material progress equalled social progress,
yet these events also placed the urban beyond the reach of any single
individual or interest group and actually produced the collective
architectures of mass culture. Benjamin's focus on the contradictions
between individual consumption within these new public spaces and
the evocation of private desires within governmental and industrial
spatial forms acts as a counterpoint to a tendency in other cultural
theorists - such as Bakhtin - to over-estimate the transgressive
potential of the marketplace. The latter's study of the language
of the marketplace in Rabelais, according to one of the major contemporary
studies of post-Renaissance carnival, dangerously emphasised:
the open, extraterritorial space of the
marketplace, 'outside' of the official local hierarchy and its languages
and 'within' the popular festive body: it is the grotesque body
at home with itself, evading the spatial constraints of the public-building
(the Church, the Law-Court) and the private house. Partly because
he associated it with the utopian, 'no-place' of collective hopes
and desires, Bakhtin simplified the paradoxical, contradictory space
of the market and the fair as a place-beyond-place, a pure outside.
(Stallybrass and White 1986, p. 29)
22. Far from eliding or resolving such paradoxes and contradictions,
Benjamin's fascination with the arcades circulated around exactly
such ambivalence to the market-place in industrialised culture.
He oscillated between understanding such spaces of consumption as
either mythical places that stood 'outside' capitalist production
and rationality, or as deeply implicated in the welding of commodity
fetishism to political regression, in Fascism. Truly a new phenomenon
in its "cosmic proportions, monumental solidarity, and panoramic
" the new urban phantasmagoria of Fascist
Germany "dwarfed the original arcades and eclipsed them"
(Buck-Morss 1989, p. 92). Thus Benjamin argued in 'Theses on the
Philosophy of History' that it would only be through the excavation
of 'counterimages' and the elaboration of a 'retrospective' view
of history that notions of history as a continuum could be challenged.
Rather than the forward-looking discourse of progress, a vision
that left modernism blind to its own destruction, Benjamin believed
a 'materialistic historiography' that inserted the moment of 'shock'
and interrupted the stable identity of the present would pose a
serious challenge to the monologic drive of the "futurist myth
of historical progress" (Buck-Morss 1989, p. 92). Walter Benjamin's
explicitly modernist historical imagination, then, sought to embrace
and fascinate the critic with visual phenomena as a source of historical
disruption, and to uncover figures suffused with tension and contestation.
23. In order to consider this transformation of subjectivities in
spatial terms, Benjamin's (and Adorno's) notion of the constellation,
which is both temporal and spatial, is very useful. The distribution
of subjects in the urban network can be seen as a such constellation:
spatially, in that it involves a circuit of bodies around a central
point, and; temporally, in that it implies a process of movement,
which is only experienced in fleeting moments, not as linear, natural
history. When asking questions about the production and consumption
of mobility within an urban and transnational framework, the Arcades
project offers a very useful model for a phenomenological account
of the new economy of mobility. Benjamin's history of the formation
of modern urban space works because of the ways in which he drew
into a single circuit a set of urban individuals who expressed collective
tensions and desires on the streets of the new metropolis: the flaneur,
who encounters his female counterpart in the prostitute - highlighting
the gendered dimensions of urban mobility, as well as the organisation
of mobility by categories of social economic class - and the poet
who meets the ragpicker - uncovering the new forms of mental and
physical labour that the 'high capitalist' city demanded and afforded.
Thus Benjamin noted that Baudelaire's inscription of the ragpicker's
labour in poetic terms exceeded "the limit which his poetry
[had previously encountered] in its immediate confrontation with
social subjects" (Benjamin 1999, p. 359).
24. Benjamin shows us how these social types were produced by the
spaces created by capital flows in the nineteenth century city.
He offers a method for understanding their social relations and
their spatial trajectories. A key figure the new metropolitan mobility
inscribed in the Arcades Project is the bohemian -- suggested to
Benjamin by Marx's description of this class, la bohême,
as occupying a marginal social position, leading an "irregular
life whose only fixed stations were the taverns of the wine dealer"
(Benjamin 1976, p. 12) . The contemporary meaning of 'bohemian'
demonstrates the interplay between physical and social displacement
permeating the construction of Western subjectivity. The transfer
of meaning of 'bohemianism' from the condition of stateless people
such as the Roma to a new social class tied to new forms of cultural
production, as Haunani Kay-Trask has argued (in a paper entitled
'Restitution as a Precondition of Reconciliation' and presented
at the Globalisation online conference), "illustrates
how political ideology - that thick layer of beliefs and justifications
which bind citizens to nations - frames legitimacy" (Kay-Trask,
25. The transferred senses are taken from French, in which bohême,
bohémien, have been applied to the gipsies [sic], since
their first appearance in the 15th c., because they were thought
to come from Bohemia, or perhaps actually entered the West through
that country. Thence, in modern French, the word has been transferred
to 'vagabond, adventurer, person of irregular life or habits', a
sense introduced into Eng. by Thackeray. (Oxford English Dictionary
1933, p 968)
26. This unsteady socio-economic position of the nineteenth century
bohemian class mimed the spatial practices of diasporic medieval
communities. The bohemian as the archetype of the cultural producer
is a 'new man', yet this thoroughly modern subjectivity contains
as a trace pre-modern migrations that took place before the formation
of the nation-state. The bohemian, then, like the other social types
documented in the Arcades project forms a dialectical image: a way
of investigating fragmentation, indeterminacy, historical jump cuts.
The traffic in subjects
27. By tracing the history of the 'airside' - the very material
of a society based on migration and transience - technologies of
travel are put under examination. This analysis locates 'traffic'
as a crucial event in forming new public spaces - a kind of animating
force for culturally formed spaces and times which are under intersection
in the site of the airport. Drawing on Benjamin and Simmel, Raymond
Williams, in his essay, 'The City and the World', reflecting on
his 1973 work The Country and The City introduced a third
term, the global, to the binary rural and urban. From this new challenge
to urban selves and rural others, Williams speculates that the nature
of transport is a key question for cultural criticism in its aim
to understand the involvement of capital in structuring consciousness:
The communications system is not only the information network but
also the transport network. The city, obviously, has always been
associated with concentration of traffic
But traffic is not
only a technique; it is a form of consciousness and a form of social
relations. (Williams 1989, pp. 80-81)
28. The street, whether overtaken by the excitable crowd or the
traffic jam, is a privileged site in modernity, that in its temporal
(rhythms, speeds, slow lanes) and spatial (alienations, externalities,
proximities, distances, separations, connections) dimensions, Williams
sees as both produced by and producing social relations, and most
significantly, social relations under capitalism.
29. An important influence on Williams' (and Benjamin's) reading
of urban space, George Simmel's essay 'The Metropolis and Mental
Life', written in 1903, identified the intensification of circulations
of goods and people in the modern city as significant break with
the emotional relationships of the small town. Simmel thought that
the rationality of the metropolitan type was based on the new fiscal
economy, as well as the individual's incorporation into an urban
network: "Money is concerned only with what is common to all,
i.e. with the exchange value which reduces all quality and individuality
to a purely quantitative level" (Simmel 1971, p. 326). Money,
for Simmel, is 'the frightful leveler', de-sacralising objects and
de-mystifying their social relationships, turning urban modernity
into a surface of appearances and display: "it hollows out
the core of things, their peculiarities, their specific values and
their uniqueness and incomparability in a way that is beyond repair"
(Simmel 1971, p. 330). All relationships, including the most intimate,
could be reduced to a question of 'how much?', Simmel observed,
and this question started in train a constant and unrelenting transformation
of labour to commodity, and transmission from one person to another,
in which all 'things' "float with the same specific gravity
in the constantly moving stream of money" (Simmel 1971, p.
30. This process did not empty out individual subjectivity of any
significance, and Simmel actually believed the opposite. His essay
describes the ways in which the increasing standardisation of city
forms as producing the notion of the individual. For Simmel, Nietzsche
and Burke were key figures of this process, as they defined themselves
as 'subjective' individuals against the new mass, 'objective' culture.
