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Asylum Seeker Other To Seek an Account of Sel An-Other Account of Sel An-Other Self Ac-Count of Self To Affect An-Other An-Other Account of Asylum S lum Seekers (Ac)Co Get(ting) Asylum An-Other Self Accou n To Know Asylum Seeker

‘Getting to know Asylum Seekers’ Turning to Affectivity for a Self-Other Account is a piece of ethnographic research undertaken for a Masters Thesis by Kim Tsai Email: kim@typischkim.nl Masters Social Interventions LESI (Landelijk Expertisecentrum Sociale Interventie) p/a University of Utrecht Postbus 80140 3508 TC Utrecht The Netherlands

Acknowledgements Thanks to Hugo Letiche, my wonderfully inspiring supervisor, for his renowned sharpness and ever critical eye/i. But especially for his trust. And to all the Asylum Seekers who participated in this project. I am grateful.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

‘Getting to know Asylum Seekers’ Turning to Affectivity for a Self-Other Account .

8. 11. 5. 2.Contents (Attempted) summary …………………………………………………… 8 Dedication ………………………………………………………………… 10 Introduction ……………………………………………………………… 11 1. 3. 4. 7. Is this the beginning? ……………………………………………………… 13 New ethnography ………………………………………………………… 16 (Who are) “asylum seekers?” …………………………………………… 18 En-counters in the gap(s) ………………………………………………… 22 Places and s-paces ………………………………………………………… 25 Writing lives ……………………………………………………………… 30 An ac-count of oneself …………………………………………………… 35 Please ac-count for your-self ……………………………………………… 43 Touched by leyla …………………………………………………………… 50 The “camp” as “total institution” ………………………………………… 55 Rabbit in your headlights ………………………………………………… 64 Is this the end? …………………………………………………………… 71 Postscript ………………………………………………………………… 76 Bibliography ……………………………………………………………… 80 . 10. 9. 12. 6.

7 Interludes A media interlude ……………………………………………………… 21 On (living) space(s) and place(s) ……………………………………… 29 Which body counts? …………………………………………………… 34 An (objectional) interlude – objects of research please object! …………………………………………………………………… 40 An (normal) interlude – reflections on normality ……………… 49 Leyla’s interlude ……………………………………………………… 54 A caring interlude ………………………………………………………… 62 A musical interlude – rabbit in your headlights 68 Tailor-made interlude ……………………………………………… 69 .

and about the methodological means open to me as a researcher to gather accounts of lives and to write those lives in any meaningful way. Or even: “Writing Self-Other Accounts of Asylum Seekers Affectively”….8 Getting to know Asylum Seekers Turning to Affectivity for a Self-Other Account (attempted) summary summary: n. creating new forms until we think we’ve found the right one. and falling. Law (of a judicial process) conducted without the customary legal formalities. confused to say the least. (Concise Oxford Dictionary. Like “stumbling”. –maries. (pl. aimed at getting to know asylum seekers. The right a court has to adjudicate immediately upon some matter arising during its proceedings. To strive for completeness in the accounts. (of legal proceedings) short and free from the complexities and delays of a full trial. dispensing with needless details or formalities. →(of a conviction) made by a judge or magistrate without a jury. I could have given this piece of research one of many titles or names.Self-Other Accounts of Asylum Seekers. giving the gist or essence. or to claim absolute coherence would not only be a pretentious preclude to a totalisation of those I tried . without formality: a summary execution. summary jurisdiction. it’s like “word shopping”. just like my own accounts. 1. Or: “Who’s affecting Who?” – Getting to know Asylum Seekers. 3. from summa SUM] (Collins English Dictionary. 2. negotiating the order of things. –ies) a brief statement of the main points of something. But it’s not that easy. Just a few of the names I pondered. about what is knowable to any one of us. This research. in the words of Gary Rasberry. Research is bedeviled with inconsistencies and ambiguities.. (usually pronominal). So why was it so difficult coming up with a name? Difficult I guess because. 5. like: “Affect Matters / Matters Affect” . 4. has felt like a process in which “learning is everything”. a brief account giving the main points of something. ~adj. “Writing as-if we were poets caught up in a poem unending in which learning is everything and we can’t imagine it otherwise” (Rasberry. then recomposing (the words). just like the accounts of asylum seekers. adj. pl. performed arbitrarily and quickly. The goal of finding out what a Self-Other account of asylum seekers would look like if I tried to get to know them often left me confounded. 2. 10th ed). To impose closure or to try to formulate accounts into neatly framed narratives could never do justice to the complexity of the (partial accounts of the) lives I have written. 3rd ed) summary n. just like life. [C15: from Latin summãrium. 2001). 1.

of existing and of being an asylum seeker. Like that of Leyla. sadness. a piece…. this research is a piece of ‘new ethnography’. the camp. Even in research this happens. Because to turn to affect without reflecting on what it meant to me as researcher. So that I did not do. dismissed with a quick sorry before returning to business as usual. or compassion. and of knowledge certainty. experienced and felt. also asylum seekers. It is a (piece of) research that acknowledges that there are gaps in meanings and that “things happen” (Stewart. and which defy explanation. have allowed me to acknowledge the many quandaries and conundrums I faced throughout this research journey. happiness. without becoming an “academic pimp”. • . just because they are. pity. a single mother of four from the Caucasus. Of truth claims. and the officials. which is. a former Republican Guard. things that are unanticipated. And so beguiled by my research process and inspired by my informants. Then there are the reflexive accounts which detail dilemma’s. An attempt to escape in some manner the violence of reductionism and of totalizing the other. Eschewed or accepted for what it is. Yet this thesis evades further typical summarization. “miscommunication” which delayed B’s second case hearing and left a gap of 275 days between interviews. Or relations of shared affect. and wakes up pondering the same question every morning. as informants. And B. but also as humans would not. I chose to fully embrace affectivity. I was many a time thrown unknowingly and unwittingly into states of anger. shocked by the accounts I heard. It would just rather be read. things which engender new happenings. but such blatant disregard for the limits of our knowing would also have presupposed an injurious impingement on the asylum seekers who participated in this research project (Butler. as in the case of the government official dealing with B’s file who barely apologized for the. and on my writing. A failed suicide attempt meant that at last a long requested transfer to another “camp” was conceded by the authorities. namely a Masters Research. away from the control and all “encompassing tendencies” of the camp as “total institution” (Goffman. joy. and that departs from. These are by all means accounts of lives. an externally-imposed category whose defining affects are anything but minor. ). And reflexivity. So what awaits the reader of this thesis? Accounts to be sure. someone whose career lives off the stories of the downtrodden. to quote Vessiere. after all. Essential (in this research) is the so-called “Turn to Affectivity”. sometimes without us knowing what is happening. Or Liane who hid in the toilet every time she suspected the alien police were around. they pulsate and reverberate our very beings.9 to get to know. and to have a “normal life”. 1961). of living. “just in case” they came looking for her. demands an approach to research that takes embodiment seriously. Affect. But even more importantly…. I feel. And thereafter reflected upon and critiqued. in her terms. and cringes at the thought of one trying to extrapolate the “gist of things” or of reducing its “essence” to one or two pages. Affects surge between bodies. like that of how to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of those I researched. as in the power to affect and to be affected. or at least admits that there is more than cognition. from Iraq. whose beauty is touching. 275 days during which he remained separated from his wife and two small children. or indeed if it has been snatched away. relations framed by bureaucratic categorization and procedures. a man with status and a position envied by many. So that is what I invite you to do. or by my own naïve convictions or untimely prejudices. longing and desire to “get out of the camp” and to become “human” again. and in my case one who collects accounts of asylum seekers for the sake of producing the right research report which fits all the requirements of the academy.accounts of humanity and of self-other relations. who in his own words is “nothing” anymore. more than rational explanations. No. who couldn’t take no for an answer. And so I reflect on this and on my own relation with and to my informants. and to my informants. 2005). Who goes to bed asking why his dignity has abandoned him. yet frail. and whose nerves are shattered after painful run-ins with men.

to be enthralled by the tangle. to learn. (for that is what it was. whichbecameone and needed no words to feel Or be affected. disbelief at my (intellectual) immaturity. I/i dedicate this Masters research.10 Dedication I/i dedicate this Masters research. Music to compose my thoughts or engage with the complexities of it all. Sensual collisions. this piece. of multiple paths to walk and to stray from As I confronted epistemological challenges on what I can know about the world and those who reside within its vulnerable borders. which made me want more…. In the narrative ac-counts of how it was. and people (but always back to me). this piece. (for it is no more than that) Fragmentary tellings of lives in becoming. the one and the other. artefacts and assemblages of meaning and affect. being-two Besides. this piece. To YOU For YOU have inspired me to write. (for it is no more than that) Of methodological mazes. But not always. amazing. how it is and how it might be. and meaning[ful] / meaning[less] meanderings Of worlding and affective attunements Sensuous sentimentality and morbid memories Wandering a path of unforgetting and remembering to remember Or not Gaps in spaces of alterity. tender elopements and a discovery that to write is to play and learn at the same time. to get up after each fall and try again. Enigmatic encounters. A discovery that I love (to write). Should be. In which I have pondered endlessly to see if I could find sense Or make sense where no sense appeared to live. • . not above or below. or to be. wonder-full. I/i dedicate these Ac-counts to YOU. Meetings of minds and bodies. frustrating and mad-dening. to books and performances. To fight against Bare Life and to allow myself to be undone by the Other. This reading of Authors who rocked my ground and had me leaping in understanding or sinking into incomprehension and doubt. but above all – touching) which led me to places. Which I listened to and embraced. With My thanks. And sometimes just plain advice. to embrace the social imaginary of just talk and to walk within the gaps in meanings. Stories and tales of things that happen. in the flesh or in words. creating yet more borders between the one and the other. this piece To YOU I/i dedicate this Masters research. This wonderful search. I/i dedicate this Masters research. dream with. distress-sing. Music I could fly with.

force us to new affectations. 2010. Picture. 2001). so simple to “represent” the other. even more fitting with grand myths and more digestible for the system. in which unforeseen occurrences emerge and reel us into new realities. Complexities conveniently side-stepped by unwittingly essentialising my “objects”. This is a story of that “space on the side of the road” (Stewart. a song. It is a narrative space of cultural poetics. I wanted to get into the worlds of asylum seekers. freezing snows of January 2010. listed and sieved of the main matter to make them more comprehensible. and finally writing it all up in an academy-proof. Indeed. capable of sweeping knowledge claims. During research.. The overwhelming desire to engage in something meaningful was just that. undertake qualitative research. ready for the journey. To make it mean something. as a human being. a drink of cool water. sorted. I failed to acquire the necessary depth to do it justice in the space of this thesis. how to resist the temptation to tell the “truth”. what a tad boring my journey. And it happened. 2001). 2005). had it been so easy. That intellectual challenge I shall wander on some future pathway. to really try to understand what it could be like to be an asylum seeker. the weak. dash our hopes. those without voice living in centres for asylum seekers in the Netherlands. 1999). turning myself into the “expert”. Oh. compacted. and again in the hot. sultry evenings of late June. How fine.” the interstices of power and surges in emotions. Spivak. in all my naivety. open up new potentialities or quash our dreams. to essentialise the lives of asylum seekers by bulk packaging their stories.11 Introduction “Remember when a word was a breath. and of “not knowing that you know” (Rasberry. far from home. a space of chance encounters. yet not without strength and influence. Not only for me. with “zoe and bios”. the melody that lifted our feet. I attempted Agamben’s “bare life” and I puzzled with the “state of exception”. it happens too. tears. 1996). of what I can know. I met many a quandary along the way. do ethnography. a glint of silver in a rock. get it right. but especially for those for whom I. I discovered the joy of “writing lives” and the magic of the “tangle”. intended to “do it”. lost. I was prepared to engage. which compelled me to re-examine questions of knowledge. Taken aback by its conclusions and at times unbalanced by its implications. the play that brought us laughter. 1996). Not entirely power-less. get to “know” them and their world by conducting interviews. how wrong I would have been. as researcher. but as it turned out. . 2007) which my research would take. which opened me further to the complexities of knowledge and partiality. to make it worthwhile. to give them “voice”. hope?” (Lorri Neilson. however. events unexplainable and unexplained. which threw me into new ways of looking / wondering at the world and of writing it. To remain in an idyllic state believing that I could somehow study my “object of research”. un-extraordinary instances. as Kim. surge. fully coherent research report. a collector of objective facts. vying for their humanity. (Stewart. dilemmas of knowing. 1998). and “the biopolitics of modern totalitarianism and the society of mass hedonism and consumerism” (Agamben. I contemplated my Masters research in the cold. a dance? Remember when learning and living in and around words were the delicious taste that brought us eagerly to the pantry. transcribing then analyzing my findings. Instead. They just happen. I became obsessed by my attempts to see the world from the position of an-other. The problem is as Stewart (1996) remarks: “. not entirely prepared for the “affective turn” (Clough. bound together in the “camps”. The subaltern if you like (Veissiere. a local real occupied by “real” people. And I hasten to add. all the while remaining a distant observer. setting up focus groups. overwhelming.how to imagine this ‘space on the side of the road’ without freezing its moves in a grand totalizing scheme of ‘objects’ and ‘gists’”. the vulnerable. and certainly unawares of the complications of “giving an account of oneself” (Butler. sharing an existence yet each also living their own project. I faced epistemological conundrums. Not ready for the spaces which would open up on “the side of the road. even bewildered.

The research tells a “…story through interruptions. density. the intensities of feelings. I leave it to you.12 In researching asylum seekers’ lives I gave myself over to shock. circulating in our bodies. 1996). casting off illusions that I could achieve completeness. incoherence. amassed densities of description. yet irreducible to the individual. Like Stewart I want my reader to imagine this other “space” and to open up to the possibility of getting lost in the gap. and dialogic exchange” (Stewart. a process of tellings and rememberings and a tracking of sensibilities in narrative accounts and encounters and an attempt to “grasp the changes that constitute the social and to explore them as changes in ourselves. the more winding it became and the more the gaps opened up to reveal the localized tellings. both practical and imaginary. Mine is not an attempt therefore to provide the “perfect text and the quick textual solution in which the author attempts to cover all the bases with formal representations of self-reflexivity. ruminative aporias that give pause. the personal or the psychological” (Ticineto Clough. 2007). dialogical. texted. It tries to dwell in and on the formed particularity of things and the spaces of desire (and dread) they incite in the imagination” (Stewart. 1996). dialectical. • . interruptions. Instead it has been a constant searching of the self and a questioning of representation and its devices. contradictory. self-position. textured. our subjectivities. “We need to approach the clash of epistemologies – ours and theirs – and to use that clash to repeatedly open a gap in the theory of culture itself so that we can imagine culture as a process constituted in use and therefore likely to be tense. certainty and consistency. evocations of voices and the conditions of their possibility. 1996). my reader. and in-filled with desire” (Stewart. the luminosity of signs and the palpability of desires. doubt and the imaginary. and lyrical. tension. to ascertain whether I have to some extent succeeded. For the more I sought coherence and tried to free my path of contradictions.

