Accepted paper:

"There is politics in everything": imagining the police in the European borderlands

Authors:

Line Richter (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how Malian men involved in the facilitation of illegal border crossings in the Maghreb in the face of a larger order of 'politics', align their own illegal undertakings with those of the police trying to stop them.

Paper long abstract:

"There is politics in everything!" said one of my interlocutors, a Malian man smuggling people across the Algerian-Moroccan border, to a Senegalese colleague of his, who was complaining about how the border had become increasingly difficult to pass recently. In the conversation the Malian linked larger-scale political developments (in this case a national election) to local security configurations along the border, and encouraged his Senegalese colleague to pay closer attention to 'politics'. The way my interlocutor positioned his illegal undertakings within the field of 'politics' provides the point of departure for this paper, which explores the experiences of Malian men involved in illegal border crossings in the Maghreb and their attempts to understand and forecast surveillance and policing at the borders. The Malian men's lives and work were unsurprisingly shaped by border enforcement. The police officers and border guards that my interlocutors (rather frequently) encountered, were in general spoken of as clochards (tramps) with racist tendencies, but they were also seen as little more than pawns in the greater game of 'politics'. By shifting their gaze from local encounters with police as 'antagonistic others' to a more intangible order of 'politics' as '(big) Other' (cf. Lacan), I argue that my interlocutors were not only making sense of their experiences but also realigning those experiences with those of the police who were equally susceptible to 'politics'.

panel P120
Antagonistic sociality: an anthropology of lives opposed