Alien confinement has become a common practice in Europe in order to restrict migratory flows. This panel examines different ethnographic studies focusing on confinement apparatuses, floating populations and the difficulties of doing fieldwork in spaces closed to observation.
In the last decades, European countries have been involved in a restriction of migratory flows. A common practice has been to confine aliens in specific places assigned for their temporary residency. Detention centres, retention areas at the airports, reception centres for asylum seekers are a few examples among different forms of administrative confinement for assistance and/or security purposes. These places shape ambiguous control apparatuses, but at the same time, they are spaces for living, raising issues of management, everyday living conditions, disciplinary practices and day-to-day relationships between managers and residents or detainees. In Europe, places and structures of confinement are specific to each national context and administrative, socio-political and legal traditions. However, being somehow involved in the delimitation of European borders and implying several regional processes, be they formal (Schengen convention, SIS and Eurodac files) or informal (migration flows), such apparatuses and practices also involve transnational logics, global issues and new forms of political life. What practices are implemented in order to deal with 'unwanted' aliens? Which physical, moral, symbolical frontiers are at stake? What is the 'real life' of these places that are both spaces of separation and transitory places of circulation? Concerning ethnography, what happens when doing fieldwork implies working for/with NGOs, humanitarian associations or even the State? How is the 'ethnographic relationship' built? This panel examines different ethnographic studies focusing on confinement apparatuses, floating populations and the difficulties of doing fieldwork in spaces closed or partially closed to observation.