In an era of technologically mediated modes of border enforcement, this paper focuses upon a seemingly more anachronistic mode of governmental intervention: That of the letter. Exploring the use of letters by the UK Border Agency to communicate decisions on asylum claims I argue that taking the materiality of the letter seriously demands a reworking of the politics of asylum. Drawing on ethnographic research within a UK asylum drop-in centre, the paper opens by offering a governmental reading of letters as things which define the limits of present and future actions, whilst fixing individuals to specific locations. The paper then destabilises such a reading by considering how letters are understood through material-discursive entanglements of things, discourses, and spaces, such that letters are understood through, and help to constitute, different atmospheres, spaces, and subjectivities of asylum. Thus I argue that it is by taking seriously the connections between materials, discourses, and affective states that we might critically interrogate framings of the state as an oppressive force shaping the lives of those seeking asylum.
Darling, J. (2014). Another Letter from the Home Office: Reading the Material Politics of Asylum. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(3), 484-500. https://doi.org/10.1068/d13067p