This article focuses on the opposite poles of what Agamben, following Schmitt, calls the state of exception: the irregular migrant as homo sacer and the sovereign state. It takes the practice of detaining 'illegal immigrants' as a starting point for reflection on two central features of debates about globalization: (1) the declining relevance of space and (2) the declining relevance of nation-states. The author argues that both may be taking place, but they are being countered by states adapting themselves to the condition of globalization. By turning itself from welfare state into penal state, the state seeks new ways of defining itself in a globalizing world. This involves the detention centre for 'illegal immigrants' as a space of exception. The author uses three notions in order to capture the nature of the space occupied by the detention centre, which escapes traditional social scientific notions of space. Ranging from the more 'formal' characteristics of the spaces in question to their full political substance, they are Augé's notion of the non-place, Foucault's notion of the heterotopia and Agamben's notion of the camp. The author argues that the global is networked through localities, and that the exceptional space of the detention centre for 'illegal aliens' is a political node in the global network. The incarceration of irregular immigrants as homines sacri is part of a response to the global by means of an absolute relevance of the local: the detention centre, which is at once the model of binding locality and the site of a space 'outside' regular social space.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Globalization, Homo sacer, Irregular migration, Space, The state
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/0268580909343494, hdl.handle.net/1765/70067
Journal International Sociology
Citation
Schinkel, W. (2009). 'Illegal aliens' and the state, or: Bare bodies vs the zombie. International Sociology, 24(6), 779–806. doi:10.1177/0268580909343494