Update (December 12, 2013) : Don’t take my word for it: you can watch a video of the forum here.
Last Saturday I attended a public forum on movement beyond borders, organised by the ‘beyond borders’ collective, a group of local ne’er-do-wells. The forum was recorded for later broadcast on 3CR but I made a few notes and thought I may as well share them, despite being hopelessly incomplete and probably of most use to me when, in n months or years time (assuming I’m still alive), I wonder WTF I was doing in December 2013.
In any event, there were five speakers on the panel — Lia Incognita, Dawood, Ruben Blake, Kaneez Raza and Angela Mitropoulos — and maybe 50 (?) or so in the audience. Several other speakers were invited but were unable to attend …
Lia spoke first and inter alia made a distinction between the nation as private and collective property, described HoWARd’s nationalism as adolescent, and identified one of the weaknesses of some ‘pro-refugee’ rhetoric as its failure to properly address the question of the government’s legitimacy, especially in terms of its colonial status. Lia also invoked the notion that the project of the colonial state was never complete and referred to the work of Meaghan Morris on the question of … something-or-other-which-my-notes-fail-to-disclose-and-I-can’t-remember … so like, yeah.
Dawood addressed four main issues in his presentation. First, he provided an historical account of war and the refugees it creates, paying particular attention to migration patterns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and arguing that the Cold War played a critical role in determining the attitude of Western governments to those fleeing from the official enimy. He then attempted to explain the emergence of the especially punitive migratory regimes since its end, partly by reference to the rapid entrenchment of global inequalities and the popular force of right-wing politics in the West. Thirdly, Dawood contrasted the commitment within Australia to multiculturalism and the general ignorance of many Australians with regards the conditions from which refugees escape and the treatment they receive upon arrival. Finally, he made reference to the damaging psychological effects of ‘Temporary Protection Visas’.
Ruben spoke next, and provided an account of and reflection upon the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua, which ended in September; having successfully helped to place, however briefly, the issue of the Indonesian state’s control of the territory on the political map. The Flotilla was memorably described by former Foreign Affairs minister and hard-workin’ Labor man Bob Carr as perpetrating “a cruel hoax on the people of the Papuan provinces by suggesting that Papuan independence was on the international agenda”. Not also that ‘Police brutality payout helps subsidise West Papua Freedom Flotilla’ (Joel Magery, The Australian, September 17, 2013).
Kaneez provided an account of the situation of minority, mostly Shiite Muslim Hazaras in the Pakistani city of Quetta. She also outlined some of the many problems confronting those on ‘Temporary Protection Visas’, the economic and personal insecurity and psychological damage temporary protection fosters, and drew some parallels with the damaging effects similar policies have had on individuals and families in the past (including, if memory serves, the Stolen Generations).
The final speaker was Angela. Angela made reference to xborder and its development in the context of various campaigns around ‘anti-globalisation’ in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the Woomera protests of 2002 (later the subject of a video game called Escape from Woomera) and, echoing Lia, drew attention to the concept of borders in relation to notions of citizenship and sovereignty. Finally, Angela highlighted the fact that: a) while much of the political campaigning around refugees and attendant issues has as its focus the electoral arena, the assemblage of the materials required to police the borders is also vulnerable to subversion and; b) Australia f(n)s as a kind of political and technical laboratory for Western regimes, with various of the techniques and policies developed here being exported o/s for political fun and economic profit.
A few notes, questions and comments: what’s the difference between a colonial and a non-colonial state in terms of its regulatory functions? While there’s a requirement for The Border to be constantly reimposed, is it not possible for the colonial state to succeed insofar as extinguishing the lives and cultures of ‘indigenous’ populations is concerned (cf. Foley on future of Aboriginal peoples in Australia)? How does ‘shame’ operate, which audiences does it affect, and what are the dangers of attempting to employ it on an already resentful mass?