in efforts to be “beside”. This is a journey which has not yet finished. We hardly have time to assess what is happening. traumatized victims and legal battles? Juridical and political discourse abounds. differentiating. by inciting them to reveal memories. paralleling. sitting in the library. There’s no escape. does the density grab a hold. in the shops. My own breathing is heavy. A c l e a r. neither knowing in which direction to head nor able to see the light for the thick dense fog encroaching on me. I must concentrate. talking at the gym. a way out. more able to maneuver in the darkness. We are flung into situations without prior awareness. trapped.13 Is this the beginning? “Engulfing fog envelopes the machine. accustomed to its guiles? I ask myself when I will become more articulate. Or it may spew experience. I only know that I have been oft times “engulfed”. I slow down. Heavy. Bang in the middle. welfare cheats. that there is a way through. and a vigorous encounter with the messiness of the “real” world. speeds up. dependent. embracing the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I am at times right in the middle of that fog. yet at other moments there is light. Who. but the air is thick and choking. Stillness. identifying. warping. at that point in time. My pulse races. repelling. Silence. this thick. Will I get used to this darkness. with others. and one which has been many years in the making. unsettling the epistemological bases on which I was working and challenging me to delve deeper into ontological issues of being. yet we are in the midst of something new. A fog light appears ahead. in the hope that my audience may also be affected by that what has affected me over the past months. Has this ground been trodden before?” (Journal excerpt: 4th October 2010) This story has no beginning and no end. the conversation turns. my research became a journey into complexity. co-existing next to popularized accounts of 1. for an opening with more than just a chink of light. or until the calm returns. fraudulent asylum claims. releasing my mad grip on the wheel. or just simply watching TV or driving my car. There’s no sound from the radio any more. And we perform it. does not have an opinion on asylum. I am enclosed within in. experiencing its most deepest and densest capabilities. almost blind. I thought I could get to “know” my research subjects/objects. disappears. but no sooner do I let up. attracting. aggressing. and alone. swings back on itself.I n g. clammy fog? How long will it last before I become seasoned to its density. The fog thins and I start to discern more life. or takes new proportions. in relation to the other. the contraption. wheezing. mimicking. I increase the volume of the radio once again. rivaling. til’ something else comes along. integration and immigration? Who has not read the endless stream of articles on asylum seekers and on refugees? On lengthy procedures. which “comprises a wide range of desiring. And I am once again plunged into a blanket of thick. my chest tightens and the radio is deafening me. It may jump back and forth between narratives. or I may in fact already know all there is to know. and I am overwhelmed by insights. whose steps I can sense as trodden ground. In the asylum centre. Unknowing. 2003). Or for another up ahead whose light I can follow. . deep. what can be known. Standing still even more so. During those moments new potentialities arise on the horizon. ahead and behind. speed is dangerous now. I am a child again. All have been scenes of contemplation and reflection and of intense and passionate research. “Thangs happen ” (Stewart. then. leaning. not knowing where we will end up. I lash out and hit the knob of the radio. I wonder. 1996). one in which I have come to ponder that I may in fact know nothing. However. dark fog. tell stories and describe and interpret their lives. twisting. I long for clarity. drinking coffee in the café. as may be expected of a Masters thesis. It offers fleeting hope that I no longer have to grope. I can’t bear the noise any more. It just starts because the lives which it narrates and the accounts it tells cannot be neatly compartmentalized or made to fit into tidy formats. representing. ephemeral glimpses of hope and deep understanding. speeding at the side of me. I relax and breath at a steady pace. I cannot say when it began exactly. exuding emotion and sensitivity. withdrawing. movement. and other relations” (Kosofsky Sedgwick. lost.

presence and power.14 the plight of asylum seekers. arms. and the multicultural drama. This latter can be a hindrance in the search for meaning and understanding. minds. content just to be. Yet I do it. Impact – Big – minute. I have also imagined myself as a “pimp of the suffering” (Veissiere. and to feel the power of just being. 2010). forgetting to look for meanings where none were forthcoming. 2005). hidden meanings. experience. together. or in political and juridical texts. But how often do we try to get to know these asylum seekers and to relate to them in ways other than through political. nowhere………somewhere. Policy documents and letters from authorities are incomprehensible. and I discovered that to claim to fully “know” the asylum seeker would be inevitably to fall into the trap of totalizing the other in a manner that is unjustified and unjustifiable. But with a conviction nonetheless to minimalize the violence of my “knowing” and to address those with whom I engage as humans. looking aimlessly at the floor. “The language of the colonizer is still the normalized language of international knowledge production and the Postcolonial theories of the West trump indigenous theories and colonized lived experience” (Diversi & Finley. heads. Veissiere advocates for a “critical engagement between academic ethnographers from the North and……marginalized social actors” whilst simultaneously contemplating “the horror of being an academic pimp who sustains a livelihood from exploiting human suffering and violence” (2010). relying as I do on this fabricated categorization and on the routinized use of indexical expressions to describe my informants (Latimer. further than bureaucratic categories and categorizations? Finding out what a self-other account of asylum seekers looks like if I try to get to know them became the goal of my research. Feeling guilty. in full acknowledgement of one’s opacity and partiality (Butler.. Bodies. Events surge new meanings into lives. fabulations. taking advantage of every opportunity to glean information and new insights from the words of the asylum seekers with whom I speak. Words which are not only words on paper. an “academic pimp”. I am myself committing the totalizing error. Chance occurrences lead………. Obfuscatory language. Even as I employ the term asylum seeker. their living. 2007). torn apart. and ended up “giving an account” of myself (Butler. my relation to the other is lost” and that the final aim is not to “achieve an adequate narrative account of a life” but to stand in an ethical relation to the other. Whilst there are many limitations to not speaking the same language as my informants. What would happen if I/i tried to get to know them and to go beyond what I read in newspapers. “Lives strewn. my research would not have been possible. In attempting to know something of the life of asylum seekers I must recourse to English and Dutch. I learnt that “if I achieve (that) self-sufficiency. like asylum seekers. failed integration. “know”? What can I know anyway? (Journal excerpt: 3rd October 2010) I hope that my journey will provide not only inspiration to others setting out to research vulnerable groups. things happen. I sought asylum seekers during my research looking for their “accounts of themselves”. stories. Eyes staring. or hopefully up to heaven towards God or Allah. Where I sought the “truth” I found accounts. pushed together. or just to the sky. 2005). but I enjoy how we searched together or how we abandoned the search. Is it a dream or is it real? What is reality anyway? Something I feel. or hyped up media reports highlighting a ‘them’ and ‘us’. Bluuurrrrrrr…… Where am I? Wake me up from this nightmare. Without this dependency of one on the other. instrumentalising relationships with informants in order to gain greater access to their worlds for the purpose of (my) ethnographic research. legs. 2010). but that it will also challenge them to explore new ways of doing research and for narrativizing the accounts of others. I find the inherent power differential between them and me more of a problem than the language barrier. but which become representations of their lives. not “objects”. legal or juridical frameworks. Ways which allow room . whilst these are not the first language of my addressees.

implicating ourselves in our writing and our researching. • 1. embracing complexity and ambiguity and realizing the insanity of consistency and the danger of definitive conclusions. learning to wonder at lives in-becoming and opening ourselves to the vulnerability which comes with affecting and being affected. I hope we can liberate ourselves from some of these desires. when grasping for certainty is second nature and the desire to knowthingsforsure can be all encompassing. exploring the gaps (in meaning). and for getting entangled in the messiness of performative research and writing. Only then can we meet others in their struggles and their humanity and reduce the violent tendencies of much of our current ways of knowing. These are curious times. and which confront the partiality in our knowing and being. delving and dwelling in new spaces.15 for self-doubt. . touching and being touched. Stewart writes “thangs happen.” as this is the local way of saying “things happen”.

Like Stewart points out. fingers scrubbed raw or glued together to spoil compulsory fingerprinting in countries en-route. 2. one that resists essentialism and reductionism. We imagine that asylum seekers must be overjoyed to reach the democratic and free West. They twist and end up somewhere else. reifications) but the very desires that motivate academic essentialism itself – the desire for decontaminated ‘meaning’. 2006). understandable schema’s to suit policy aims? How much do policy makers know of the subjects to which their policy attends? How much can they know? What are their claims with regard to knowing? Conversations take turns. believe we know what we’re doing. It cannot be otherwise. the effort to get the gist. 1996). presume. How little we really know. Yet how quickly does the asylum seeker learn to name himself as “asylum seeker”? To go along with their own indexation. the need to require that visual and verbal constructs yield meaning down to their last detail. or hope. challenging preconceived notions of knowledge and knowing. that we know what moves the other. the meaning of new ethnography “would be to displace not just the signs or products of essentialism (generalizations. I opt instead for situated. . reflexive. ironic. assume. (Journal excerpt: 24th August 2010) Kathleen Stewart talks of a “new ethnography” (Stewart. and a “them” who can and are represented and whose lives are depicted as an “absolute real” (Stewart. for the asylum seeker it can be the difference between life and death. re-worked and re-worded. to name it ‘in a word’. Whereas I eschew the semi-positivistic stance that I can produce knowledge about the ‘other’ which is objective and neutral and can be given in a ‘coherent narrative’ (Sands & Krumer-Nevo. Something happens. turns we were not expecting. knowing is something else. Gone mad. 1996). 1993). Are they not after all fleeing third world. given its focus on an “us” that has the capacity and power to represent. history form a skin through which my relations are filtered. Actions are incomprehensible. the unknown. That they cannot wait to enjoy our freedoms. to ‘picture’ it in an overview. culture. at least to our Western minds. conversation is mediated by and through my own body. local knowledge. We totalize. or purport to be capable of. emotionally based text” (Lather. neopragmatic. categorized. 1996). slot them into handy. what his motivations and drives are. That they are the same as ours. 1996). Representation is seen as problematic. which calls for other forms of validating criteria: “reflexive.16 New Ethnography “What do we know of the other? How to represent the other when the other has many facets. Each enacts a multivocaled. prejudices. or to reduce it to an allegory of anthropological theories” (Stewart. undeveloped lands? How could they possibly not embrace our democratic traditions with open arms? We think we know what’s best for the other. My notions. What are refugees. to gather objects of analysis into an order of things” (Stewart. many faces? All contact. my own mind. Could that be the reason we prefer to stick to the “known”? Or would “familiar” be a more appropriate description? Tales of bleached finger tops. Understanding or attempting to understand is one thing. in an effort to eschew fixing “a culture in place and time. Yet there is an ‘other’ whose lives I endeavor to understand. if not categories we invent for ease of mind? Who are they? Can we fit them neatly into categories. asylum seekers. open-ended. Putting ourselves into the position of the other is not as easy as we think. ideas. According to Stewart. My thoughts. without falling into the trap of ‘othering’ or relying on ‘master narratives’ to legitimize my role as researcher. the asylum seeker other. It seems unthinkable that this cannot be the case. somebody utters something we did not expect and the situation launches into the new. compliant in his own mimicking of the representations we create? Like a world turned upside down. For them it’s business. To my Western mind. we are “thrown into things”. sorted out. mingle with tales of dangerous sea crossings and unscrupulous traffickers who prey on the fear and angst of those escaping war and persecution in their own countries. rhizomatic and situated.

not all conversations have been transcribed fully. but also the unfolding intensities of inhabiting spaces of desire and imagination. pressed into mighty service by society. 3. 2010). My texts comprise (ethnographic) accounts of asylum seekers and of life at the AZC. to use the term employed by my informants. I place myself in the text. reflections and representations. My research has brought me to engage with different groups of asylum seekers. Leyla. also from the same region. The goal has been to “get to know” some asylum seekers and to learn about their lives. and to ponder my dilemmas. juridical texts to which we are accustomed. and we are advised to beat a retreat to the unmentionable world of active forgetting where. which question theory and methodology alike and which reflect my emotional and cognitive explorations whilst undertaking this research. particularly turning to pieces which demonstrate moments of critical self-reflection as researcher and which highlight some of the dilemmas of doing this kind of research. ethnicity and cultural background (some 15 persons). I draw on various theoretical frameworks. I attempt. varying in age. My visits have averaged a day to one and half days per week. • 2. political status. since June 2010.17 I opt for “new ethnography”.. ruminations. personal experiences and ethical conundrums. I have transcribed some 10 interviews completely and kept a detailed journal of the days spent at the AZC. the AZC. laced with theoretical analyses. theoretical or ethical. the representation the power of the represented” (Taussig. of engaging in “new ethnography”. like Stewart. 8 hours a day. Young persons interviewed are referred to by the initial of their first name. “Something nauseating looms here. of becoming and worlding. with B. My aim is to provoke the reader to engage with me on the issues raised. I have been visiting an asylum seekers centre in the North of the Netherlands. Given the length of time spent at the centre. but principally on affect theory as performed by Kathleen Stewart. being one of my main informants throughout the research process. all at different phases in their asylum procedure. These are spaces of alterity and cultural poetics. the majority of my time was spent with a smaller group of asylum seekers primarily from Iraq. the ethnography of “ordinary affects” and “atmospheric attunements” (Stewart. tracking not only the dread and suffering. My Iraqi informants refer to one another as “father of…” followed by the name of the eldest child. performance and passion (Stewart. a single mother from the Caucacus has been a major factor in this project. observing and conversing with asylum seekers. I ask what I can actually ‘know’ about asylum seekers – the ‘objects’ of this study – and I engage with questions not only on knowledge production. 1996). to illuminate my thoughts. I will refer to this latter on many occasions in this thesis. being at once subject and object and I call repeatedly on my own rememberings and retellings. methodological ruminations and (self-reflexive) interludes. methodological. 2007. the mimetic faculty carries out its honest labor suturing nature to artifice and bringing sensuousness to sense by means of what was once called sympathetic magic. Abu means “father of”. but also on what such knowledge should eventually look like. granting the copy the character and power of the original. . to “perform the problematics” of life as an asylum seeker. in order to (re)present an-‘other’ text about asylum seekers – a humanistic text – as opposed to the political. of the happenings. as well as Lianne. That said. religion. 1993).

talking excitedly. 2007). The mood was dim. I on the bed and he on the red plastic chair. One never knows. 3. gesturing continually with his hands. my presence went almost unnoticed. in the grip of change. “The sensibility for the elements is not the passive recording of a multiplicity of elementary sense data……Sensuality is not intentionality. me on the other and B. amid interruptions. His story. living. a movement that objectifies. It takes everything we have”. unknowing. joined us in the cramped space. passers-by who knock for a chat. like most. interrupted. . for a time. All went quiet. noted sarcastically. the heaviness in the air was palpable. Most fitting. in fact. Every now and then one would mutter something in Arabic. the judge. impacts suffered or barely avoided. We felt tired. on a regular basis. a plump man. of the Iraqi government. to humoristic. is not a movement aiming at something exterior. “We know what will happen to them all”. The accused spoke but was constantly interrupted by the judge. it is not identification of a diversity with an ideal identity term. Sarcasm lost headway. an air of fatalism encroached on us and lingered. by the three Sunnites with whom I shared the room.18 (Who are) “asylum seekers?” “Everyday life is a life lived on the level of surging affects. The man on trial sat with others. The mood surges. (Stewart. I just sat there whilst they stared intensely at the screen. predictable. One time we sat around. used to separation and a life in-between. A former Officer of the Republican Guard. It was a court scene. it is not imposition of form nor attribution of meaning. I looked on. Abu J. felt. The judge was a former “terrorist” wanted by Saddam for activities against the state in complot with the Iranian government. 2007). transcendent. on wooden benches. “The outcome will not be a surprise”. anything. was questioning someone in the docks. I was told. The unpredictability of it all is unavoidable. He gestured to the TV. faces taut. Is becoming an asylum seeker to be avoided? In whose hands the Iraqi war or the ‘war on terror’? Could those whose lives achieved a semblance of the ‘good’ under Saddam Hussein have imagined then that they would be cooped up in one room now? These former Ba’ath Party members. B. according to the conversational turn. or might say something which elicited a response from one of the others. “Shiite”. sinking deeper through the layers of our bodies. The conversation froze. 1998). the elite wing of Saddam’s fighting machine. one behind the other. thrown literally into small spaces. waiting for things to happen? Day in day out. Sensuality is a movement of involution in a medium” (Lingis. before being startled by bursts of energy. We were discussing things. A change which they were witnessing from afar. into our pores. standard issue. and turned to a trial on the television. They were former members of the Ba’ath Party. The air was charged. Something. Arabic TV. The gloom seeped through the walls. his son who arrives home for lunch. “The former terrorist is now judging those who once tried to track him down” Abu Z. from light. breaking news on the TV. bodies tense. talking in Arabic. I visit his unit. day in day out. prayer time or whatever. sharing lives with victims of Ba’ath Party terror – Sunni and Shiite alike? Separated from family members. they were transfixed by the scenes on TV. a news article. on the chair. We awaken to the elements. There were now two on one bed. live from Iraq. enduring the multicultural reality of an asylum centre. to somber. enacting boredom. are comforted by the stability of the ground beneath us. For a moment I was but a bystander. a wooden grille in front of them. when Abu Z. flooded by the power of our affectations or illuminated by deep murmurings of gloom shared. I was told. And in a strange kind of way. which is the name given to the housing quarters at an AZC in the Netherlands. for a soldier used to barracks and camps. Take B. separating them from each other. their homeland. day in day out. “Affects surged” (Stewart. added making a throat-slitting gesture with his hand. is told in jumps and bounds. Then they’d turn back to the screen.

Norms operate at a fundamental level by constituting the subject. Returning to the initial scene described above. This too is a place like the one Stewart describes. The desire is felt. norms that establish the viability of the subject” (2005).19 superimposed on the changes in their own lives which had catapulted them to this place. a dwelling in and on a cultural poetics contingent on a place and a time and in-filled with palpable desire” (Stewart. how to imagine and re-present cultural differences that make a difference in a way that might itself begin to make a difference?” (Stewart. then no sooner did . then. 2005). Could it be that at such times I “…intervene in the mind/body split”? (Pelias. but also of how I live them. I am moved. but in these spaces gaps are opened up whereby it is difficult. cultural and so on”. My “…body becomes a troubling presence by acknowledging that all claims are filtered. Indeed. what it meant for the other. Claims may ensue. one woman. on those who I ask to account for themselves. (Pelias. 2007). with me. if not impossible to “…capture the “gist” of “things” (Stewart. 1996). Stewart attempts to “…approach the clash of epistemologies and use that clash to re-open a gap in the theory of culture…” (Stewart. If by this one means deliberation and critique with the mind. According to Butler (2005) accounting for oneself is only possible in the face of a relation with the other. Yet sitting there. 1996). It. Then they acknowledged me once again. Part of trying to know the other means trying to get to know the other’s norms. incitations of the imagination and nervous evocations of a life lived in the past. sharing moments of intensity. The trial continued for some time as we sat around in silence. subjective. or as Butler says “…in the stylization of its ontology and in the establishing of a legitimate site within the realm of social ontology” (2005). 2005). “…a place that insists on the necessity of gaps in the meaning of signs and creates a place for story – for narrativizing a local cultural real. affected by the happenings. 1996). past. I must be a deliberative subject because “ethical deliberation is bound up with the operation of critique” (Butler. maybe even impose them. Like so many of the spaces which have emerged in my encounters with asylum seekers over the past months. acknowledging the mind. present and future. with doing. With regards to asylum seekers. I would argue that contemporary ways of knowing and of representing the ‘other’ may even be deemed violent. the researcher. hence. I too. but not in words. at that moment. yet as Butler points out we must question “…whether the ‘I’ who must appropriate moral norms in a living way is not itself conditioned by norms. Nonetheless. 2007). Watching TV together. in how far can I be a deliberative ethical being. within a contemporary social frame”. if I maintain the “split”. located in interaction. have appropriated certain sets of norms. of those which I have appropriated. but thereby relegating my body. Butler posits that accounting for oneself is a question of moral philosophy “a question that has to do with conduct and. this impromptu interstice impacted upon us and inaugurated processes of rememberings and unforgettings. historical. that same “I” “…is not at one with moral norms” and “must deliberate upon these norms and that part of deliberation will entail a critical understanding of their social genesis and meaning” (2005). Here a prolific narrative space interrupts the search for the gist of things and the quick conclusion with a poetics of deferral and displacement. in that room. For me as a researching subject. to this room. For not to do so “…the politics of ‘othering’ and the marking of difference remains subject to the old enclosures and to perverse appropriations. or any research ‘object’ for that matter. “establishing a living relation to them” (Butler. it speaks of passions and feelings. accounting in some way for their lives. I sometimes feel far removed from moments of deliberation and critique. positioned. 1996). The problem remains. my body. it speaks from the heart”. Butler considers that even as the “I” is an “I” which is socially and morally embedded from the beginning. a narrative may emerge and we may try to understand what it means. a ruminative reentrenchment in the particularity of local forms and epistemologies. To me. spaces which extend beyond the body/mind split and which recognise the import of bodily affects and emotions in and on our research. without I suggest being fully able to give meaning to it all. it means that I must possess a keen awareness not only of my own norms. even transmitted. three men. “…is rendered as an affective presence” which “…speaks from and to the senses. and its affects to second place? It would seem to me that we need to open up new spaces of knowing. as viable subject. but still very present. “The reason for this is that the “I” has no story of its own that is not also the story of a relation – or set of relations – to a set of norms”.

Just like you” (T. My complicity in these cultural productions incites my imagination. as best as our bodies and minds allow us. of the dread of what is to come. if only fleetingly. The presenter had an air of Derek Trotter about him. you think there’s nothing wrong in Iraq. with an Arab version of Rodney waiting in it for Del Boy. 5. we dance and sing…”. I have to live here. . you are an asylum seeker now’.20 the advertisements appear. COA – Centraal Opvang Asielzoekers – the Dutch organisation for the reception of asylum seekers . smiles and comments that although all those on TV are Iraqi’s. And writing in order to learn and to reflect on the question I posed at the beginning: “(who are) asylum seekers”? “When I talk to COA they say ‘you are an asylum seeker now. Unawares half the time that I was “listening in order to retell” or reading in order to recount. typical ankle length garb for Arab men. and the same grin. the TV evokes laughter and the gloom lies awake in the shadows and “fashions itself as a tension between the interpretation and the evocation” (Stewart. doing research. of experiences lived. I’d rather be alive than dead. did the mood change. “To see this. from Iraq) • 4. The voices soften. wearing a fez and a dishdasha. There was lots of laughing and fun. Yesterday (17th August 2010) 61 people were blasted away by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. Perhaps watching the Iraqi equivalent of Tommy Cooper serves to soften the blow somewhat of the devastating war on terror. We must laugh and make jokes. of separation from loved ones. imposed and unwanted by those I share a room with now. living and performing it as best we know how. 120 more injured. a dancing host and swirling women. Scantily clad for non-westerners. B. changed the channel to an Iraqi game show. 1996). I will use the Dutch abbreviation COA throughout. Humor can ease the pain. and the programmes are all made outside of Iraq. 24 years. and like Stewart “missing pieces and unknown meanings taught me to listen not just more intently. but differently – a listening in order to retell” (Stewart. and was the story interrupted. of stories told. But I’m also a human being. A character in a very popular British soap series entitled “Only Fools and Horses” Derek is a wheeler and a dealer whose aim is to become a millionaire. He had the same stature. you are an asylum seeker now. in snippets and conversations. I hate myself. they live in Sweden. This narrative is inevitably a retelling. of associations entered into and of truths and confessions amassed here and there. with a Tommy Cooper style host. formally and informally. The bloodiest day so far this year. Up to their usual tricks again. at least for a while. 1996). of images of one’s homeland in the throws of a war. B. or in other European lands. I imagined the famous Trotter three-wheeler parked outside.

Bodies of men. Suddenly an explosion happened. A Justice Ministry spokesman said: "These attacks are well orchestrated. They are targeting the entire judicial system of the country. "Severed hands and legs were falling over me." said Yasir Ali.21 Interlude Army recruits targeted in Iraq suicide bomber attack. In another attack last month. There were also officers and soldiers. the insurgents attacked eight judges. Despite the risks." The bomber simply walked up and joined the applicants and set off the explosives. who had been waiting outside the headquarters since 4 am. many Iraqis are lured by the prospect of steady wages with few jobs available after years of war. were found By Kim Sengupta. a suicide bomber ripped through a line of anti-al-Qa'ida Sunni fighters waiting to collect their pay near an Iraqi army base. Saleh Aziz said: "We were lined in a long queue." July has been the bloodiest month since May 2008. Some of the thousand men who had queued from dawn for a chance to get a job in the military were so desperate for work that they returned to the line after being treated at hospitals for their wounds. and wounded and dead people falling over and beside me. killing 45 people in the mostly Sunni district of Radwaniya.” • . some still clutching job applications in their hands. south-west of Baghdad. (Source: The Independent) Bodies of men. were scattered on the ground outside the military headquarters. Thank Allah only my hand was injured. In Baghdad and Diyala province. leaving 61 dead. killing two of them. Defence Correspondent. with more than 500 killed. some still clutching job applications in their hands. I was soaked with blood from the body parts. Wednesday. 18 August 2010 “A suicide bomber blew himself up in Baghdad yesterday killing 61 people who had queued for hours to join the Iraqi army just two weeks before American forces prepare to pull out of the country. The attack and the start of an assassination campaign on judges by another insurgent group amounted to the deadliest series of attacks in several months.

So not for them. “Maybe. Those investigators get too much power. here and now. Abu Z. to B. waiting. As I drive up I see that on the cafeteria building there’s a huge orange flag “HOLLAND” draped over the side of the building. A friend walks past and sticks his head around the door. and eschew schematization and classification. where he’s been living for some 11 months. I think: football. “it’s room 606 isn’t it”? B. in Ter Apel. They call this place a “camp”. “The investigator will do many interviews in those first days. the story will be weak”. we don’t know. any piece of information which might make his situation clearer. riddled with inconsistencies and ambivalences which distort my understanding. The TV is on. They want evidence for the story – pictures. he tells me. I ask what it is that they’ve been told and by whom and I find myself becoming entangled in a story which is but half a story. We can call him Abu Z. If you don’t have evidence.22 En-count-ers in the gap(s) “The sky overhead unites all who breathe under its seamless space. Everyone who gets accepted in an asylum centre will get news within 4 to 6 months of arrival at the centre if they can stay or not” according to Abu Z. maybe it will mean better things for us. the answer is. but nevertheless interesting. “That’s what we’ve heard”. and I sit there. at 09. The story of the “camp” is pieced together in these rooms. B. His story is an attempt to make something of his situation and to fill in the gaps (in his knowledge). fragmentary specimens of imaginary tales. and if the story is confused. I could not sense at this time how much I would come to dread the ritual of registering with the guards. 2004) It’s a warm sunny day. more understandable. . 1996). in a designated visitors’ space. He unlocks his own door. He introduces himself and comes to sit down to talk. shifting ruminations and wild goose chases. and the main door to B. past the children’s play area. He goes out to make coffee. partial and fragmentary. Abu Z. the AZC on the outskirts of a small town.’s block. the person will be fired”. one cupboard. how much this practice would “affect” me mentally and physically for the force of its repetitive character and its almost criminalizing potentialities. of the latest news which “they” (the asylum seekers) have heard. The security guard behind the reception looks up and says hello. papers. I’m in. they need to be controlled. “We can’t do anything. Relevant only for refugees who arrive after 1st July. uniting us to all who are born and shall be born under the sky…” (Lingis. “He [the investigator] will guess if this man is lying or not. greet B. and we walk to the reception where I have to check in. photos – that kind of thing. When I ask why. he repeats. waiting. “It’s the waiting”. We go up the stairs. so we don’t have to wait so long. I drive around there – they’re building right next door – looks like some new office complex although I can’t be sure. one small wardrobe. Like all those I meet at the camp . The room is big enough to hold 2 beds. with an occasional spattering of what may be 4. otherwise it’s just one person deciding about us. His is “the space of the gap in which signs grow luminous in the search for their illusive yet palpable meanings” (Stewart. which is closed. is already waiting. I don’t know why”. This means put on the street. But I’ve heard they have to know what they’re doing in the new system”.’s unit is open. “All new refugees will get told after 7 days whether or not they can go to an asylum centre or not or whether they will be “fired”. Al Jazaeery the Arabian TV sender. only wait”. sometimes for 8 hours. I ask what will happen in those 7 days that such a decision can be made. His home. Abu Z. “we are suffering from the waste of time. On parking my car. or he doesn’t believe the story. clammers for news. possibly more acceptable even. I see B. of governmental instructions which are to be introduced on 1st July. a bit overcast. I park outside. points to the bed. nods. We go outside and walk past the main cafeteria. which is empty. I am assured that the investigator will be a very skilled person who knows what he/she is doing and who is capable of making such an important judgement. launches into a tale of new procedures. waiting”. He asks for my identification papers and mutters. and I’ve agreed to meet B. is fired up. and a table.30 at home. “that’s what we call it. for information. or sent to a prison to be returned home. that’s what everybody calls it. Schiphol and in Den Bosch.

and informs me that in my absence he only attributes good news to me. curiosity. the covering over of cleavages and contradictions and the drive for a smooth narrative is illusive. hopelessness and depression. and the concrete. with the easy procedures in Belgium” he assures me. In cardboard boxes. its spectacles of impact. however wants to protect me from the reactions of others to my answers. and for an order which harbors predictability amidst this chaos of meanings and manifest obscurity. in Europe.” a local cultural real emerges in a precise mimetic tracking of events and grows dense with cultural tensions and desires. reversible logic of hope or faith arising out of the signs of a world gone down” (Stewart. negative”. 1996). because the one who is listening may get jealous and give us the ‘evil eye’”. “Is it economics first. He’s heard many stories about how easy it is in Belgium for Iraqi’s to get a permit to stay.23 called truth in the telling. but not many. Together we “trace the negative. Local voices are launched from within a space of contingency. in the camp itself. leaving vague who his informant is when it comes to news which stifles hope and encouragement. He wants to know why Dutch policy towards refugees has changed in the last years. A message I cannot square with another favourite of his: “We don’t like to tell too many good things. told me of an acquaintance who asked for asylum in Belgium “they have no space for them there at the AZC. but attractive nonetheless. B. resonance or impact.’s friend talks with a lot of people. fury or both. or politics?” he asks. fires them up in an instance only to kick back their ideals. has offered to take me there if I want. I wonder whether it’s the time of day that makes the difference as B. They rely mainly on each other and on news programmes from their home countries. so they have to send him back there. as supposed “expert”. a desire for clarity. the then Dutch Minister for integration. seducing them into frenzy. I am clueless as to the fuzzy dynamics at work in governmental bureaucracies. then it’s very easy there from 2008 to now”. My informants follow what they can in Dutch news. when it starts to get dark”. but rather to speculation. Nearly everybody I meet has a satellite dish protruding from the Dutch soil at the back of their unit. in the freezing cold”. 1996). in Iraq. gives them hope. He knows because he has friends there who got permission to stay almost immediately. which rarely provides solace. I can only tell that what I have heard or read myself. for being told what is what. from friends in and outside the Netherlands. I also find many institutional decisions baffling and unfathomable. B. B. “If you compare it with the Belgians. But Abu Z. displacements and re-memberings” (Stewart. “In the end he went crazy. He’s young. This is part of the “Other” story. or winding their paths towards deep states of withdrawal. sheer action and intensity. and will only get sent back once they have a space at the AZC for him in Belgium”. their “poetics of encounter. He is interested in politics and tells me of a meeting he went to last year with Albayrak. “In the daily practices of textualising “thangs that happen. The compulsion towards a consistent storyline. also reminds me that “everybody here gets nervous and depressed around this time [early evening]. I can feel their “restlessness and rumination”. But at least he has a roof over his head now. I am reminded. Information is seemingly gathered all over. He went to stay with his sister in the Netherlands and got picked up there. Some names of some politicians are known. but now he’s tired and confused. Yet I bring to mind what B. 34. “You can compare the difficult procedures in the Netherlands. it tries to provoke attention to the forces that come into view as habit or shock. insists it’s much better in Belgium for Iraqi’s than here. They question me all the time on “what I know” and I am forced to interrogate my position as researcher. with his wife and baby. Something throws itself together in a moment as an event and a sensation. so he had to live on the streets. but that’s hard when one doesn’t speak the language. My senses attune to a palpable laboring for information. told me. 2007). They found out he had been fingerprinted in Belgium. and I dabble with the idea that this falling over of oneself for news is what keeps them alive. I find my own solace in Stewart commenting on “Ordinary Affects” being “committed not to the demystification and uncovered truths that support a well-known picture of the world. its states of exile and dreams of return. . Like many of those I meet in the “camp”. one whose twists and turns leave meanings opaque and whose incessant incoherence takes hold of me. a something both animated and inhabitable” (Stewart. and its experimental activities of foolin’ with things”. “We don’t like the one who only talks bad. and the “truth” of things is lodged in the concrete yet shifting life of signs – a network of telling and retellings. That’s what B. by some. its abjection. making me scream out for clarity and transparency.

It is easier to be blind if the choice is between blindness and madness. If you see everything and feel all you see. Tomorrow the world will look different yet again. and at yet another that same “truth” is inappropriate. “This is where you are now. of worlds and the unforgetting of memories. and will call this place either the AZC or the camp like they do. I surmise that to pin things down to a central theme or “gist” would be meaning-less. long buried in the soil of a bygone time which many would rather forget. It is a writing of lives. to plot a course which cannot be mapped out in advance no matter how hard one might try. information is partial. Then you turn your head away and you are somewhere else. trust waivers and relations weave in and out of one another as “things happen”. but cannot. You drift off and disappear. . Or are not allowed to as they must account for themselves and their lives. where meanings are inscribed in a temporal bed of meaning-making. sometimes vibrant re-tellings. hear. you unravel the wrinkles of your brain like a ball of kite string. Making sense drives the senses but fails to produce finality in meanings. as multiplicity in voices and meanings reigns. sometimes “just talk”. or as the search goes on to make sense of the situation. Control is illusory. side-stepped and disregarded as non-sense. flying in the face of the mood. and an unfolding of words. 1993) • 6. Room numbers are fictitious. Learn to see with one eye or both eyes half-closed” (Connelly. The trick of seeing is not seeing everything. 7. The only truth is that there is none: it moves when we blink. I use the same words as my informants. feel and experience is emergent in the practices of everyday life.24 Doing research with asylum seekers I am reminded that much of what I see. un-fitting. In one moment this version is found to be acceptable.

she says there’s been a misunderstanding and that he’ll get an invitation soon. explains that he’s waiting for her invitation for a meeting. a young kid I estimate in his early 20’s. smiles sarcastically. B. smiling politely at her. they talk and look up and greet us as we walk past. A man is standing outside a door with two other men. it’s like a prison here”. A case manager approaches us. doing chores. and is a place where asylum seekers can sit down and use a computer free of charge. one open cupboard. the personal property of the asylum seekers who live there. Plates. I wonder which senders people listen to. Further up a man sits outside on a chair talking to two other men. first takes me to the perimeter fence. and the small portable TV is on. Why did I expect a hubbub or the place to be heaving with bodies. There’s a handful of people in there. We walk around the front. I’m told.. Nobody pays any attention to it. conversing.’s son sent here from the first AZC they lived in some years earlier. There’s nobody else in the room. and a small group are gathered outside a door. B. These seem too personal for a first visit. Just past their block are the blocks reserved for the AMA’s . She wants to talk to B. B. . if this is how they hang on to some of their old identity. Looks Dutch. She asks him if he’ll be around during the summer. and one supervisor. some held fast in the ground. Apartment makes it sound so middle-class suburban. A man and woman come down the stairs. 5. and the downloading of porno. He smiles and tells me that this man earns ‘much money’ every week for his work. One main area with a small table and a kitchen area. It’s just noise. “Armenians”. saying “you see this. B. “Africans” B. She hurries away. housed separately from the other professionals. 2001) There are 8 people in this one particular apartment. or should I say “unit”. protruding from wires of all shapes and sizes dangling out of people’s windows. Perhaps serving to break up the silence. We walk later on to the MOA together. which brings back the memory of passing by public lavatories in England. it’s no longer applicable “they forgot to take it down” he says. They exchange a few words. At the back of the block there are many different shapes and sizes of satellite dishes. Lights burn in the rooms and I discern a smell of stale urine. He comments that he believes she must have it by now. The computer room is to be reached via the entrance to the medical services.25 Places and S-paces “We listen hard. chatting. try to capture the words that connect the lines and lives” (Rasberry. says. but it is quiet further. that’s probably why she wants an appointment. background sound. or how busy it is in the morning to get into the bathroom. They smile and walk on. fixing bicycles. and B. Or just plain habit. “12 euros” a week. He doesn’t ask further. try to pay attention to the moments that unfold. but I guess he can’t be. saying that due to aggressive behavior. I see a couple of young guys talking to one another. They have their own blocks and their own group of case managers and contact people from the COA. I didn’t ask how they arrange the cleaning here. We walk around the buildings. He smiles. 30cm x 40cm. There’s a notice on the door in bad English. about his son’s file. She doesn’t explain either. for food items. paper in hand. “What a stupid question” I think to myself. As I walk into the common area I notice that the other doors are all closed. not specifying further. informs me that the notice is old. He’s shakes the railing. I wonder if asylum seekers often go away on holiday in the summer. the computer room has been temporarily closed. Again B. But he doesn’t know for sure. explains that she works for the MOA and she’s been waiting since their arrival to get the medical file belonging to B. Two women sit at a table outside one unit. jokes that “much money” can be made by volunteering in the computer room as supervisor. one fridge. pots and pans are stacked up around the walls. explains that he works for the COA mending bikes. There’s little noise. There’s one toilet per unit. one stove. but the TV throws out its noise and plays incessantly. the juveniles who came here alone. even classy. “are you around here in the summer”? she repeats several times. far less than I had expected. This time it’s “4 Euros” a week. relieve the boredom. a shower room with a washing machine and a dryer. together? We move onto the right. B. We take a quick look in the computer room.

glances over at us every now and then. well. although I believe their offices are joined on the inside to the offices of the COA. that’s a young pharmacist from Iraq.30 hours. you know. She smokes. with a thick padded jacket on. I realize that she’s just unwrapped a new packet of cigarettes and thrown the cellophane onto the ground outside. “He’s Armenian. that such events could take place there? This will lead us to regard the camp not as a historical fact and an anomaly belonging to the past (even if still verifiable) but in some way as the hidden matrix and nomos of the political space in which we are still living” (Agamben. uneasily. a long skirt and a headscarve. B. From 09. The housing blocks are all green. The office of VWN is closed. “then you are normal again. that family’s from Afghanistan. got his hands on it. They were. warning asylum seekers to keep the place tidy and to dispose of their rubbish in the bins provided. “He’s been going all that time to the MOA and they always treated him. That’s where VWN have their offices. and walks back up towards us. I hear the story of an Iraqi who finally got permission to stay a month ago. finds it strange that the man in question and five others who also became Christians. B. no I don’t like the word nothing even though that’s what they make you feel like. you’re a Dutch man. you are lower than them”. I see her look around. he only knows that they are “good” and many of the COA people are “bad”. Out the corner of my eye I observe her as she walks up towards where the cars are parked on the outside of the building. School is out. “Instead of deducing the definition of the camp from the events that took place there. doesn’t know what it stands for though. He goes on “but since he got his status . their applications to reside in the Netherlands were accepted. Strange fabulations of events imagined. normal”. I remember the notice at the reception desk. you’re different now”. It is part of the stock of artifacts that make up the days and occupy the dreary nights at the “camp”. silent tracking of the mean- . now you have to behave like this. with a baby on the back of her bicycle. we will ask: What is a camp. to answer questions of “why them and not me?”. has even got a video as proof.26 There’s more movement now outside. After that time. B. an emergent account of a young Iraqi who has converted to Christianity. Another case manager walks past us. as they are known.30 to 11. B. a father too. yet truly lived and experienced in all their fullness “produce scenes of a world saturated by jumpy attunements” (Stewart. The block is painted orange after all. They say ‘you’re like us now. or so the story goes. I haven’t a clue. The cafeteria was also closed. says. Suddenly I am thrown into a new story. She nods and smiles. For the refugees however. She stops around the corner next to the reception. and wonder how hot it must be in her home country. that any thread is grasped to make sense of this situation. which I also get to view. There is what looks to be an older brother playing with a younger brother – kicking a ball around – whilst mum watches. make a swift movement with her hand and as she walks past the bushes she throws some rubbish into them and moves quickly on. so we walk outside the formal entrance and round the back. A mother cycles home with her children. of army barracks he says. I listen incredulously to this account. what is its juridico-political structure. I am standing talking to B. original version. the activity rooms were locked and the offices of the case managers are also locked after 11. they remind B. “Before then you are nothing. children start to arrive home. it’s hot. They are formally “out” of the boundaries. “how far people will go to stay here”. to a more intricate. however. 2007). “He’s been here for 2 years” B. approached by people from a church and told that if they became Christians. Apparently they converted. 1998). that’s an AMA”. Another woman leaves on a bicycle. you can start to make your life”. I look at my bare arms. Where and how B. She didn’t notice that I had seen her do it. so disoriented. The windows have stickers on them “Holland House” they say. wants to show me the whole place. “It’s very different once you get your status”. and we move on. informs me who the people are who go past us. She disappears momentarily out of sight and then reappears. No. Somalians I think. they would be helped to get permits to stay in the Netherlands. and miraculously shortly thereafter. We sit outside the cafeteria on the broken picnic bench. she has a long-sleeved thick cotton jacket on. got “status”. she nods at us. they treat him differently. trying to place myself in the position of one maybe so lost. they have to go “out”. B. A woman passes us with a baby in a buggy. tells me. B. locked up. in order to get access to the services of VWN. to fabricate justifications and to confound legitimacies and my …“attention shifts from a search for the truth or for an authentic. B. where there’s a table with an ashtray on it and she lights up.30 it’s possible to walk in if one has questions. “It just shows” says B. it’s more or less appointment only. has his back to her.

and landscape. “From Lebanon” B. The toilet was disgusting. Lianne’s worldly belongings were piled on one of the beds. Or at conditions which engender hopelessness and which render the human spirit weak and vulnerable. displacement. One after one they proclaim their faith. sociality. I have looked on in disbelief with Lianne at the rawness of the place she was given. All dressed in white. She is explaining that God is good. more safe. The cooker was stained with grease and smeared with food particles. reasoning. with mattresses and pillow cases. as if he’s had enough of this show of proselytizing. or truth. but painfully. that I can live in this place. She has been sick for years. “Imagine a place grown intensely local in the face of loss. skips over this bit and winds forward to the moment where the six Iraqi’s are brought forward to pledge their conversion to Christianity. 1986). they are baptized in a deep pool of water. exile and a perpetually deferred desire to return to what was already lost or still ahead. Even if it’s dirty and unclean. or to ask B. tensed up at the edge of his bed. and a white piece of cloth was taped over the glass in the door. please. It’s disbelief tinged with sadness and regret at man sunk so low. B. It’s more than disbelief. and an Iraqi Christian pastor interviews them in Arabic. he is a God of peace and love. tone and style. with pieces of toilet paper. and the one under the sink was scattered with that yellow stuff used for insulating pipes and the like. Quickly. how a haunted cultural landscape becomes a dizzying. so that if water did come out it would drip onto the toilet floor and not in the sink. a square formica table and 7 red plastic chairs. turned outwards. sits on the edge of the bed. just beyond reach. full of crumbs and remains. and a tin of unopened beans. but it’s not the worst”. I say thank you to the Dutch government because I am here. One after one. God is not a punishing God. the floor too dirty even for plastic bags. The cupboards were grimy. so is Lianne. The fiery mood which minutes ago had B. but now she sees that this was necessary. The bedroom had two beds. Imagine such a space for just one minute. announces. His eyes are sunken. I see a woman. “This is not as bad as the other places” she let on. The main “living” area had only bare walls. I can but nod and watch. B. pack opened. though empty. B. Picture the spaces from which the asylum seekers have come. and the tap looked strangely disfigured. Into one of contemplation. “Once I used so much bleach to get the place clean I fainted. so much so that any wait seemed better than going there. and a broken mirror. if they treat you badly. No this is bad. the six line up. It had been vacated in a hurry the staff member told us “probably somebody who got deported and just had a couple of hours to clean everything out”. There would be other. I always say thank you that I can be here. at its filth and emptiness. The curtains hung. An old toilet brush was flung in the corner. Vulnerable enough to convert from Islam to Christianity. another says that he was in the “darkness” before finding Christianity. overcrowded presence” (Stewart 1996). says too “I am thankful.27 ing of voice. Can I say one is more hospitable than the other. more amenable moments for that confrontation and for confounding one another. a microphone being held in front of her. is grateful. still soft. His eyes plead with me for recognition of his story. whether renouncing Islam is really as terrible as he would have me believe. so is Leyla. It was not the time to enter into discussions on religion. stained linoleum on the floor. Whatever happens. one is less bare. the fridge still dripping. Lianne said “anything is better than there. potent with a desire to demonstrate that this was really how things were. And I shuddered at the thought . B. Two metal cabinets. and all express how happy they are to be in the Christian brotherhood. some speak openly about Islam being a religion of violence and death. switches off. excited. dressed in white. and the places they inhabit now. exactly the same as in B’s room. dissolved. and even if the COA are not always nice. Not then. B. or rather feigned a desperate hanging. the plug duly unplugged and hung over an open door. That my children don’t have to see what they saw there. as if significant. not quite gloom. There was still half a loaf of white bread on the side. all the while turning to me and nodding as if to confirm what he has told me is true. Picture how a home place long threatening to dissolve into the sheer shiftiness of history might grow in-filled with an intense synesthesia of person. I wondered how anyone could make that space into a home. A woman translates into Dutch. more homely? Despite complaints of this sort or that. yet bordering thereon. B. takes me back to his block and loads up the video on the computer. because it has lead her to where she is today. and they had to call the doctor. Looking out the window he repeats “you see how far people go”. That they are safe”. I just say thank you for this place”. Language becomes neither transparent reflection of events nor container for ideas but a performative utterance” (Volosinov.

The children ran out into the snow and started playing and I felt I could now leave. She almost squealed with delight. He ran the taps and did his best to activate the central heating. he couldn’t believe it was me. We moved the bags out one by one. or was the younger the helper.which is the Dutch Refugee Council. When referred to I shall use the Dutch abbreviation known by asylum seekers – VWN – although many do not themselves know what the abbreviation stands for. not young. feeling. black female. Lianne enfolded her arms around the dustbin liners which ensured her sanity. and for a tiny moment forgot this predicament she was in. which provoked a reverberation of happiness around Lianne. needing no prompting “when I lived in that other place I used to stay the whole time in my room. nor even to skirt past the walls. The tears you initially cried had dissipated and you said “I am not afraid now. I commented that I found this place “rather disgusting”. “There are spaces in which we cannot envision or formulate objectives or grasp onto anything usable but which we embrace with a tender. daughter. When I came back I’d lock myself in the room. pipes frozen and two small children. but our hand reaches out to stroke the arm of the dying stranger” (Lingis. “Load everything back into the car”. “I’ll see what I can do. When he returned he gave Lianne two new keys. dirty and cold. She continued. in case the police or anyone came looking for me. who are always on-site by an AZC. and took it to the car. prodding and poking. incredulous or awestruck gaze. needing a place to sleep for the night. . I take it everywhere”. he gestured to Lianne’s possessions. The staff member hurried from one corner to the next. she had four plastic bags and two small overnight bags. touching. and we were introduced to “granny”. backwards and forwards to the bus stop. 2007) • 8. VWN stands for Vluchtelingen Werk Nederland . that expanse of emptiness. that was her worry now. I shall use the Dutch abbreviation AMA when relevant. The door opened. 10. and the COA have not once cleaned my room for me”. or in English: Unaccompanied Minor Asylum Seekers. with so many new arrivals”. “Don’t you have another place where they can stay”? I inquired. inspecting. Just through the gates we stopped outside another block. One of the special units for the sick or physically disabled. She could stay here for the weekend we were told. plus an electronic piano wrapped in two grey rubbish bags and bound together with cellotape in the middle. Nobody helps. AMA refers to Alleenstaande Minderjarige Asielzoekers. while we get this place cleaned up”. albeit temporarily. “I’ve been in five camps. and exchanged a pleading glance with him. “Wait here” he said. A small old black woman sat at the table eating. not venturing to it’s outward borders. and I’d just play my piano the whole day long. Only that I can’t do without my piano. But my neighbor said whenever he heard me play. The immediate present of two small children. I only play for myself. to be offered a new space. I don’t think she can stay here tonight. but we’re so full. MOA stands for Medische Opvang Asielzoekers or Medical Services Asylum Seekers. she shuddered with astonishment. just for now. this place feels alright”. I can’t tell. I never went out. He said he always thought it was the television. Lianne’s eyes brightened. When referred to I shall use the Dutch abbreviation known by asylum seekers – MOA. It’s the only thing that keeps me from going mad”. I can’t do without my piano. He left us in that place for a while. Did they both live here. 9. I stayed the whole day in that one small space. accompanied by a somewhat younger. Room 46 with a ramp outside the door. because it was so beautiful. as if contaminated. and all the time he was gone we stood in the middle of the room. were they related. one of whom was on antibiotics for a bout of bronchitis”. “no warm heating. only to get the children or go shopping. “I’ve found her somewhere else. “Usually I have to carry all this myself. then he called the engineer to come and help. But he had no luck either. We had left that despondent bareness. I’d get up and then bring the children to school. not wanting to dirty our hands on the edges of its filth.28 of the elbow grease which would be needed to get this place anywhere near clean. Nothing meaningful we can say can connect with his suffering. I looked into his eyes. or just friend? The warmth embraced our cold bodies and made a pledge that Lianne would be safe here tonight. I don’t really know.

