Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.
Introduction: bordering intimacy
This book began on an EasyJet flight. Or to be more specific, it began
when my partner and I were stopped from getting on an EasyJet flight.
In the early hours of the morning we had arrived at the airport to
board a flight to Sicily for fieldwork and to attend a conference. As we
queued to board the plane with our young son, the airline staff made
a further inspection of my partner’s visa documents and her recently
acquired family migration visa and marriage certificate. Unsure of the
rules that applied to non-EU citizens
’. Immigration, the story goes,
does not simply threaten British society but it does so by undermining
the normative institutions of marriage and family.
So, what is so dangerous about sham marriage? And in turn, what
is a ‘sham’? Who is a ‘sham’? And what do ‘shams’ do? In this chapter
I trace the way that fears about shams have driven a style of government
in contemporary Britain built on demarcations of ‘genuine’ and ‘sham’
intimacies. Starting with immigration rules around family migration,
I reveal how this has connected up with broader practices of
regimes and visual registers of normality,
emerged as experiments of colonial management.
Central to the continuity of colonial borders has been the way that
‘family’ works as a transit point for colonial taxonomies of perversion
and the human – that is, in categorising who should be subject to
borders, who can move, who can settle, who is dangerous. From sham
marriages, to monstrous intimacies, to the ‘good’, domesticated migrant,
I have shown the work that the normative power of family does in
making certain people appear normal, domesticated, familial – and
encounter in the racialised
Making love, making empire
and sexualised logics of colonialism. It stands, I argue, as an example
of the way that mobility, intimacy and claims to family played a central
role in both energising and organising colonial rule.
After the opening of the exhibit, newspaper stories circulated regarding
the effect of the presence of the ‘savages’ in London. Exoticised and
eroticised accounts of ‘savage’ behaviour spread as far as the Los Angelesbased Pall Mall paper. White women, it was said, were seen disappearing
into the tribal tents which
Beowulf translations by Seamus Heaney and Thomas Meyer
A reader sits down with a book. The book contains a translation of an old poem, a poem written – or composed, passed down orally, pieced together over time, eventually copied into a manuscript, edited and printed – in a dead language, Old English. The act of reading this poem in translation is a kind of intimacy. But what kind? The reader wishes to come close to, forge a connection with, the original poem in some way. Perhaps they want to hear echoes of the sound of the dead language, its rhythms and patterns; perhaps they want to get a sense
of the women in my street market sites – black women, white Neapolitan women, those working in the market or those passing through – revealed key insights about interconnected patterns of sexual conventions and racialised domination in Napoli. These conventions uncovered a melancholic recollection of colonialism and US military occupation – that continued to demarcate the city in subtle ways – and laid the groundwork for negotiating and managing contemporary fears around racial intimacy.
Paranoias about the threat to local ‘sexual preserves’ were articulated
5 ‘These water melons’, c.1860.
The second time I encountered the image was in the Bristol Museum
gallery in a display on Empire through the Lens, a display of twenty-seven
images describing the impact of the British Empire. This time, the image
was accompanied by a reading by Anderson and Mortimer Evelyn (2019).
They highlight the racist composition of the image but also argue that
in these labourers ‘look’ is a recognition that they are being caricatured.
Within this look, they argue, ‘resides a testament to endurance’. The
children’s stare, which
The above event, and the narrative of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre more
broadly, provides a compelling theorisation of familial domesticity and
the regulation of mobility under the British Empire. Bertha Mason, the
subject of the above passage, is presented as the first ‘creole’ wife of Mr
Rochester, one of the central protagonists in the novel. Her incarceration
in the attic of Rochester’s house remains a powerful example of the
nature of racialisation and control in Victorian England. This chapter
uses the figure of Bertha and her
immigration acts (see Home Office 2002, 2014b; HM
Government 2006), the Home Office (quoted in Chambre 2016) reminded
the press that ‘citizenship is a privilege not a right. The Home Secretary
can deprive an individual of their citizenship where it is believed it is
conducive to the public good to do so.’
From 2002 to 2016, eighty-one subjects were deprived of their
citizenship. In 2017 it was reported that in that year alone a further
104 were stripped of their rights. These figures also reflect the expanding
number of people who have their