Thursday, January 30, 2020

Crossing Borders and Managing Identities


Crossing Borders and Managing Racialized Identities: Experiences of Security and Surveillance Among Young Canadian Muslims

Like other western nations, th[e] securitization of the Canadian border is increasingly justified through a highly racialized discourse that conceives of Muslims as a threat to western civilizations. As a result, Muslim identities have become the new targets of the architecture of security, placing Muslims in precarious positions as they navigate through airports and borders. Borders in North America are sites where Muslim identities become targets of political processes that compromise humanity, human rights and principles of liberalism. For Muslims in our study, the border is experienced as a “state of exception” (Agamben 2005) where due process rights and legal protections can be stripped away at random and, where Muslims’ Canadian citizenship is undermined and their religious identity vilified.

The level of mistreatment recounted by our interviewees suggests that as a group, they are subject to excessive forms of restriction and unfair treatment. Young Canadian Muslims referred to the fear of being singled out, questioned, and subjected to intrusive security measures such as strip-searches, detention, being placed on no-fly lists, and being denigrated and humiliated by border staff. The recounted the frequent experiences of being yelled at, demeaned in public and in front of family members. They feared for their family and friends and, particularly, the long-term impact on their children. For them, the border was not simply a site where they become the subject of racialized surveillance; it is experienced as an unpredictable, dangerous location where new technologies and practices are used to justify and mask a different level of humanity and legal protections for Muslims. As our interviews document, our participants experienced surveillance as a direct attack on their Muslim identities and an erosion of their Canadian citizenship.

While in their everyday lives our interviewees made attempts to resist the racialization of Islam by asserting their religious identities, airports and borders emerge as spheres where they fear expressing their Muslim identities because this is where their civil liberties are most at risk. For them, security is not a right, but rather a racialized practice of punishment, condescension and derogation.

-- Baljit Nagra and Paula Maurutto, The Canadian Journal of Sociology ,Vol. 41, No. 2 (2016), pp. 165-194

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