29 Interlude On (living) Space(s) and Place(s) “In fact you were born by chance. Vacate this space. but not this space. swing. Occupy a new space. “Surges of superabundant energy become vibrant and intensify in exhilaration. A space to wait. Is that livin’? Which spaces or places are yours. that you had a normal human body or a genetic defect. sway. 2007) Where is the limit between what (space) is mine and what (space) is yours? Can’t we share this space? Some spaces remind me of home.)myspace. For now for I have NO clue where I may go tomorrow. Lived-in space or a space to live (in) “Space” to live in Live in space A-live in space. pack UP this space. A waiting place. I know I will have to move once again into a new space.com • . “Thangs” happen here too. I have no choice. Warm spaces in-filled with dreams and “thangs that happen”. Livin’-in (a) space. that you happened to meet someone you fell in love with. pump. Desires have their place. a place for now. that you had the brains to get through school and perhaps the university. that you are of an expansive happy disposition or melancholic. an uncertain place. Desires. You have two hours to clear OUT. then subside” (Lingis. 2007). a waiting place? “We shudder. Which place. and all the decisive turns in your life – that you were born in a suburb in the richest country of the world or in a hovel in the vast outer zone. A space to exist in. which space will I have then? Where will it be? I need not worry about attachments to places and spaces. that you somehow were free to release your superabundant energies or were constricted fearfully to your needs and wants – all that was each time a matter of good or bad luck” (Lingis. prance and gesticulate” (Lingis. to be called homely? Space(s) of life // Space(s) in life // Space(s) for life or lives whose place is a meandering place. But this space is NOT (www. in a new place. rock. elsewhere in space… This space is temporal. I have to. My heartbeat ticks in this space. 2007) Quickquick SLOW SLOW SLOW S L O WER Speed up – you have to GET OUT.

inquisitive and fragile. and. my “i” in the tensions. In this sense ‘capture’ is not the write/right word. Yet I fear I must admit partiality. joyous. 2010). rejecting positivistic calls for purity and objectivity. 1996). I have implicated myself in my research. Would that be more comfortable. 1996). The pull or urge to re-present the Other. social and psychological. (Veissiere. shifting. in the “gaps” and “…in the nervous. and leave rough edges which shun the carpenter’s plane. “Everyday. discussing Foucaultian Subjects. ‘You may not like it. hardened. With the same token. if not impossible. live with the inconsistencies and occasionally reel in self-doubt. I unlearn what I’ve learnt the day before. 2010). traces and entanglements. 6. the ways we get to know knowing” (Rasberry. curious. researching journey. A gathering of experiences and thoughts. 2005). happy. in simultaneity and separately. painfully. or outside my own eye/i . swings. [make] sense [of] what we are seeing and of the multiplicity of what we are simultaneously experiencing. but here I am’” (Krieger. yet also gladdened. how vulnerable and naïve I am”. to say I know what I am doing. and to work inside the conventions of coherence and certainty. Oft times lost. in the interstices of complex human existence. obsessed. 1991: 244). sways. Whose rules do we follow? Will we make our own? Do we…. Can I? The “truth regime” of which I am part extends so far as to provide me with a framework within which “recognition [of the other] takes place”. and of trying to capture the lives of those we are researching so that we can. I am both subject and object. cultural. individual and collective. teacher and learner. inventing new truths which escape dominant discourses on what good research is or is not. all together. and “a regime of truth offers the terms that make self-recognition possible” (Butler. furious. how partial and how temporary things are. Yet implication brings ethical dilemmas. Perhaps I should use the term “make visible” or “make seen”. surges. I cannot erase uncertainties. hard-to-follow trajectories of desire and [a cultural system] in-filled with all the confusion and aggravation of desire itself” (Stewart. engagements and flurries in spaces. confused. Yet according to Krieger: “The challenge lies in what each of us chooses to do when we represent our experiences. disheartened even mad. conundrums of affectivity and dangers of excess and blindness. in bounded analytical frameworks is palpable. more amenable to those who must judge this work? Perhaps. the possibility of a human essence. attunements. and the necessity of a collective human project” (Veissiere. I invite you to open your imaginings to this world and to heighten your senses and sensibilities so that they may attune and occasionally collide with this exploration of affectivity and affectations. which I feel to be deeply flawed. But to capture is to fix and to fix is to claim that what we are writing is the truth. political. But I can surely not write outside the paradigms of my own language. surprise.have the guts to say. Picture how it oscillates wildly between its dreams of order and its prolific excesses. in a logic of negation. renderings and ruminations. . I have longed in this quest for a way to reflect the complexity which I have encountered on this research. moods. insider and outsider. Inspired by Veissiere I feel “…invited to regain the courage to speak in the name of humanity. reflections. and to open up new spaces of thought and writing which resist closure or final conclusions. and find out how fragile. roadblock and perpetual incompletion. only words and texts. contingency. The “simple” act of moving words around the page alters the way we (get to) know text. in some way. tempting. how it drifts in the flux of desire and condenses under its weight and force” (Stewart. 2001) The very act of researching is one of learning and listening. For there are no final conclusions. and choose to position myself. To conform. the asylum seeker. or at least one version of it.30 Writing lives “Our knowing and our meaning making – made possible through our relationship with and through words – are influenced by our work and play with text. and performance and poetics. Stewart invites us to “imagine a world that dwells in the space of the gap.

It was like being in an alien environment. I was hit by the noise on entering – TV blasting. waiting. comes from Syria and has been living in the Netherlands for the past 6 years almost. on the “camps”. 1998). who had been introduced to me by B. a place “where the levels come apart” (Lingis. carrying me from one imaginary location to the next. feelings and affects. I start to think that I’m becoming completely paranoid. computer on. or am swept up by a traumatic re-imagining of events. depoliticized celebrations of grassroots “critical” anthropology and other fantasies about empowering the subaltern”? (Veissiere. 2006). thrust us forward collectively. gripping her hair so as not to lose balance. uneasy. narratives and poetics and on the politics of asylum. Were these conditions conducive to a good talk I mused? Would my recordings not be spoiled by all the background noise? Couldn’t we somehow slow down. Have I read enough? Where to begin? How to do justice to the stories I have heard? This last question bothers me most. G. Is this what “critical engagement” is? And am I capable as Veissiere attempts of “refraining from facile. Traces of where I have been and those with whom I have spoken. I admitted to B. stories. On this one particular occasion I was invited over to talk with G. stunned even. fearful. Son D. Toilet door open. Clothes strewn over the sofas. on those who work with asylum seekers. on my role as researcher. sandwiches. and needed an outlet to discuss my experience and the emotions it had engendered. So too the limits of that which I can comprehend keep me on the edge. I feel like I am in a swamp. I may be startled. Mother uttered her son’s name every now and then. imbued by sensate experiences. the incessant interruptions. Yet I had been left baffled once again. “Reflexivity about one’s social location and issues of representation keeps us honest about what we claim to know. with noise ramming my senses from all corners. waiting for the result of their latest appeal. I keep repeating it over and over. creating revelatory junctures and forcing me to re-consider trusted epistemological assumptions. was being helped on the toilet when I arrived. Son D. I clamber out of the swamp. questioning whether I should even be trying to “help” at all. prancing around toy gun in hand trying to ram the barrel down the throat of his sister and pretending to pull the trigger. the interceptions of D. was engaged in mortal combat. re-invigorated and continue. theoretical deliberations. ashamed. I too fantasize about empowering the subaltern. I remember once. I deliberated at first whether I should even talk to B. wondering if I am doing enough to “help”. 2010). The chaos in house vibrated in my being and made me restless. embarrassed. methodology.. or an explosion of words and expression. bungled encounters and vivid entanglements. The table was cluttered with plates full of leftovers. is two and has three older sisters. occasionally rising to the lift the child off his sister’s chair and to remove his spare hand from the girl’s plait. which thrust me forward. even agitated. I’m drenched by it. shoes piled up in the hallway. and who willingly agreed to take part in my research. practical questions. soaked through and through. Waiting. wondering whether it was ethical and responsible of me to do so. croissants.31 It feels as though my whole being is saturated from head to toe with my research. We talked as was best possible. yet the family is still here. fade out and above all get rid of the kids? I felt exhausted and hadn’t even started. or completely worn out as a day of researching progresses. of dependence. That makes visible the “reality” of being in exile. glad and energetic. which means there are traces of our meetings. I still have to register every time I visit them. The other hand. Of adopting a methodology that accords them “voice” and that recognizes their plight. Feeling guilty about things I cannot influence. play- . rethinking parts of a meeting with G. turn off. for something to happen. or chances of those asylum seekers who have helped me in my endeavors? Even though they are anonymous. or “academic pimp” (Veissiere. music playing. Then as I glint a new telling. not yet consumed. The girl. he sat staring directly towards the front door where I came in. drinks. Will my research be traced back to those who have acted as informant? How do these fears guide what I decide to write about and what not? What is the COA capable of? How far will they go in their policies of discouragement? Will I jeopardize the position. “lacking intersensorial consistency”. armed. At times I don’t know how to maintain vigor. of this encounter. slowly sinking. I am constantly reflecting on asylum seekers. He held on firm. not yet cleared. coat rack bulging with garments and outdoor garb. that I had been shocked by the behavior of G’s two year old son. what we cannot apprehend. Their applications have been successively refused. 2010) Yes. alert to new insights. on interviews. and the limits of our disciplinary practices that rely on highly stylized discursive practices” (Hinson Shope. on my writing. of changing identities. and her family at the “camp”. Moral dilemmas. clinging on to the past whilst masquerading in a future that is not yet here.

scenes of death. I can see it in your face. inhumanity. or three weeks. I think they wait maybe ten days and they take the bodies away to be buried. and to be brought back home in safety. But if there is no head then we have . after this time this is normal for me. asking to be guided on your journey. and after ten days they called his family and they say. for an account of himself. stated calmly. husband. not daring to even think that the next car you inadvertently pass may explode in an instant. mother. Some group kidnapped him. his mechanical aggression towards his sister. where is his head? Yes. his mimetic gestures of execution. I can feel it”. because we cannot search through all of them. the frantic. How may one become accustomed to death? To displays of mutilation. head from torso. riddled with bullets. he is a neighbor. Swollen. they keep the body longer. “They come and take away the bodies on the streets. make up some story. And I went with his brother and other family members to the mortuary. Picture bodies strewn on the street. How would you cope with the uncertainty of death hiding in wait around the corner. “Why should we worry about TV programmes when our life. but how it may come to be normal after a while. but what I can do? And they ask too many questions. You think you are afraid of this? If I see this everyday for one month. children. Or a head outside the front door. “My children see this. and which intensified my feelings of inadequacy at viewing the world from my comfortable Euro-centric armchair. One I was not expecting. It seemed like a ritual. you cannot believe what I saw. assuming on reflection some kind of moral high ground when trying to explain my distaste at this scene. looking at her mother. plain stupid? He looked at me and told a story. He commented that when I get angry or wound up something “funny happens with your nose”. If that’s possible. Imagine how you would want to protect your children from such scenes. blood and horror? I cringe now to think how I implied stupidity on her part. Tend for one minute to the thought of that moment of prayer when you leave your house. I am not the same as other people. Every now and then she let out a squeal of protest. when we call the police” he explained. strange. the astonished tone” (Lingis. some without. was for the main part undeterred. The Arabs. friend. D’s actions. Shredding your being in pieces. We don’t have a cold place for all of them. B. bodies are stacked up high. too many. On their part. impressed my point. he said “which one is for you”? “Which body is for you”? We could not look at them all. every day” B. Bodies of men. a freezer. usher them quickly away. father. Why wasn’t mother bothered? Why did she let this boy get away with such things? Didn’t they care in “their” countries about the effects of violence on children? Why did they have the television on so much with violent programmes. bloody. One which shook even more the foundations of my cultural certainties. the panicking. mutterings to Allah. in the beginning at least. Not knowing. When I went inside. body-less. And in response. We were not sure if he was there or not. also outside your house. Even with a toy gun rammed in her mouth. We need only two days to start stinking. Yes. down to the ground. A country so prolific in oil that oil spurts from cracks in the pavement. He could not exactly say what. They take a picture of all the dead bodies that come into the mortuary. at best maimed. just “your nose turns up. And really we looked at the pictures. or those of your wife. but me. Sure I don’t accept this. a horror story. somebody without this (gestures to genitals). I cannot describe it. or rather trying to play. implied. an unsuspecting B. half a head. The Muslims. the exultant. pressed my point. Too many. I think if they have a place. he lives close to my home. Not normal for you. If not. I accused. “until now you haven’t been to the…” how do they call this place where you go when you die? Ah. First. staring up. “This is how it is for us. every being a potential suicide bomber. sometimes children. severed. And they say this to his family. We did not know his clothes. somebody because he stayed in that place so long completely blown up. and flung open the door to an alternative narrativization of the social. 1998). in the street. outside your house. lying all dignity lost. questioned and ranted and raved. at the computer. lingering in the shadows? On every corner. Your bits strewn across the road. every car a potential death trap. yes the mortuary. tyranny and war? Imagine all this in the sweltering heat of a summer’s day in Iraq. This is normal for us. shocked nobody. enticing her to stand up and once again lift D. They gave us a book with pictures.” He continued “I have a friend. or just plain dead.. defacing of the human spirit. He laughed. ripping limbs from body. reality is far worse”? I asked B. bound. there. when we go they called and said “til now you didn’t go to collect your brother? We killed him”. women. some with heads. outside is full of people. The floor is full of people. Why this happened? Now this man is dead. I can look at this. maybe after one or two days. It was this I discussed with B. Did he find my concerns ridiculous.32 ing. After this time everything is normal and because it is my job too. caught “on to the urgent. Somebody without this (gestures to head).