In its speed of exchange and simultaneity, the city appears in Simmel
as "not a spatial entity with sociological consequences, but
a sociological entity that is formed spatially." Thus new kinds
of interactions in the city street, their increasing speed and heterogeneity,
the very moments of encounter and exchange that this constant movement
has produced, constitute new forms of sensory consciousness, new
forms of perception:
To the extent that the metropolis creates
these psychological conditions - with every crossing of the street,
with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social
life - it creates in the sensory foundations of mental life, and
in the degree of awareness necessitated by our organisation as creatures
dependent on differences, a deep contrast with the slower, more
habitual, more smoothly flowing rhythm of the sensory-mental phase
of small town and rural existence. (Simmel 1971, p. 330)
31. This description of the metropolis as both social and physical
structure - founded on the understanding of modern traffic as a
cultural form that separates individuals in a common
mode - re-appears in Williams' writing as a 'form of settlement'
intersecting the older forms of settlement such as towns, villages,
hamlets, and incorporating them into a 'whole network' (Williams
1989, pp. 80-81).
32. The theme of traffic is more than a mere symbol or metaphor
in Williams essay, it is a topos of exchange that defines modernity.
Caught together in a logical and textual 'chain' of transactions
in modernity, money, pedestrians, vehicular mobility all 'mediate'
the world, and produce new and different kinds of relationships
between selves and others, public and private. What kinds of traffic
there might be, and what kind of technologies extend and mediate
this traffic are critical to the kinds of overlaps and disconnections
that there might be between social and technological forms.
asylum seeker, a person seeking
refuge, esp. political asylum, in a nation other than his or her
1959 Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev. 53 990 Small and medium-sized
countries most exposed geographically to the influx of *asylum-seekers
must needs watch out for the slightest policy reaction of stronger
powers. Draft entry ('Oxford English Dictionary' 2001)
displaced person, one removed from his home country by military
or political pressure, esp. a non-German compelled to work in Germany
in the 1939-45 war, and thereafter homeless. Abbrev. D.P. 1945 Broadcaster
(U.S.) June 7 The real difficulty was and is the care of the
slave laborers, men, women and children the Germans had imported
from all over Europe to do their work for them. These we call Displaced
Persons and for brevity refer to them as DP's. ('Oxford English
33. By bringing together the tourist, the global worker and the
refugee in constellation, the national citizen as a fixed and unified
category of person might be uncoupled from the security of the national
home and reworked into an ethical recognition of national self and
stateless other. In this final section I survey the increasing excision
of the 'airside' from national space with examples drawn from news
reports and government discourse on migration and travel.
34. Each civil war, and new flexible formation of the labour market
has created its own figure of statelessness. Each new subject formation
attempts to inscribe the stateless persons in a temporal and spatial
narrative of movement towards or away from the national home. From
'guestworker' to 'economic migrant' to 'undocumented worker'; from
'refugee' to 'displaced person' to 'asylum seeker' to 'boat person';
to 'illegal arrival', each new term marks the need for new words
to describe new spaces and new subjects of twentieth century. These
names are also attributions of agency: the displaced person is merely
the passive victim of external forces that move people across borders,
or pull the border out from under them; 'illegal entries' are not
even people, but cargo 'smuggled' by criminals; while the asylum
seeker is exercising a freely formed, conscious choice to cross
a border and claim a right (Ruddock 2002). This formation of agency
in the bodies of non-citizens works through a change of sovereignty
at the port of entry - the moment at which refugees can claim their
status as such. As has been shown by recent trends in migration
legislation, however, this claim can be blocked by a strategic suspension
of national sovereignty. [Anticipating this very question, DIMIA
has recently published a 'fact sheet' on border control, outlining
this new style of territorial sovereignty which discriminates against
undocumented persons, while maintaining all economic rights: "Do
these provisions affect Australian sovereignty over these places?
No. As stated above, the effects of inclusion in the definition
are very limited. The Migration Act continues to apply in these
areas, with additional provisions applicable to unauthorised arrivals
at those places." ('Fact Sheet 81: Australia's Excised Offshore
Places', 2002).] If the nature of the national border is so changed,
this liminal zone becomes the place at which refugees are
turned into illegal migrants.
