The politics of migrant dispersal. Policing and dividing migrant multiplicities

Tazzioli, Martina. 2020. The politics of migrant dispersal. Policing and dividing migrant multiplicities. Migration Studies, 8(4), pp. 510-529. ISSN 2049-5838 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article focuses on the politics of migrant dispersal that has been enforced in Europe for regaining control over ‘unruly’ migrants’ presence and movements, with a specific focus on the French and on the Italian contexts. The article shows that dispersal can be considered as a spatial strategy of governmentality and that far from being a new policy, it was already adopted to manage former colonised populations. The article argues that strategies of migrant dispersal are today enacted by state authorities, in collaboration with humanitarian actors, for troubling migrants’ presence and autonomous movements, as well as for disrupting and dividing temporary migrant collective formations. First, it retraces a colonial genealogy of dispersal, as a political technology used for disciplining unruly populations. Then, it analyses how dispersal strategies have been put into place in France (Calais and Paris) and in Italy (Ventimiglia) not only by scattering migrants across space but also by dismantling migrant spaces of life (‘lieux de vie’). The article moves on demonstrating that the politics of dispersal is mainly enforced for preventing the consolidation of migrant multiplicities, criminalising them as ‘migrant mobs’ and spatially dividing them. The third section of the article brings attention to the effects of migrants’ forced hypermobility and to the convoluted geographies that dispersal triggers. It concludes by bringing attention to the increasing criminalisation of migrant support networks that try to prevent the dismantling of migrant autonomous spaces.

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13 February 2019Published Online
December 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

23 Sep 2019 11:34

Last Modified:

15 Jun 2021 11:18

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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