Feminist, Queer and Trans Geographies

Gendering the care/control nexus of the humanitarian border: Women’s bodies and gendered control of mobility in a EUropean borderland

Building upon and contributing to a feminist geography of borders, the chosen methodological approach examines women’s bodily experiences at a Southern European border, the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Drawing on three months of ethnographic fieldwork, this article scrutinises the care interactions unfolding in a Centre for Immigrants between medical humanitarians and women residing there in their position as both migrants and patients. The analysis foregrounds the gendered forms of domination that the care function of the humanitarian border entails. I argue that medical humanitarians are vested with the power to decide over women’s mobility in the name of care on the basis of an entanglement of administrative and medical procedures in this border context. While women are subject to greater humanitarian intervention due to the association of their embodied states with vulnerability, the biopolitical migration management of the border grants medical humanitarians a decision-making authority. The article uncovers how medical humanitarianism, enmeshed in the border regime, yields gendered constraints from practices of immobilisation to imposed practices of mothering. It traces the rationale for these practices to racialised and gendered processes of othering that usher in perceptions of undeservingness and sustain a humanitarian claim for biopolitical responsibility over these women’s mobility.

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Volume 38 Issue 5

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