35. If the names change, so do the horizons of citizenship. The
borders of the city and the nation are increasingly interwoven through
'airside' passport checks at nodes of illegal migration. Identity-construction
works through a system of national economic deregulation and re-regulation
through work/residency permits. Global knowledge workers are enabled
and honoured in terminal architecture, wireless internet ports,
visa-free entry and fast track departure queues. Those without transnational
knowledge and border-crossing abilities for reasons of education,
economics, or race are relegated to endless interrogation and waiting.
As indicated at the beginning of this essay, the scale inhabited
by these figures has split on the one hand into globally hypermobile:
the global knowledge worker, transnational intellectual, or the
globalisation researcher, who works away on a laptop in the airport
lounge, airline seat and taxi, delivering their highflying report
on before flying out to the next stop-over. On the other, the 'incompletely
global' person is fixed and held by the terminal architecture, lacking
access to the scale available to the hypermobile class - a situation
exacerbated by the events in New York on 11 September 2001. The
framework by which unwanted identities are detected is anchored
to Orientalist notions of modernity versus antiquity, secularism
versus religious fundamentalism. While analysis of the complex and
rapidly escalating collapse between political, economic, ethnic
and gender difference into the categories of 'terrorist' remains
a topic to be pursued elsewhere, I indicate in what follows is that
this process has been ongoing. I suggest that what has happened
in Australia under the rubric of the 'Tampa Crisis' corresponds
with tendencies in progress at other key global junctures of immigration
and asylum, particularly recent developments in Germany and the
36. In the Australian case, the Howard government's legislative
excision of a 'migration zone' from its northern-most territories
located in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) bordering Indonesia
in 2001, teamed with a plan to airlift potential refugees to remote
Pacific Islands is the culmination of years of policy construction
of an elaborate 'anti-asylum seeker fortress' (De Jonge 2002, p.
37). [Australia has one of the largest EEZ's in the world, with
total sea area under Australian jurisdiction exceeding total land
area.] The international human rights monitor, Human Rights Watch,
singled this policy out for special mention in its 2002 World report:
Under the legislation, it "excised"
various Australian territories, such as Christmas Island, Ashmore
and Cartier Islands, and the Cocos Islands, from its "migration
zone" and refused to consider asylum applications from anyone
arriving at those places. Instead, the asylum seekers were transported
to other non-Australian Pacific island states while their refugee
claims were assessed, or simply sent back to sea. (Human Rights
37. This policy, while legally flawed, has been highly successful
in managing the tensions discussed above. The subject of detailed
analysis by expert lawyers and a High Court legal challenge, the
policy is argued to be in contravention of the 1951 Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) (Hunyor
2000). The inclusion of requirements that asylum seekers seek protection
in other countries that they might pass through before they enter
Australia is problematic mainly because many of the boats which
arrive in this zone transit via Indonesia, which is not a party
to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lacks laws and procedures for
determining refugee status. Historically, the beach has been an
important trope of a vulnerable limit space for national sovereignty
in Australia (as discussed by Katrina Schlunke in this issue). The
excision of the zone, and the designation of 'boat people' as exceptional,
illegal, unwanted non-citizens stands is also clearly iniquitous
when compared with the far higher numbers of tourists and travellers
on temporary work permits who overstay visas or work illegally.
[1999/2000 and 2000/2002 were the only years since 1995 in which
unauthorised arrivals by sea exceeded those by air.]
38. In the UK, recent anxiety over the breach of national borders
have brought about similar attempts to extraterritorialise immigration
zones. In mid-2001, British immigration authorities sent British
officers to Hungary's main international airport to increase checks
on Hungarian nationals seeking to travel to Britain. The checks
were designed to screen out Czech-Romany asylum seekers before they
boarded the plane in Prague. According to news agencies, these checks
were dropped by October, because the would-be refugees had successfully
been discouraged from travel. The European Documentation Centre
for the Rights of Romanies is bringing a lawsuit against Britain
because of the airport checks ('Britain suspends asylum seeker checks
at Prague airport' 2001).