to deny the humanity of the asylum seekers. Needed is a willingness to enter into a meaningful dialogue. her judgement. 1996). In short. they want information. more thickly imagined than unimaginable” (Stewart. In a coffin. I had exposed my thoughts and expressed my opinions and the critique I got in return revealed the flaws in my position. or disgust. though arguably it was also an attempt to account for others like him. a disturbance in roles and a disruption in the ‘normal’ order of play between researcher and informant. there were maybe five bodies on top of him. sure we must have this. new ethnography (Stewart. 1996) and a feeling of stupidity encroached on a deep-felt gratitude of being here and not there. One here and one here. And he looked skinnier. 2006). 2010). crudely. And this oil. You can smell this place. His brother said “I want to be sure about his underwear” and after this he said “this is my brother”. The Ministry of Health is two kilometers from this place. if he has documents on him. When you walk in there. and the fluids. When we looked at the picture. it demands that the anthropologist’s talk draws on his own experience. The intensity of B. bruises. there are too many dead bodies. reality is far worse”? I was flung. He was Sunni and he was at the Mosque. 1998). in an awareness of how easily one can slip into the trap of “reading” the experiences of the other into one’s own “master narrative…. and questioned my moral imperatives. stupefied. The rest just fall on the floor. which would lead to charged exchanges of knowledge. I said I don’t know. but after one day maybe they start to hit them. It was an engagement in “dialogic anthropology” which according to Dwyer (1977) “. Critical ethnography. and we put him in this and we took him. to be fished” (Collins & Gallinat. with the blood.33 to look at the clothes. This type of “shock” would be one of many to come (Sands & Krumer-Nevo. as I occasionally let out a gasp of horror. Mainly they shoot them.means accepting the possibility of failure in the fieldwork encounter. and he pulled out the body. a response to what I had asked. and he had red and blue on his body. and “this first-glimpsed space of alterity was more haunting and sublime than monstrous. And we took him. “Whatever we say we put forth for her assent. 2006). We had this. and thereby to deny the humanity of those among whom we live in the field” (Collins & Gallinat. I was reminded that “…their myriad experiences could not be squeezed into a procrustean bed of Western concepts without distorting the complexity of their lives” (Hinson Shope. but when they took him he didn’t have a beard. We brought this coffin.. and when you are there you cannot breath. “I remember the desire to abandon myself to the surrounding texture and density” (Stewart. but he had gunshot wounds in his head. her sanction. though illuminated. maybe at the underwear. the anthropologist continues to ‘fish for data’ while remaining open. He made this for all people (makes gestures as if pulling something). We looked at one picture but we were not sure if it was him or not because on the photo he had a beard.. “Look at him” he said “is this the man?”. and that the field engagement allows for the other to talk back. They think all Sunni’s who go to the Mosque are terrorists. we weren’t sure.’s account (of himself) was compelling. 2010). because we are without electricity. or water from the body goes out. 2006).without contextualizing it culturally or historically” (Hinson Shope. “Why should we worry about TV programmes when our life. One must embrace the exposure of the limits of ones epistemological frontiers. But for my friend we looked for him in the pictures. one which recognises the tensions implicit in the relationship between researcher and researched. Your shoes get soaked. Perhaps also sadness. Anywhere but there. you go “slush” “slush”. already to answer his greeting is to have already accepted the other as our judge” (Lingis. The man in the mortuary said OK I go to look for this body. • . her interpretation. It wasn’t the first body. His calm recollection of memories and his dense description caused my breath to quicken. He offered a justification of sorts. To agree to speak. 1996) implies an opening up of the self to new worlds and more importantly to the world of the other. herself. We said maybe this could be him. In fact “to deny the self as a resource in conducting fieldwork would be to deny the centrality of dialogue in human sociality.

waiting to write the right words.. hoping..... or religion..... To tick more than one willonlyconfusethematter. unconscious. reflect right back on You... turns. my knowledge of the path with its turns and bends.... Only one tick allowed. Why do bodies that are matter matter? Does some matter matter more than other matter? It would seem that not all things matter to the same degree.. Is “it” culture. dreaming....org (Journal excerpt.. and when i think i know something. Re-searching.11... using reason. or What? Is “it”? Or all of the above.13….107. or personality. What is? The matter? Bodies are matter. which has looked at itself during the research process and which has faced dilemma’s. Can i? i can.. They matter.10. fingers posed on keys. How to conduct and write research that maintains the complexities and the conundrums and the uncertainties of conducting and writing research? Re-search.. i am a product of my own up-bringing. It is a continual quest. An i which must look at itself. Isn’t it the same thing anyway? Can’t seem to Shake Them Off. Learning... above the i / I... Know the other.. Some resolved. or just plain meandering.. or ideology. itself a ledge off which i may fall at any moment..... Not You..6. Enough.. Like the asylum seekers i am trying to understand. they creep up on Me when i am....3..708 documented civilian deaths from violence since 2003 www. bends and twists. shopping... TRY.. or mentality.. Can I as researcher decide what or who matters?” Decide which body matters? Which body counts? 1.2. i was brought-up-this-way so i-can’t-help-it. Perhaps i don’t TRY HARD.... or upbringing. And despite my best efforts at evading Them. In the sports club. waiting.. 31st October.... i turn another bend and realize i know very little. insistent and stealthy prejudices. a re-search. “Giving an Account of Oneself”. Please tick whichever box is most relevant to You. Facing the “Other”. There are degrees of mattering..12. Can i? Like the path of / to know-ledge is winding. Listening in on the conversations of Others. at reason-ing with them. Me. or tradition. Least expecting Them. The matter. ENOUGH....7...... No. i stare at the screen...8. Facing away from the “Other” or looking into a mirror only to have one’s prejudices. 2010) • ..often with the ring finger lifted.. in the manner i have been taught – asdf gh jkl..34 Interlude “I asked myself what does a human-istic text of asylum seekers look like? What does an asylum seeker look like? What does an asylum seeker (look) like? What does a human look like? Can I know the other? Can i know? The other. the right (write) forms for writing and expressing the lives i am re-searching. Researching..iraqbodycount. unawares. twists and turns.4. to find forms. some NOT.9....... ...5.

frightening. make their own doctor’s appointments. dying at home. “camp”. I wondered if she really believed it all. like any other Dutch person. get on with life. I was wrong. Not allowed. awakening. Asylum seekers are clients. arranging schools for children. How would they know what they could ask for. her thoughts and feelings differently? In my reflections on that meeting I used the words: “sickening. The Dutch will look down on you” – she made a gesture . not choosing for them. once you get “in”. Stories of volunteers being sacked if they get involved with asylum seekers. that was their own responsibility. or herself. misguided liberalism”. You’re in the Netherlands now. “relations” were the words she used. She explained that just having tea together was a step too far. Don’t imagine that you’ll be studying and looking forward to a good job. Would she have talked otherwise had she known? Or would she have attempted to present things. I was shocked and dismayed. That’s what life is really like. It’s your own responsibility. dealing with post. the non-narratable or even unspeakable dimensions of the unconscious that persist as an enabling foreignness at the heart of my desire” (Butler. . The best way is to look forward. “A realistic approach” she called it. Letting them make their own choices. even if they get a permit to stay in the country”. but at the same time bound by a fascination to hear more and more. You have to let your wishes be known. She showed me the corridors. I commented. explained policy. “Involved”. “Letting them know what it’s really like.“imagine if your mother was on her last legs. the classes. Pampering is out. not speaking the language is not a problem. being pregnant in a new country. do things for yourself. Why other centres insist on separation for safety reasons – absurd she laughed. Not our problem she mused. Not allowed. the worker in question did not know that I was undertaking research on asylum seekers. whether she had in fact ever spoken to an asylum seeker for longer than the time it takes to show them to their room and to give them their key. appointments with teachers. hospital appointments. registering at the sports club. falling in love or pure lust. What’s more important now? You being here and waiting for your procedure. A step too far. No separate corridors for men and women.35 An Ac-count of Oneself “Giving an account of oneself comes at a price not only because the “I” that I present cannot present many of the conditions of its own formation but because the “I” that yields to narration cannot comprise many dimensions of itself: the social parameters of address. they offer no activities. Take responsibility for your own children. Multicultural. Wouldn’t you rather be with your mother”? At her centre. Independence. or spending time with your dying mother? And what if you do get a permit. No. respect one another’s privacy. took me to the common room. Making them stand on their own two feet from the beginning is the best way to respect their dignity. privacy – words I heard over and over in her story. That surprised me. revealing. Get on with it. Everyone has to do their own talking. She told many stories. 2005) The very first time I spoke to a member of personnel working at an asylum centre. She knew some of the children by name though. No separation in living quarters. Otherwise one might become too close. COA didn’t organize things which weren’t specifically asked for by the asylum seekers themselves. She meant sex of course. independence is in. She boasted how she told one youngster .turning up her nose and sweeping her head forwards. she repeated. No coffee and tea machine. after all this is the Netherlands and it’s just like living in a normal Dutch neighbourhood. even if you get a permit. It was bare. no separation. It’s the same as living in a normal Dutch neighbourhood. physical ties. understanding the system? “They are all adults”. friends or even lobbyists interfering with procedures. even if they do have trauma’s and personal problems. Safety – this is not a concern here. in a more positive light? Would she have described her own work. What about finding your way about in this complex society. the COA won’t offer things on a plate. only programmes for those you have agreed to return home voluntarily and preparatory programmes for those with a residence permit. That is. dignity. That’s not fun. the norms through which the “I” becomes intelligible. find things out for yourself. I thought I knew what she meant. Not treating the asylum seekers as children. she replied and “they can 7. Going to the doctor. helping the asylum seekers. No holding people by the hand. “You’ll be sweeping the streets.

A. news. no activities for specific cultural or religious groups. of having too few friends. who could argue with grand words like dignity. assistance. bare walls apart from one poster “Must Haves @ home” showing a packet of paracetemol. a 27 year old Turkmen from Iraq who has been in the Netherlands around two and half years. by mistake. if one ever gets the chance to become “Dutch” in the first place. independence and privacy? I pondered how much abuse has been clothed in such worthy causes in the past. joy. This and many more things. and how he longs to get a residency permit. but most of all people. of the lack of privacy. and that the way in which she spewed these terms masked a more sinister reality. His tells of his pain at not being able to study. could be gotten over. plasters. on the refugee council. and to “meet humanity”.05 hours. waiting. Dutch identity. to visit the camp’s doctor. pain. even one’s families. to be recognized as human beings. No Dutch lessons for those not yet granted residency. of not being able to trust anybody. electricity is provided. of skin problems. 2 wooden benches. or to work. people who eat too much garlic and don’t clean up after themselves. It was bare. and a couple of pieces of paper. with thoughts. “life is difficult in the camp”. evidently. in this new world of opportunities. to fend for themselves as it were. of sharing a gas stove with 7 other people. there and then. Imagine the scene of me accompanying A. a broken leaflet dispenser with no leaflets to dispense. no explicitly nationalistic symbols. wanted me to go with him “to see what it’s like”. According to A. of separation. which is more than happens in some other countries. stepped over like a bump in the road. On the floor an old tissue.36 always ask the Refugee Council”. rolled over by army trucks. one’s old way of life. At 13. There was a glass window protruding from a wall. . also in the evenings. feelings. And of course. That is. But one can question whether this is the kind of sustenance which is really needed at this most vulnerable time in one’s life. would mean less security guards. religions. or if he smokes”. arguments and fights. complex and changeable. housing. which wouldn’t enhance the quality of the work carried out. to “become a person” once again. That’s not her work. with a sign indicating the opening times. lousy treatment by officials. No sign of life. at having no choice on who he shares a room with. on the government. Could it get any worse. I thought? Then she added. at being looked down upon by Dutch people “outside”. Better than nothing. a bottle of disinfectant and a bandage”. who are happy and sad. No apology. Like the bodies strewn on streets. and of dirty facilities. The allowance per child is around thirty five euro’s per week. Accounts from asylum seekers desperate to be seen. or to encourage them to want to stay” she had informed me. and children are eligible for a small contribution to go towards the costs of sport activities. With their good and bad bits. with different habits “sometimes I want to sleep early. on everybody. gas.39 hours a tall man. And health care.shift-work. the doctor. “no flags. as humans who have needs and desires. no work. the difficulty of sharing with people from all different cultural backgrounds. At least they get a roof over their heads. of small rooms. like you and me. These were temporary glitches hindering the formation of a new. resilient and vulnerable. to get “outside”.for information. It was 13. “We need our rest too”. closed shut. at not being able to use his degree in electronics. their ups and downs. of his anguish at being dependent on the COA. or even in which camp he must live. I concluded that she really believed what she said. That she truly imagined that the intense impact of leaving one’s home. but I can’t. and how much is going on now in the name of such ideals? It seemed she had lost sight of the human face behind her grand narrative. Bare. and very little financial support. anybody . respect. a thermometer. We waited and waited. to use the words of another COA actor and centre worker. No dustbin in sight. No need to provoke one another by demonstrating one’s own cultural identity. appeared and called us into the adjacent corridor. if my roommate likes to stay up late. of the stories which were being lived. and a shower and a toilet. She explained with a certain degree of skepticism that her own working hours were undergoing changes .. An explicit “policy of discouragement”. This meant leaving people to their own devices. No staff were present. Nothing of the kind allowed in this camp. Each adult asylum seeker currently gets around forty five Euro’s per week for basic subsistence costs. No flags on the windows”. “We are not allowed to do anything which would encourage the asylum seekers to feel at home. humans. at not knowing what will happen to him.00 hours and A’s appointment was at 13. she noted. A “governmental money-saving scheme”. We walked over there and entered the waiting room. After all “I am also human” he counters. A’s account is typical of most accounts I hear.

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I introduced myself as an acquaintance and explained that A. had asked me to accompany him. We were ushered into a small room where the doctor took up his position behind the desk. He looked at me, then turned to A. I was pleasantly surprised that he addressed A. directly, which had not been the case at a previous visit with G. Then, the assistant, knowing that I could talk better Dutch than G. had insisted on addressing me alone, even when G. talked or asked a question. Leaving me with an enormous feeling of discomfort and even anger at the time. But anyhow, this was better. A. explained that his skin complaint was not better. That he would like to bring forward his appointment with the hospital as it seemed his skin was getting worse. His appointment was in a month’s time and given the precarious and uncertain position of A. he wanted to be seen earlier in case he would be given notice to leave the country before that time. Or in case he would be forcibly deported. A. is in the unfortunate situation that his application has been refused twice by the IND, despite a positive decision from the High Court. He can’t fathom how this can be possible, and nobody has managed to give him an adequate explanation of his situation, or at least one he is able to grasp with any degree of understanding. He has been awaiting notice to leave the Netherlands since the last negative decision, some 4 months previous and realizes that his days are numbered. Like others in the same situation, A. could get a letter any day giving him 28 days warning to get out. Then the choice is deportation or illegality. What he doesn’t understand is why some get the letter immediately after their appeal has been refused, and why he is still waiting. And although dreading the day the letter arrives, at least it would bring some semblance of clarity. Only the letter has not yet arrived and once it does, A. knows what he must do. A life in illegality seems far from appealing, but returning “home” is even less so. Illegality entails even greater uncertainty but also no access to health care, except in life and death situations. His skin problem does not fall into this last category but is enough to cause him great worry and anguish, now. The doctor looked on, listening. Even nodding his head when I put A.’s case for him. When we asked once again if he could intervene to try to change the appointment for A. with the specialist at the hospital, he said wryly “Sorry I can’t do anything about it. The hospital has its own agenda, they make their own decisions, I can’t change that”. I noted that all hospital have a margin for special cases, or for emergencies and that his willingness to contact the specialist on behalf of A. would be greatly appreciated. He repeated “sorry, I can’t do that”. “Can’t or won’t” I retorted, breath quickening, heart pacing, aware of my position, and not wanting to embarrass A. “Can’t, won’t, it doesn’t matter, I’m not going to do that. I never do such things for anyone, it’s against the rules”, he maintained. Ordinarily I would reply with a stream of arguments, maybe even raising my voice, but I was all too aware of A.’s vulnerability in this, so I kept quiet. Until we were ushered out when I remarked “We would have appreciated a word of apology too at having to wait almost three quarters of an hour”. But the doctor already had his back to us and was entering into his room. He muttered how busy he was and closed the door. Not looking back. We left. I despondent; A. resigned. This was nothing which he hadn’t experienced many times before. A’s account was refused, unheard, disregarded. Could it be classed as “violent”? According to Butler “Adorno uses the term violence in relation to ethics in the context of claims about universality”. Quoting Adorno: “the social problem of the divergence between the universal interest and the particular interest, the interest of particular individuals, is what goes to make up the problem of morality” (Adorno, 2001). Was there here a universal principle of following the rules which meant that the particularities of A’s case no longer counted? For Butler “….the problem is not with universality as such but with an operation of universality that fails to be responsive to cultural particularity and fails to undergo a reformulation of itself in response to the social and cultural conditions it includes within its scope of applicability” (Butler, 2005). The doctor in question was unwilling to reassess his response in the light of A’s account and in the light of his evident worry that final notification to leave the Netherlands could be imminent, and should it arrive before his hospital appointment, A. would no longer be eligible for treatment, leaving him with a potentially irritating, if not damaging skin condition. Despite our efforts at getting the doctor to account for himself, we failed. The doctor was not prompted by the kind of fear which Nietzsche considers essential to giving an account. “For Nietzsche, accountability follows only upon an accusation or, minimally, an allegation, one made by someone in a position to deal out punishment if causality be established…… Indeed, we become morally accountable as a consequence of fear and terror” (Butler, 2005). Butler argues that self-narration is only possible in the “face of a “you” who asks me to give an account”, whereby being in a relation to the other is a sina qua non of the process

