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Accepted Paper:

Islamophobia, State Power Spectacle, and Redefinition of Life on the Polish-Belarussian Border in 2021-2022  
Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Paper short abstract:

Polish authorities deny right of Muslim refugees to enter the country in several practices described as 'border spectacle'. Often inhumane treatment is resisted by many people living in border zone. This racialised Islamophobia contrast with generous welcome offered to war refugees from Ukraine.

Paper long abstract:

Four hundred kilometres borderline between Poland and Belarus was drawn in 1945. In 2004 it became an external border of the EU. Changing border regimes did not prevent local communities from collaborating. In 2021 Belarussian authorities ‘facilitated’ transportation of migrants from Middle East and Afghanistan seeking refuge in the EU. Polish government denied them entry and imposed a state of emergency in the border zone barring outsiders from entering it, what forefends, inter alia, direct help for refugees as well as media coverage of the events. On top of that, a border wall is under construction. ‘Illegal migrants’ who manage to cross the border are subjected to harsh treatment, including pushbacks. Local people react to this policing regime differently: from fear and rejection of refugees to compassion and support for them. Help extended to people wandering in freezing woodlands is an act of resistance to authorities that violate human rights and deny humanitarian aid. These phenomena are interpreted in the context of attitudes towards imagined Muslim ‘Others’ in Poland. Politicised Islamophobia was heated up by populists during the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015 and revived again in 2021. In the nationalist's propaganda Muslim refugees have been consistently ostracised, dehumanised, even animalised. Such discriminatory acts are supported by an ongoing ‘border spectacle’, which confirms authorities’ resoluteness in securing nation state’s interests and its cultural integrity. Exclusionary practices towards racialised Muslims assume a new significance in the view of the open border policy and generous help offered to war refugees from Ukraine (2022).

Panel P108a
Transformation, hope and vigilance in borderlands I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -