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Another Letter from the Home Office: Reading the Material Politics of Asylum

Darling, Jonathan

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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.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Publication Date Jun 1, 2014
Deposit Date May 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 29, 2018
Journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 3
Pages 484-500


Published Journal Article (275 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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