Parallel borders : constructing neocolonial space in the Pacific and Mediterranean Solutions

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- In the post-Cold War era, migration has become central to both international relations and domestic politics and been the focus of a range of scholarly analysis. This thesis examines two recent events that initiated radical new border control politics: the extraterritorial policing and processing of asylum seekers by the Australian government from 2001 (‘the Pacific Solution’) and similar measures by the Italian government from 2003 (‘the Mediterranean Solution’). The thesis contributes to a genealogy of contemporary migration politics through an examination of the origins of these previous strategies that continue to set the paradigm for border control policy. Existing scholarship tends to focus on discrete aspects of the Solutions: breaches of human rights, domestic political crises and international relations. To bring together these different components I introduce the concept of ‘neocolonial space’, which produces two different cartographies in relation to borders: ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ neocolonialism. The Pacific Solution can be understood as the construction of a ‘hard’ neocolonial space, in which old colonial power relationships are renewed and applied to twenty-first century concerns while the Mediterranean Solution involves the creation of a ‘soft’ space, where the colonial history of Libya and Italy is renegotiated into a new, mediated form. These divisions had their counterparts at the domestic level. In Australia, a renewed xenophobic discourse with its roots in colonial histories and the projection of a regional neocolonialism worked alongside Prime Minister John Howard’s legislative redefinitions of national territory, and the militarization of the northern coastline. In Italy the diversity of political parites generated a more complex and fragmented migration politics, with less direct neocolonial control over Libya than Australia’s relationships with Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The thesis then turns to the underside of the neocolonial space, arguing that in the case of the Pacific Solution it attempts to demonstrate ‘spectacular sovereignty’ over border territory while more complex migrant realities operate underneath. In the Italo-Libyan case the complex migratory routes, and abusive policing regime, operate to produce a different space to that of the government rhetoric. Finally it argues that the hard/soft distinction can be explained by the tendency towards a ‘vicious circle’ of increasingly harsh consensus on migration in Australia’s two-party political system, whereas Italy’s more fragmented structures tend to a diffused system where multiple positions exist.
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