Skip to main content

The Post-Representational Politics of Anti-Detention Activism

Kemp, Tom (2019) The Post-Representational Politics of Anti-Detention Activism. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:81816)

Language: English

Restricted to Repository staff only until April 2022.

Contact us about this Publication
[thumbnail of 262Tom_Kemp_-_PhD_Thesis.pdf]


Evolving manifestations of border enforcement produce new political terrain for radical anti-border activists to understand, navigate and act within. Social movement organising not only enacts resistance but is generative of critical knowledges of state violence and the practical, affective and conceptual knowledges that constitute activist practice. This thesis contributes to academic engagement with the thinking of radical grassroots activists in their attempts to work in solidarity with people held in immigration detention.

This project focuses on practices of activist collaboration and co-production that involve activists both inside and outside of detention. It identifies a post-representational current within anti-detention activism that sustains an attentiveness to the power dynamics of acts of representation, a desire to seek forms of solidarity that bolster the capacities of those in detention to speak out about detention and a focus on building communities of resistance across detention's walls. While post-representationality has been explored in other political domains, such as within the global, networked alter-globalisation movement; it is deployed here to investigate the challenges of social movement organising with people subject to indefinite incarceration, held in stressful and chaotic environments, who are racialised and criminalised and face potentially imminent deportation.

The thesis draws upon social movement studies methodologies which treat social movements as dynamic, thinking assemblages and attempts to think within and alongside these movements in order to evaluate the contribution of post-representational praxis to critical abolitionist politics. Drawing on twenty-five interviews, group discussion and participatory-observation, it examines how the practices of anti-detention activism address problems of hospitality politics, attend to the dynamics of witnessing and imagine forms of social movement accountability.

In doing so, the thesis provides original contributions to a number of fields. In social movement theory and border studies, it examines distinctive forms of anti-border politics and develops social movement methodologies by emphasising the collaborative engagement with activist knowledge production through concept-oriented participant observation. In critical political theory, the thesis contributes to understanding political organisation that embodies and responds to critiques of humanitarian and representational strategies to border violence. Finally, the thesis provides a unique view of detention and deportation practices in the UK, by foregrounding detention as a site of activist relationship formation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Cooper, Davina
Thesis advisor: Carr, Helen
Thesis advisor: Kendall, Sara
Uncontrolled keywords: Immigration Detention, Activism, Social Movements, Solidarity, Post-representational Politics, Witnessing, Accountability,
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2020 11:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:13 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):