The border, once conceived of as a line on a map, is changing spatially into a form more akin to an archipelago: it is transnational, fragmented, biometric, intimate, and contracted out with proliferating spaces of confinement. The border is reconstituted and sovereign power reconfigured through the blurring of on- and offshore sites and migrations. Amid security “crises,” states use geography creatively to undermine access to legal representation, human rights, and avenues to asylum. Enforcement operations reach offshore, moving the border to the locations of asylum seekers and carrying out detention in places between states. These geographic shifts of border enforcement are tied to the securitization of migration and require a degree of complicity with violence in peripheral zones. The shifting of resources offshore serves, in part, to call public attention away from other sites and social relations, rendering hypervisible enforcement practices and homogenizing discourse while “invisibilizing” the violence incurred by offshore enforcement. With intensified enforcement and detention on islands through securitization and militarization, public attention is diverted from quieter daily practices of exclusion. This essay explores paradoxical framings endemic to contemporary governance of migration: to make visible and invisible, to show some things while hiding others.

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