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of accounting for oneself. In fact “…the kind of narrative required in an account we give of ourselves accepts the presumption that the self has a causal relation to the suffering of others (and eventually, through bad conscience, to oneself)” (Butler, 2005). Interestingly enough “The narrative does not emerge after the fact of causal agency but constitutes the prerequisite condition for any account of moral agency we might give” (Butler, 2005). This suggests that moral agency and the ability to account of oneself as a moral being, depends on our acceptance of ourselves as humans with causal agency. Our behavior, acts and thoughts can, and do effect others; they engender affects, desired and undesired. And as researcher I am also liable to account for myself as a moral agent, and to stand in a moral relation to those I am researching, as “a subject of conscience and, hence, a subject who reflects upon herself in some way” (Butler, 2005). Motivated less than “by a terrorized fear of punishment and its injurious effects” as Nietzsche claimed, I experience my moral reflexivity as a struggle; a struggle to “craft the self” and a struggle “or primary dilemma to be produced by a world, even as one must produce oneself in some way” (Butler, 2005). I call upon asylum seekers in my research to provide accounts of themselves, yet must first deliberate my own account and craft a response to “practices of the self” that inaugurate my own reflexivity. I am free in this struggle, yet not entirely free. In the same way I recognise myself as subject, I am compelled to “acknowledge the limits of self-knowledge” (Butler, 2005). Butler posits a explanation of the formation of an ethical self which is grounded in the opacity of the subject; a subject which is nevertheless “formed in the context of relations that become partially irrecoverable to us” (Butler, 2005). Butler argues that our relations to others are the mainstay of our responsibility for the other as ethical beings, and that accounts of oneself given to others are necessarily social, even though our narratives may be singular. This begs the question of the type of relation to the other which may be necessary in order to be(come) an ethical subject. Is it one of fear and terror as Nietzsche would suggest, which leads to an “internalization of morality” (Butler, on Nietzsche, 2005), or is the ethical subject formed in relations of unknowingness, and opacity, as Butler would suggest? I would tend to argue that the Nietzschean perspective can lead to great cynicism and prefer personally to believe that morality is not founded on the basis of aggression, terror and punishment alone. If one’s capacity as an ethical subject is relational, then recognition is an important aspect of that relation and the delineation between those who qualify as a subject and those who do not is, according to Foucault, constrained by the “regime of truth” in which we operate. The implication here is that my relation to myself is simultaneously also a relation to the truth regime, since the truth regime “governs subjectivation” (Butler, 2005). So “to call into question a regime of truth….is to call into question the truth of myself and, indeed, to question my ability to tell the truth about myself, to give an account of myself” (Butler, 2005). Butler raises a number of important questions regarding who is and who is not a recognizable subject according to the norms installed in the truth regime and secondly “where and who is this other, and can the notion of the other comprise the frame of reference and normative horizon that hold and confer my potential for becoming a recognizable subject?” (Butler, 2005). The “camp” appears to comprise its own “truth regime”; a regime wherein some members count more than others, in which some are more subject than others, some more recognized and recognizable than others. Butler (2005) reminds us that: “Not every condition of the subject is open to revision, since the conditions of formation are not always recuperable and knowable, even as they live on, enigmatically, in the impulses that are our own. Whether as a deliberately reflexive attitude toward the self or as a mode of living what can never be fully known, the subject becomes a problem for moral philosophy precisely because it shows us how the human is constituted and deconstituted, the modes of its agentic self-making as well as its ways of living on. When we come up against the limits of any epistemological horizon and realize that the question is not simply whether I can or will know you, or whether I can be known, we are compelled to realize as well that ‘you’ qualify in the scheme of the human within which I operate, and that no “I” can begin to tell it’s story without asking: “Who are you?” “Who speaks to me?” “To whom do I speak when I speak to you?” The mode of address conditions and structures the way in which moral questions emerge”.

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How many times was I told “I am only human”, “I just want to be normal”, “It’s different when you get ‘outside’”, “when you get your status they [personnel] treat you differently, like one of them”, “I am not an object”, “I’m only an asylum seeker, that’s what they tell us”, “don’t expect too much, you’re an asylum seeker”, “they don’t ask us anything, we are nothing til we get our residency”, “the IND is like God”, “when I get out I’ll become a person again”, “they say this is not possible, that is not possible, you’re here as an asylum seeker, you’re not on holiday”, “we are like animals, waiting…to be slaughtered”,….. “I don’t feel human any more, I hate myself”. To be “undone” by the other is a “primal necessity” (Butler, 2005), but if I am not willing to be “undone” by the other, then what chance for my research to be illuminated by the sensibilities of humanity, or for it to fight in any way possible against the re-“incarnation of homo sacer” (Agamben, 1998). What “mode of address” would I then use should I doubt that asylum seekers were constituted as human beings? Lingis writes that “to approach you with respect is to expose my seriousness of purpose to the flash fires of your laughter, expose my cheerfulness to the darkness of your grief, let you put your blessing on my discomfiture and suffering, expose myself to the shock waves of your curses. It is to expose myself to you – expose myself to being violated, outraged, wounded by you” (Lingis, 2007) •

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An (objectional) interlude
Objects of research Please OBJECT!
I contemplate regularly how I address you, my informants in the field. As asylum seekers? As fellow human beings? How did you view my requests to talk, my attempts to get your accounts, my presence, observing, watching, listening, spying, gleaning, prying? It felt like instrumentalisation. It was instrumentalisation. Setting you up to be used, at every possible moment waiting to pounce on “interesting” stories, to dig deeper, go further, uncover, discover, chipping away to reveal gold, silver, anything that might be precious enough to include in my research. Was respect enough? Did I respect you? B., you questioned my motives on occasions, asking why I wanted to know certain things, why I wanted to write everything down about your days, your life, your sleeping arrangements, eating habits, desires and fears and emotions, your culture and your religion? Why must I “write lives” and who is it good for? For me as researcher? An Academic Pimp living off the pain and misery of the subaltern (Veissiere, 2010, Diversi & Finley, 2009), in guise as a friend, a helper, with noble ideals of empowerment, working for the cause. F…ck empowerment. Stuff the cause. I want data, information, stories, narratives. Interesting stuff that I can analyze and write up. Don’t I? I shared my unease with you B. and with others. Indeed, some of you even commented that you felt like “objects”. I framed you in a discourse as asylum seekers, and I see you as such. Am I capable of seeing you as “humans”, as you put it B., or do I look on you purely as this political category of the other – the asylum seeker? It’s true that at every encounter, be it in the “camp”, at the sports club, in the shop, I am eager, ready and waiting for news. I feel at times not capable of having a normal conversation. My listening has changed, my observational skills have sharpened. You reassure me B. that I have gained the trust of many. And it certainly feels that way. But it remains difficult. I feel a certain sense of shame at just being at the camp, never mind at scrutinizing your moves, listening to your every word, and making mental notes of your actions. B. and Leyla and Lianne, you look to the long term. You say you no longer think any more that I am there for research, it’s more like a friendship. Do you wonder whether I might “abandon” you once my research is done? That will not be the case. But how to live up to the expectations of being more than just a researcher? I have asked you how to make sure that my research is shared with those who have helped to make it come about. There are no easy answers, as a number of you are, to be honest not really interested in my work. All this talk of research, of academics goes beyond you. You are willing to co-operate but fail to ascertain what the long-term benefits might be. Will there indeed be any long-term benefit I wonder? Who’ll read this stuff anyway? Most of you are so caught up in the everyday ordinariness of living, to dare to hope that this research will make a difference. To some of you I feel I can offer consolation, solace or just plain information. “But I can’t help a lot” I remark. “We don’t need big help, we only need someone who can listen. Someone to phone if there is something we don’t understand. We know you cannot give us a status. We do not need this from you. But we need someone like you who can be there, who is interested in us. Big things we don’t need”. I feel somewhat reassured. I have an urge to convince you that my motives are honest? And what to do with feelings of guilt, or even anger when I hear from one that the other is “bad”, a “liar”, “no

Pleased with myself. I managed to ask everything I wanted to and you replied to all my questions. gives me the creeps with his piercing eyes. or even to touch it. My moral and ethical predicaments are real. Your wife and two small daughters are still in Baghdad. Before the invasion. For subjects who invariably live within a temporal horizon. and exploitative at worst”? (Veissiere. power. I must accept that my curiosity will never be fully satisfied and I have to acknowledge the limits of my knowing. for complete coherence”. For once I say “Oh now I know who you are”: at this moment I cease to address you. 2005). which demands that we manifest and maintain self-identity at all times and require that others do the same. You are B. I sleep a whole night and I still wake up in the morning with nothing. 2010).41 good”. if not impossible. I was somebody. You do. It might make me feel better. alone. shake hands and leave you to it. “Is there. But why don’t you OBJECT more? My armchair feels quite comfortable. with your oldest son. which counters “a certain ethical violence. you said. a job. A successful interview. A tape recorder is handy. A man with status. And here I am nobody. to reveal deeper insights. Although it could be. to record all that I see and hear. Your objections sustain me – the disorientation I undergo when you address me for an account of myself dispossesses me of my authority as expert and exposes the incoherence in my own narrative. The “privilege differential” is real (Diversi & Finley. tilting my head and gesturing you to go on with your story. or re-telling? S. that I was an Officer there? I had status. . I’d thank you for your time. I would listen attentively and make notes. or to be addressed by you” (Butler. You were “someone” you said. this is a difficult. I ask you “who are you”? but do not expect a “full or final answer”. but hopefully not. the privileged. trust me. Do you know what it feels like to lose your dignity?” You do not expect me to know. switch off the recorder. allowing me to concentrate on your body movements. When I thought I had enough information. You were in charge of an infantry battalion. so I just listen as you explain what it feels like. or provide thicker meanings. ensuring that I hear every sigh. 2005). We stand in a relation to one another. norm to satisfy” (Butler. what of his account? Who am I to doubt his sincerity? There is a power differential between us. laying their private lives open and disclosing information to a stranger. can say or do about the downtrodden. in the end. I sit on your bed and worry whether it’s acceptable to sit on the prayer mat. I believe. Yet. It’s not what you are accustomed to. We are different. I wish you would object more. we nevertheless have learned to suspend “the demand for self-identity or more particularly. an ethical relation. You look searchingly at me and address me with “what do you think it is like. without it being condescending at best. It’s not safe there and you worry a lot about them. How am I affected by these tales and how do they affect the quality of my narrating. leaning closer. When I go to bed at night. I come to visit every week. In our quest to know each other. every hesitation. About whether he can grow up to be a good Muslim here. but now you’re here. referring to my topic list and awaiting your response. Your wife is a pharmacist and together you ran a couple of pharmacies. I may repeat some questions. You had a good life. You worry about your son too. Yet for me this trust is not a “‘Trojan horse’ to get behind defense walls of the interview subjects. Alone. and his continual hounding of Leyla for a relationship leaves me feeling anything but sympathetic with his plight. 2010). Before you were an Officer in the Republican Guard. close my notepad. trying to be as objective as possible. I am still nobody. I would try to make you feel at ease by nodding and making gentle sounds in affirmation. From Iraq. or our vision of the downtrodden. 2006). At worst I may have to return once more to clarify a few things. can you imagine. which can only just accommodate the two single beds that line the walls. I was important. And I drink lukewarm coffee and we talk. If I like I could sit and ask you questions. You share a room at the camp. following one line of thought then another. or to have an answer. anything that we. which they may later regret” (Kvale.

2005) • . and do not want to satisfy this norm. objecting every now and then.42 We cannot. Our opacity is revealed and instead of lamenting our lack of transparency. we forego mastery over our relation of dependency. and over each other. and proceed with an “acceptance of the limits of knowability in oneself and others” (Butler.

2007) I saw the official from the Ministry interviewing B. itch. Was I just as brainwashed as B. so the first hour we trailed slowly. she explained. as “they all look the same to me”. but due to the “mix-up” there had been no progress since. . But not to worry. Muslim women in fact and to oppression. B. there was a great deal of mist in the morning. had argued that this was an important meeting – one in which he’d have to recount the details once again of his coming to the Netherlands. as she conversed with B. The radio played low and our conversation turned from one telling to another. sniff. tissue bundled back in the arm of her sleeve.. to despair at endless waiting and uncertainty. she couldn’t say. Itch. I contemplated how she could possibly know him enough to make a decision on his case. so surely the official could understand he needed to be rested. she said. went the keyboard. behind her computer. from one subject to the other. we can’t do everything”. had a meeting in Den Bosch. and getting up before 4 am would hardly be conducive to that. honor killings and the rest. It was a “relation of forces between bodies. as an arm disappeared under her woolen sweater. End of argument. because then you’d also need two day-tickets and the rules say that if you can get public transport there and back on the same day. “We never get it there. It was wise though for him to have more of his documents translated into Dutch. They knew we had no weapons of mass destruction. B. Some 2 hours in the car. the authorities were now back on track. tap. and I felt the urge swell in me to defend democracy and liberalism. From the weather to the impending interview. a foreigner. B. no Al-Qaeda on our soil”. and got intensely heated. Tick. we can only give you a one day-ticket”. a lift. In practice to respect a child. “We like the fog” in Iraq. Two day-tickets was not reasonable according to the official in charge. 9 months long. Sniff. and a dynamic capacity of affecting and being affected” (Parisi & Terranova.[under reasonable] are meant costs which are essential for the asylum seeker” (COA. “Sorry. gays and lesbians. why didn’t they die?” he asked. I drove him there. tap. Trying. as she apologized that he had had to wait unnecessarily for 9 months for his second interview because of a “miscommunication”. a “mix up with his file”. to the hope and longing of wanting to be united with one’s family. tap. Especially when talk turned to conspiracy theories on 9/11. Article 17 Rule Allowances for Asylum Seekers – Rva 2005) It was early nonetheless. How much longer their investigation would take. 9 months extra living in the camp. so we like it a lot”. physical punishment. then changed the subject to women.43 Please Ac-count for your-self “To respect you is to recognize and acknowledge the one you are. the one you affirm yourself to be. Talking as she was to the translator. we can’t do that. stoning. 8. laughed. “The reimbursement of eligible costs will be judged reasonably according to the degree of necessity with which they are borne. “And why do you think the Americans invaded us? It was for the oil all along. saving him a 4 hour journey on public transport which would have had to begin a 4. tissue to her nose. That first interview had taken place some 9 months earlier. sniff. Instructions Reimbursement of Extraordinary Costs. without actually addressing him. Even the score. to corporal punishment. just as much intent on consolidating my own grand narrative as he was? I listened on.30 am had he used the day ticket provided by the COA. flicking through the papers in her massive grey file. charged and exciting. dying to illicit a response. 2007). What is deemed reasonable may differ per individual or per situation…. and to domination by Muslim men. “Where were all the Jews on that day. a street person. So that’s how I’d come to offer B. And even though “we are good at the IND. nose blown. separated from his wife and daughters. following the mist lamps of the cars ahead. above all else. “No. Religion reared its head in talks of freedom and rights. to do the second part of his first interview. tick tick. a delinquent is to listen to him or her tell his or her story” (Lingis. we can’t allow you to stay overnight at an AZC close to Den Bosch because you can get there and back in one day on public transport” the official had told B.. It would last the whole day.

