This article focuses on the temporal and spatial proximity mediating the lives of those who have been institutionalized in distinctive (albeit similar) ways on the Greek island of Leros, like asylum seekers and the mentally ill—and those working in asylum institutions—who appear co-implicated in the circuit of crisis capitalism and the biopolitical/necropolitical effects of managing populations deemed disposable in the name of care and protection. Drawing closely on the double meaning of the term asylum, this article explores the gendered and racialized biopolitical apparatus of vulnerability management in asylum contexts, especially the deadness and livingness they produce. It argues that complicity arises within the dense atmosphere of the surplus of death and the unattainable accumulation produced by multiple crises. It approaches the associated “surplus of death” as essential to the political economy of asylum management, which operates on a logic of “slow death” and the wearing out of populations struggling to endure its unbearable affects. This affective atmosphere is imbued with ethico-political questions that are neither owned by particular subjects nor disavowed in their universal reach but sustained (in their unsustainability) through norms and morals reiterated in their articulation, sense-making trouble, and measurement of worth.

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