39. Closer to British territory, the Channel Tunnel, in particular
its freight train service yard at Frethun, near Calais, has posed
the most visible and enduring 'illegal' entry point. After freight
services were restricted in November 2000 while security measures
were sorted out, a delegation of European parliamentarians visited
the depot on 27 March 2002 to inspect security procedures. While
the delegation was in attendance, 150 asylum seekers rushed the
trains to try and enter Britain. While both French and British officials
were embarrassed by the actions of the asylum seekers, some were
pleased that the politicians had experienced the problems first-hand.
Graham Smith, planning director for English, Welsh and Scottish
railways, was reported as saying (employing an appropriately homely
analogy for the edge of the British nation): "The fence they
have is something that would grace your garden but is not very good
at repelling asylum seekers." ('Chunnel asylum seekers invade
as MPs check security' 2002) The location of the Red Cross refugee
camp housing 1200 people at Sangatte, described as a "notorious
staging post for illegal entry to the UK
a vast hanger [sic]
only three miles from the Channel tunnel entrance" continues
to trouble both French and British governments, and looks like requiring
UN intervention to resolve (Beattie 2002).
40. The most efficient solution, rather than increased physical
barriers and removal of unsightly camps, seems to be indicated by
the German example. Since 1993 Germany's main international airport,
Frankfurt-Main, has been a legally declared detention zone.:
The airport's transit area has the legal status of an extraterritorial
zone. Refugees arriving by plane are held there to prevent them
from entering upon "German territory", and thus being
able to fight more effectively for their asylum and right to stay
in Germany. (Zimmermann 2000)
41. The suicide of a 40-year-old Algerian asylum seeker, Naimah
H., in May 2000 highlighted the predicament of many refugees, who
can be detained indefinitely in the transit camp if their applications
are complicated or unsuccessful in the first instance. Naimah H.
had been in and out of prison and detention for over one year. On
May 12, the Frankfurter Rundschau declared that:
For asylum-seekers the airport remains what it was under (former
CDU minister Manfred) Kanther: an internment camp at the portal
of the Republic; on the fringe of legality. It is a place which
makes people ill and - as is apparent from the case of Naimah H.
- drives them to suicide. (Zimmermann 2000)
42. Uncomfortably contrasting with the image of the highly mobile
tourist/citizen, the deportation program whereby international airlines
cooperate with governments in transporting deportees to their country
of origin has encountered problems after several asylum seekers
died in transit at Frankfurt airport during the 1990s. According
to an Amnesty International report, the 1999 death of a 30-year
old Sudanese asylum-seeker, Aamir Ageeb, during such a deportation:
is not the first case of an asylum-seeker
having died after being restrained during forced expulsion at Frankfurt
am Main airport. In August 1994 a Nigerian national, Kola Bankole,
died of heart failure during his forced deportation from Frankfurt
am Main airport. He was restrained, sedated and gagged with a device
made by one of the police officers at home from socks and a belt
from a window blind. ('Death of Sudanese Asylum-seeker' 1999)
43. To return to the beginning of this essay, surely such an image
marks the current limits of human misery. The airport detainee is
a figure embodying dialectical tensions stemming from the uneven
distribution of contemporary mobility. The challenge remains to
rework current models of sovereignty and citizenship in order to
work loose the fixed boundaries between citizen and non-citizen.
The traffic in subjects goes on as if we are all already living
in the global village, and as if the territorial excisions discussed
above will resolve the contradictions of the 'open society'. Any
resolution must entail a global response to local conditions, and
link such abdications of national sovereignty with the transnational
44. As Kathleen Kirby has suggested in an essay on the psychic and
bodily contradictions that produce vertiginous subjectivity, vertigo
is "an attempt to resolve, in imagination, an uncooperative
environment" (Kirby 1996, p. 98). Kirby associates a form of
particularly modern vertigo with marginal subjects, who, because
they lean "over the brink of the self, are unable to "indifferently
co-operate in culture's logic" (Kirby 1996, p. 101). Such self-displacement,
partial perspectives and local knowledges are bound to produce vertigo
when set against the massive social change engendered as a result
of Australia's global aspirations. The global sense of place that
such stories construct is a fractured and split ground suspended
in the 'now-time' before vertigo is conquered and resolved into
the sublime. In that moment of dizziness in the face of urban disorder,
lies the possibility of change and transformation. Sublimity and
abjection are crucially inter-related, and mutually constituted.
