Beyond the wire : Levinas vis-à-vis Villawood : a study of Emmanuel Levinas's philosophy as an ethical foundation for asylum seeker policy

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‘Beyond the Wire’ accounts for the seeker of asylum who unwittingly becomes entangled in the Australian detention regime. This thesis provides a lens through personal visits to Villawood Detention Centre—1999–2004—for studying the interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences behind the wire. Midrashim developed through a framework of Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy reveal dialogic relationships in the visitors yard of surveillance. When interpreted through the multiple layers of the researcher–author’s Midrashim, boundaries are collapsed, disclosing spaces and lacunae. People detained are not victims in these relationships, and power dynamics shift between the free and the locked up. The Midrash Social Research Methodology extends the boundaries of qualitative research methods, offering a new pathway for knowledge creation, which in this thesis is the in-between. During the decade 1999–2009 the Australian Government’s response to people seeking asylum reflected an uncoupling of the letter of the law from the spirit of the law. This thesis argues for a paradigm encompassing ethics more than politics and law with which to conceive and receive the 21st-century refugee.
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