Biopolitical Borders and the State of Exception in the European Migration ‘Crisis’

Forthcoming, European Journal of International Law

Posted: 21 Aug 2018

See all articles by Daria Davitti

Daria Davitti

Lund University, Faculty of Law; University of Nottingham

Date Written: April 1, 2017


In this article I examine the current European refugee ‘crisis’ by challenging, from a theoretical perspective, the way in which the European Union (EU) has used the increased number of deaths in the Mediterranean as an opportunity to frame recent migration flows as an emergency which, by definition, can only be addressed through the adoption of exceptional measures. Throughout the article, I engage with the work of Giorgio Agamben on biopolitics and state of exception to illustrate, first, the need to rethink the way in which borders are defined and used (e.g. externalised) within the context of the European refugee ‘crisis’. Second, Agamben’s work is useful to understand what moves the externalisation and privatisation of migration, and to ascertain how international law has enabled the emergence of this ‘crisis’ framing, whilst at the same time partly losing its ability to challenge EU policies. I argue that the posture of humanitarianism adopted by the EU masks the fact that the appalling situation in which refugees are abandoned is not accidental but inherent to the enhanced measures adopted by the EU and its member states as part of the European Agenda.

Keywords: European Migration 'Crisis'; Biopolitical Borders; Agamben; Foucault; Butler; Esposito

Suggested Citation

Davitti, Daria, Biopolitical Borders and the State of Exception in the European Migration ‘Crisis’ (April 1, 2017). Forthcoming, European Journal of International Law, Available at SSRN:

Daria Davitti (Contact Author)

Lund University, Faculty of Law ( email )

Box 117
Lund, SC Skane S221 00

University of Nottingham ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

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