Alternative representational practices, by engaging fragmentation
and heterogeneity against totality, might undercut both abjection
and sublimity. If the spatial structure of domination that characterises
the 'cultural logic' of nationalism is composed in the chronotope
of adventure-time and heroic acts of history, engaging complexity
and difference in minor acts of storytelling will produce a different
chronotope: ordinary-time at the site of the domestic.
45. In this power matrix of industrialised space, in which economies
rework intimate relationships between identity and location, the
national subject has much at stake. The challenge here is formulate
a way of belonging, without reaching back to a notion of a national
home as a site of transparent connections and pure attachments.
The end point of this process is figured in the fall back to origins
that is commonly offered in conservative politics: a realisation
of 'being', one's identity thus ontologised and finalised. The site
of the local in an alternative transnational imaginary should instead
figure citizenship as a moment that concretises dialogic processes.
This imaginary, in contrast to conservative impulses, constructs
citizenship as a site of becoming.
46. By adopting a way of seeing suggested by the Arcades project
in this essay, I have explored the ways in which the contemporary
nation is an assemblage of forces that has produced a set of figures.
This is a speculative project, as I have invoked these ghostly figures
at the same time as I have historicised and contextualised them.
I have suggested that a critical constellation of these figures
might be constructed at a key site of contemporary national sovereignty,
that of the border control point. I have described some important
cases in which the border - far from being a place of firm and fixed
identities and clear divisions between self and other - is increasingly
being vacated by national sovereignty. This ambiguous local in the
global serves as an after-image with which to grasp some ethical
questions: how can we redistribute mobility more equitably? What
would the consequences of such a truly 'open society' be? This is
a most pressing question if the nation state is giving up its role
as a mediating force between local and global and now sees its function
instead as both a travel agent for national culture and its privatised
Justine Lloyd is a postdoctoral research fellow in feminist cultural
studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University
of Technology, Sydney. She has taught media production, cultural
studies and digital culture at the University of Western Sydney
Nepean, and at Monash and Southern Cross Universities. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am indebted to Fiona Allon's notion of 'uneven mobilities' in
a paper entitled 'On the beaten track: Backpacker cultures and communities
in Sydney' (Unpublished conference paper presented at Crossroads
in Cultural Studies, June 29-July 2. Tampere, Finland), and also
to Claudia Sadowski-Smith's discussion of how controlled and bordered
spaces are problematically conflated with zones of uncontrolled
mobility. She cites NAFTA as a recent example of this, and argues
for moving "beyond [a] view of globalization and nation-states
as two separate and opposed domains of theorisation and politics,
which has been essential to the neo-liberal, predictive rhetoric
about global developments" (Sadowski-Smith, 2002, p. 3).
Acconci, V., 1990. 'Public Space in a Private Time'. Critical
Inquiry, 16 (Summer).
Beattie, J., 2002. 'Sangatte closure signals asylum deal'. The
Scotsman, 24 May.
Benjamin, W., 1968. Illuminations: Essays and reflections.
New York: Schocken Books.
Benjamin, W., 1976. The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire.
In: Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism.
Ed. London: Verso, 9-106.
Benjamin, W., 1978. Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical
Writings. New York: Schocken Books.
Benjamin, W., 1999. The Arcades Project. Cambridge &
London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
'Britain suspends asylum seeker checks at Prague airport'. 2001.
Ananova. 1 October. Retrieved Available from http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_412897.html.
Bruno, G., 1993. Streetwalking on a ruined map: Cultural Theory
and the City Films of Elvira Notari. New Jersey: Princeton University
Buck-Morss, S., 1989. The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin
and the Arcades Project. Cambridge and London: MIT Press.
'Chunnel asylum seekers invade as MPs check security'. 2002.
Ananova. 27 March. Retrieved May 2002. Available from http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_554767.html.
Daley, S., 1999. '11 Years Caged in an Airport; Now He Fears to
Fly'. New York Times, 27 September, 4.
