CFP: To identify and expel: Historical and geographic approaches to spaces of detention. University of Cagliari, Italy 9- 10 July 2020

In the recent decades the administrative detention of “irregular” migrants has spread throughout the world as one of the main strategies adopted by nation states to assert control over migration, and to secure their territories and borders. Many scholars and observers consider the current developments as exceptional, and they believe them to represent a dramatic reaction from nation states against the challenges posed by migration fluxes. However, others have pointed out that detention has long been considered as a necessary prerogative of the state in order to identify, and eventually expel, dangerous individuals. According to this second perspective,the current situation should be seen as a development within the law, and not as sparking from a state of exception.

Regardless of our personal position, it is necessary to ask how the present state of the detention system for migrants relates to previous (and contemporary) strategies to control populations perceived as dangerous. Scholars have pointed out the similarities between detention centers and the various forms taken by the “concentration camp” in the last two centuries: the colonial camp, the internment camps during wars, the extermination camp, war refugees camp, etc… However, others have pointed to the crucial differences between the current forms of detention and the ones cited above.

Specifically, it is becoming harder to identify the “state”as a monolithic entity that operates with full agency in the current scenario. The presence of private actors, who are often almost as powerful as the state, represents an apparent discontinuity with the past. In many cases, private actors appear not only to manage detention centers, but also to lobby and operate in ways that address state policies or at least influence them in such ways that these actors cannot be seen as simple recipients of state decisions any longer. Starting from these considerations, this conference aims to spark critical and constructive reflections in order to find the best instruments to analyze the topic from historical and geographical perspectives.

In order to achieve this goal, the conference will ask the following questions: –

Is the paradigm of the concentration camp still useful to analyze present detention centers?

What is the role of private actors and how do they affect the current spaces of internment? –

What is, and has been, the role of the nation state to control, identify, and remove “dangerous” populations?

What is the role of supranational organizations such as the EU and how do they participate in the making of detention?

What is the role of international organizations, NGOs, and humanitarian associations,and how do they participate in, or oppose, detention?

How has the concept of citizenship influenced, and how does it reflect previous and current strategies of exclusion?

What kind of spaces are the camps?

How can space be used to exclude?

The call for papers is addressed to both PhDs and senior scholars. The conference will be held at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Cagliari in Cagliari (Italy) on the 9th and 10th of July 2020. Proposals of max 200 words are accepted both in English and Italian and should be sent by March 15th to Ettore Asoni, San Diego State University ( and Alessandro Pes, University of Cagliari ( Proposals will be selected by April 1st.

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