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Destitution Economies: Circuits of Value in Asylum, Refugee, And Migration Control

Coddington, Kate; Conlon, Deirdre; Martin, Lauren

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Kate Coddington

Deirdre Conlon


In this article, we argue that destitution economies of migration control are specific circuits of exchange and value constituted by migration control practices that produce migrant and refugee destitution. Comparative analysis of three case studies, including border encampment in Thailand, deprivation in U.S. immigration detention centers, and deterrence through destitution in the United Kingdom, demonstrate that circuits of value depend on the detachment of workers from citizenship and simultaneously produce both migrant destitution and new forms of value production. Within destitution economies, migration and asylum’s particular juridico-political position as domestic, foreign, and securitized allows legal regimes to produce migrants and asylum seekers as distinct economic subjects: forsaken recipients of aid. Although they might also work for pay, we argue that destitute migrants and asylum seekers have value for others through the grinding labor of living in poverty. That is, in their categorization as migrants and asylum seekers, they occupy a particular position in relation to economic circuits. These economic circuits of migration control, in turn, rely on the destitution of mobile people. Our approach advances political geographies of migration, bordering, and exclusion as well as economic geographies of marketization and value, arguing that the predominance of political analysis and critique of immigration and asylum regimes obscures how those regimes produce circuits of value in and through law, state practices, and exclusion. Furthermore, law, state power, and forced mobility constitute circuits of value and marketization. Conceptualizing these migration control practices as destitution economies illuminates novel transformations of the political and economic geographies of migration, borders, and inequality.


Coddington, K., Conlon, D., & Martin, L. (2020). Destitution Economies: Circuits of Value in Asylum, Refugee, And Migration Control. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 110(5), 1425-1444.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 29, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 27, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Jan 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 24, 2020
Journal Annals of the American Association of Geographers
Print ISSN 2469-4452
Electronic ISSN 2469-4460
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 110
Issue 5
Pages 1425-1444


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (666 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2020 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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