De Jonge, A., 2002. Refugees and the law [Comments on recent developments
in Refugee Law : the litigation, the legislation and the 'Pacific
Solution'.]. Dissent, (8), 37-41, 64.
'Death of Sudanese Asylum-seeker'. 1999. Amnesty International.
3 June. Retrieved May 2002. Available from http://www.web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/print/
Ferguson Parkhurst, P., 1994. Paris as Revolution: Writing the
Nineteenth-Century City. Berkeley: University of California
Glover, S., Gott, C., Loizillon, A., Portes, J., Price, R., Spencer,
S., Vasanthi, S. and Willis, C., 2001. Home Office, Communications
and Development Unit, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate,
London, 1-80 pp.
Hannerz, U., 1996. Transnational connections: culture, people,
places. London: Routledge.
Human Rights Watch, 2002. 'World Report'. Retrieved Available from
Hunyor, J., 2000. Warra warra: refugees and protection obligations
in relaxed and comfortable Australia. Alternative Law Journal,
25 (5), 227-231.
Kay-Trask, H., 2001. In Globalisation (Ed., C. Driscoll)
Adelaide Research Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences, Adelaide,
Kirby, K., 1996. Indifferent Boundaries: Spatial Concepts of
Human Subjectivity. New York: Guilford Press.
Tombés du ciel [Lost in Transit], 1993. Film. Directed
by Philippe Lioret. France/Spain: Epithète Films & Filmanía
'Fact Sheet 81: Australia's Excised Offshore Places'. 2002. Department
of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. 10 September.
Retrieved October 2002. Available from http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/81excised.htm.
From here to where, 2001. Film. Directed by Glen Luchford.
United Kingdom: Holy Cow Productions.
'Man who lived in an airport'. 2002. Urban Legends Website.
Retrieved July 2002. Available from http://18.104.22.168/travel/airline/airport.htm.
Missac, P., 1995. Walter Benjamin's Passages. Cambridge &
London: MIT Press.
Moseley, R., 1999. 'Refugee refuses to leave his Paris Airport home'.
Chicago Tribune. 21 September. Retrieved 30 July 2002. Available
from http://archives.californiaaviation.org/ airport/msg02138.html.
Neuffer, E., 1997. 'A Man Without a Country'. The Boston Globe.
25 December. Retrieved 30 July 2002. Available from http://22.214.171.124/travel/airline/airport.htm.
Oxford English Dictionary. 1933. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
'Oxford English Dictionary'. 1989. Oxford University Press. 2nd
edition. Retrieved February 2002. Available from http://dictionary.oed.com.
'Oxford English Dictionary'. 2001. Oxford University Press. Online
Edition. Retrieved May 2002. Available from www.oed.com.
Ruddock, P., 2002. 'Illegal migration myths: the real facts'. Department
of Immigration. Retrieved July 2002. Available from http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/faq/illegal
Sadowski-Smith, C., 2002. Border studies, diaspora and theories
of globalization. In: Globalization on the line: culture, capital,
and citizenship at U.S. borders.
C. Sadowski-Smith, Ed. New York: Palgrave, 1-27.
Simmel, G., 1971. On Individuality and Social Forms: Selected
Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stallybrass, P. and White, A., 1986. The Politics and Poetics
of Transgression. London: Methuen.
Sydney Airports Corporation Limited (SACL), 2001. 'Sydney shines
-- more gold stars for our world class airport'. SACL Public Affairs.
25 July. Retrieved Available from www.sydneyairportmedia.com.
Sydney Airports Corporation Limited (SACL) (2001b). Sydney Basin
Airports Split. 29 June 2001. SACL Public Affairs. Available: www.sydneyairportmedia.com.
Williams, R., 1989. The City and the World. In: What I Came to
Say. Ed. London: Hutchinson Radius, 75-89.
Zimmermann, E., 2000. 'Algerian refugee commits suicide in Frankfurt
airport's asylum zone'. World Socialist Web Site. 24 May.
Retrieved March 2002. Available from http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/may2000/asyl-m24_prn.shtml.
The URL for this essay is:
© borderlands ejournal