Accepted Paper:

Adapting to forced mobility and immobilizations: foreign-nationals caught between the criminal justice system and immigration enforcement  


Carolina Boe (Université de Paris)

Paper short abstract:

Through the concepts of mètis and bie, this contribution discusses how foreign-nationals facing incarceration, detention and deportation adapt to their changing situations and influence the relations of power at play, as prisoners, detainees, and undocumented migrants.

Paper long abstract:

During the past four decades, growing numbers of foreign-nationals in both France and the USA have lost their legal status and have faced incarceration, detention, and subsequent deportation on grounds of their violation of immigration or criminal legislation. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and biographical interviews with foreign-nationals at different stages of their incarceration and their deportation process in the Paris and New York metropolitan areas, this presentation discusses their possible responses - whether individual tactics and strategies or their participation in forms of collective mobilizations - to these experiences. While the concept of 'social navigation' has often been mobilized in migration studies, I have chosen to draw on that of mètis (cunning, strategy, patience, participation) and its opposite bie (impulse, immediate reaction, impatience, brute force) because these concepts allow to distinguish analytically between two different ways of reacting to and adapting to new situations (Vernant 1971 ; Détienne & Vernant 1974 ; Scott 1998). Futher, the sailing metaphor of 'social navigation' implies that the individual cannot influence the social forces that constrain or enable different forms of behavior: the wind, the elements, are not for a sailor to change. Mètis, by contrast, recognizes that an individual not only adapts to social forces but that his or her actions can also contribute to alter them. It thus provides a more precise analytical tool, I argue, to assess the diversity of ways in which immigration law, prison regulations, or deportation practises can also be challenged and transformed by the persons whom they target.

Panel P144
Navigating migration and asylum regimes