Picture a waiting room at an international airport somewhere. Our desire was not to accuse one another. not you // they check everything and want to use every excuse so that I can’t bring my wife here”) B. his gestures. (“they will think we have a relationship // that must be avoided // why would you otherwise bring me so early // we must tell them that you were coming here for your work today. Our journey continued thereafter uneventful. It was the same person as in B. Grey and white striped woolen sweater. Our texts were “messy” (Denzin.a desire to explain and narrate that is not prompted by a terror of punishment” (Butler. and put at stake our own emergence as “subjects of conscience and hence. to observe his facial reactions. children running around. others head in arms. wanted me “to see what it’s like in an interview” as it would “be useful for my research”. engage and connect – to affect and be affected” (Clough.44 The fog cleared. but which had turned a slightly unfortunate orange colour. Miniscule feet. which made us “vital” and “alive”. OK. announced himself. around thirty. garb from diverse continents. no problem. We entered the IND building together. However. B. Intense fabulations of our own realities. food being eaten. Now it was down to the official. We affected one another. however. And what of the Danish cartoonist B. or in some way have experienced. condemning the interpretation of Islam. anticipating a question to reveal my identity. no that your husband was coming here and he dropped us off // we must say I am a friend of your husband’s. questioned? A subject we had discussed many a time. but agreed to it as long as “you don’t speak”. fearful that our “relationship” might be used by the authorities in a sinister way. calling him to account for a whole history of abuse. “Is it so vital in the name of freedom to offend others?” he repeated. confounded by mismatched expectations and a clash of worlds and of meanings. Anywhere. 2007). She agreed. “OK. 2005). She was short. Reality as it is known is mediated by symbolic representation. Indiscernible and made to look even smaller under her floppy black trousers. They have no direct access to reality. brown hair dyed blond. some quietly contemplating. Waiting. state the reason of my presence and to be ushered away into some back room to wait. black tight trousers made of stretch polyester clinging far too tightly to her pear-shaped hips. 1997). I could not help but feel tremors when approaching the desk. “To which end?” We couldn’t reach agreement. women in headscarves. I refused to go along. But this is no airport and those here are not waiting to be flown to some exotic holiday destination or to return to their home shores after a continental get away or business flurry... We were first ushered to the waiting room. and I glimpsed sideways every now and then at B. men in flip flops.. tables. receptive to the “felt aliveness given in the preindividual bodily capacities to act. As Denzin argues “. uttered something about me being with him and asked whether it would be possible for me to attend the meeting. whilst she conferred with the interpreter. By coincidence the interpreter entered at the same time. the play area. the smells. Was this interlocutory scene also injurious? Was this “scene of address” accusatory or “…minimally. to somehow prevent his wife and children from joining him in the future. chairs. an allegation?” (Butler. B. Colourful clothing. 2005). tiredness. TV’s. my interpretation. a subject who reflects upon herself in some way” (Butler. of the kind in ancient China – bound to retain their tininess – wearing black leather boots. They are all waiting for an interview of some sort with an official to tell their stories. leading to extremism.a desire to know and understand…. I assured her that I was only there for moral support and that I would keep quiet. B. even a tall what looks like Somali man with pink crocs adorning his feet. We had spoken of this possibility in the car. we didn’t need to reach agreement. drinks being drunk. a guard watching inconspicuously in the corner seemingly minding his own business. elaborations of what we “knew” or had heard. and the failure of the educational system at the hands of dictators disseminating terror and fear. we won’t say anything”. waiting. A mish mash of bodies. The noise. people talking. the machine dispensing coca cola. more “. had fabricated a story of how I came to be there. by narrative texts and by cinematic and televisual structures that stand between the person and the so-called real world” (Denzin. What was I doing. impish face. lounge stools. 2005). to hopefully booster their asylum . The interpreter as it turned out had no problem with me attending the interview.’s first interview. 1997). The exchange induced a nervous tension. so I could take my eyes off the road. confusion or just plain enjoyment of the confrontation? He saw no relation to his religion. She was slightly taken aback by the prospect of an(other) onlooker. to spy any discomfort he might manifest.humans live in a secondhand world of meanings. trying to get him to admit a causal relation between being a Muslim and violence against women? Why? Annoyance.

can I stay here? I have nothing. “I feel like we are animals.. repeatedly. Two levels of play were at work: “. Therefore people will dislike me and I cannot be secure with them’” (Perry. I conceded to being shadowed and followed them painstakingly to the “interrogation” room.that of intensity. Wonder…. hesitations. 2007). Who walks there? I stood up. the official and the interpreter. We take our places. Maybe.. Affect therefore shadows every event. and this means that one suffers anxiety and perhaps even something worse. They knew. Opening the box in which my secret machine was housed. slowing down. Gawel & Gibbon. It is the source of the unexpected. time and time again. I must depend on the IND for everything. if jealousy is really worse than anxiety. I looked to B. comments. time after time after time. a glance downwards. I can hate myself. Now that represents an almost fatal deficiency of the self-system. I feel I must BEG and say PLEASE. and this insecurity arises. “The awareness of inferiority means that one is unable to keep out of consciousness the formulation of some chronic feeling of the worst sort of insecurity. the physiological response of the body is not only a reaction to the stimulus but can also be informed by memories of the stimulus and prior reactions to it by oneself and others” (Ducey. a state of suspense. These two levels resonate with one another. to try to catch you out. rhythmically following the pattern of the two year old who pulls a broken lorry on a rope incessantly round and round in a circle. anything. but from something which he knows he cannot fit.45 requests so that they can eventually stay in the Netherlands. to check if you are telling the truth. Composure… “…the relationship between an emotionally competent stimulus and the feeling that may emerge is not linear. since the self is unable to disguise or exclude a definite formulation that reads. an utterance. the control post. What if? What if they would search me? Why had I brought the stupid thing anyway? I knew I wouldn’t use it. Heart beating fast. I felt as though every single eye in the room could see through my bag. In a circle. head high. Chitter chatter. The fear that others can disrespect a person because of something he shows means that he is always insecure in his contact with other people. 2007). Itwasjustathoughtatthetime. receptionists left downstairs to control the real problems. It felt like each time I pass the reception at the camp. prying inside. many of those here feel. tried to walk calmly. Guards. in the midst of them all. It’s like interrogation. of potential disruption. of the unmotivated. and that of semantics and semiotics. their vibrations are sometimes dissonant and at other times harmonious. of surprise” (Ducey. I am like a in the Police Station. 1956) The official calls us in. They constantly ask you things. the asylum seekers. only feeling safe once we were in and the door was closed behind us. piercing its leather exterior. wondering what might happen. Clutching my bag. For instance. Like. going round in circles. The process encounters numerous types of interference. as a great deal of our anxiety does. They don’t trust us anyway”. not from mysterious and somewhat disguised sources. armed with recorder which would remain OFF during the meeting. police. “At times like this. Around forty of them today. assessing its contents. Affect is ‘their point of emergence’ and their ‘vanishing point’ where the vibrations between the levels either emerge as something actual or fade into the virtual. chitter chatter. I hate myself. Look of anticipation on B’s face. ‘I am inferior. narrative and expectations. me and B. Criminal . of language. notwantingtoattractanykindofattentiontomyself. I guess. a nod of the head. herded in here to be called one by one to the slaughter” B. STOP. out through the other. Searching for clues that they might know. In one door.

A detailed account of his whereabouts. due to the kidnapping of his brother. “did you do a basic training to get into the Republican Guards?”. Then a request for additional information regarding B’s first official asylum request in 2007. somewhat unnecessarily. “which commander transferred you to the Al-Nida division. to account for each move. “did you understand the brochure?”. For the report. “who was your commander in the Al-Nida division?”. when uncertainty prevailed or when clarity was sought. “did you have to have a medical examination then?”. “when to when did you complete your study at the military academy?”. “who was the commander of the sport activities?”.. B’s later return to Iraq with his son was a conscious decision. scarcely looking at him. She addressed B. Then the report shifts to the reason for B. She pushed the screen higher when I said “Kim Tsai”. usually in moments of pause when the question had to be repeated and when she could lift her fingers from the keyboard. “when exactly did you join the Republican Guards. She sat almost opposite me. called “considerable pressure from officials”. Question followed question. and the arbitrary killings of former officers. “if you have difficulty with any questions during the hearing. “what was your rank?”. “on which date did you get your diploma?”. “did you have to have a screening to be admitted?”. all the while staring at the screen or looking at the interpreter.guilt…. “are you physically and mentally able to proceed with the hearing?”. the anxiety of his brother’s death. who also had psychological problems at that time due to the stress. “which training did you give?”. “what did you learn during your study?”. B. later said “I have to wait almost one year between interviews because of a miscommunication and she is sorry”. “on which date did you hear that you were selected for the Republican Guards?”. “did you have to carry out certain activities to prove your loyalty?”. The interpreter sat at her left hand side. “what kind of practical training did you do?”. B’s wife returned first with their daughters. in a one and half page account. will you please say so?”. will you please make your difficulties known?”. to summarize B’s motivation for leaving Iraq. heavy. a burly. “until when exactly were you a member of the Republic Guards?”. exact dates. Before 2009 B. “did you have to prove loyalty to the Republican Guards?”. culminated in the kidnapping of his son. diagonally from the official. places and exact dates”. as accurately as possible. for the official account. each action. their request was turned down and they were forced to return to Iraq. “where were your headquarters?”. had given 275 days earlier. including names. “how did you have to show that you were loyal to the regime?”. B. which date?”. For the official account. “why did you get promotion to another rank?”. “where did you work and can you describe your activities in an exact manner?”. “if you would like a pause during the hearing. Then a going over of the account which B. gaps in the conversation. Only stopping when the official lowered the screen to peer at me and to ask me my name for the file. “when did you become a member of the Ba’ath party?”. “you get the possibility to now tell me in your own words why you left your country on 20th August 2009. “how was the selection process for the Republican Guards?”.for the report. First an insignificant apology for the wait. “did you train people?”. Discounted with a quick “sorry” uttered in a moment of…. but his brother was executed and found later in a mortuary in the city. “Why did you not inform us that you were an Officer during your initial asylum request in 2007?”. “are there medical reasons why we cannot proceed?”. 275 days of waiting. “did you get the brochure – ‘your asylum request’?”. “who was your commander?”. B. In moments of hesitation. I request you to tell me as much as possible in strict chronological order. motivations. The report states: “B. declared the following:” and then goes on. The boy . with his whole family and they had then requested asylum.or necessity…. “what were your tasks in the Al-Nida division?”. and from that point on I could only see her face when she leaned slightly to the left towards the interpreter. what was his name?”. paid the ransom. From time to time she looked at B. had already been in the Netherlands in September 2007. the fear of being liquidated by militia. Medical help was withdrawn from his wife. “what is the name of the military academy where you did your study?”. “how was your career in the Ba’ath party?”. After some months trying to make a new life in Iraq. following what B. for the official account maybe? The report of the hearing in December 2009 started with the standard questions in the beginning: “can you understand the interpreter?”. the stress of constantly moving around to avoid being located.’s asylum request now. sat next to me. “which regiment did you belong to?”. 275 days of separation from his family in Iraq. via the interpreter. Due to the fact that they had been fingerprinted in Greece. “what were the names of your teachers?”. requesting B. “did you do an internship during your training?”. with names. each switch. precise locations. movements was required.set man from Syria.46 The rhythmic ticking and tapping at the typewriting machine began. with two desks pushed together in between us. For the report. “any questions so far?”.

The interview continued. knowing that there would be no answer forthcoming. “any questions so far?”. her shoulder. leaving mother and the two young daughters alone in Iraq. the mechanistic accounting of oneself and the rhythmical movements of the official’s body as she registered the account. tap. Touch was here not “the experience par excellence” in which transformation was possible by an “evocation of close relationality” as Puig de la Bellacasa would have it (2009). “are you physically and mentally able to proceed with the hearing?”. returned with his son to the Netherlands. the regular itching under the collar. Concerned has asked if she may be present during the meeting”. combined with the formalized intermediation of an interpreter who reduced the need to even look at the interviewee. just an expectance of narrative completeness and coherence. as an arm disappeared under her woolen sweater. observing the rhythmic ticking and tapping at the typewriting machine. But was she “touched” by the experience. without looking up. nose blown. Puig de la Bellacasa invites us to re-explore what touch means.47 was held for a few days before being released on the payment of a large ransom sum. thereby “foreclosing an ethical resource – namely an acceptance . In and out. tick tick. I could not help but notice the distance between B. conspiring with a desire to capture the essence of the account and to achieve closure at the end of it. Soft caresses or rough scratching? Sniff.’s story. up and down. I pondered. as she got ready for the final part of the first hearing. The hearing resumed on 275 days later on 10 September 2010.00 hours due to a lack of time (to continue). I was present then. a repetition of the questions on 9th December 2009. and B. 2009). Today we are going to finish the first hearing which we began on 9th December 2009”. I looked on. The touch of her fingers. The date today is 10th September 2010. tangible. on the shoulder. “Are there medical reasons why we cannot proceed?”. her hand against her skin as they glided up and down her arm. as Butler (2005) points out. her back. What of an account of the 275 days lost. The rhythmic ticking and tapping at the typewriting machine began again. It has a way of imposing itself on narratives. the reading out of statements as one might expect in a court of law. Touch in its literal and figural sense – as “an invitation to re-think relationality and its corporeal character. The clinical setting. Due to a miscommunication your file has been at the 1F unit and it has recently been sent back to our office in Den Bosch. The touch of her fingers against the keyboard. Touch came to mind. sniff. tissue bundled back in the arm of her sleeve. Itch. I sensed none of the blurring of boundaries between self and other. sniff. Followed by: “I would like to apologize for the procedure. The rhythmic ticking and tapping at the typewriting machine continued as the official posed the first set of standard questions. The first part of the official account concluded with: “Have you said everything of importance for your asylum request?” The (first) meeting was ended at 16. “Are you pleased with the way this meeting has gone?” “Do you have further comments about this meeting?” “Do you want to say anything about me or the interpreter?” “Did you understand the interpreter?” “Do you have any reason for not wanting me to conduct the following hearing?” she asked on 9 December 2009. without actually addressing him. the legalized discourse of the “hearing”. But coherence is suspect. and the official. tissue to her nose. Note in the report: “Mrs Kim Tsai is present at the hearing. itch. Tick. as well as a desire for concrete. tap. “if you would like a pause during the hearing. Once again my apologies. was the experience “touching” her in other ways. to practically nil and the lack of “engagement” on anything other than a technical level with B. tap. will you please make your difficulties known?”. under the sleeve clamped tight at the wrist. went the keyboard. as she conversed with B. “if you have difficulty with any questions during the hearing. despite their relative close proximity to one another in the physical sense. I detected no move towards relationality. will you please say so?”. In fact. or dare I say “defendant”. engagement with worldly transformation” (Puig de la Bellacasa.

knowledge and the world. 2002). during the interrogation. or was it a question of an “erotic oscillation” as described by Marks “in which the desire of banishing distances is in tension with the letting go of the other?” (Marks. 2009). the end of the interview. I am confused. Itch.30 hours. tick tick. The problem is that they do not look at us as people. “reducing the gap”. tap. for “better adherence to rules and procedures” from asylum seekers themselves. itch. The distance makes it easier for them to treat us like that. and for addressing questions of affect. levels between us and them. in which there seemed to be no room “to risk ourselves precisely at moments of unknowingness. Tick. Is there such a thing as being too “touched?” Did I need to take more distance from my informants. I was confused. a rational accounting of the Other void of selfquestioning. 275 days after the first interview had taken place. 17. files. in the interview room. without actually addressing him. as she asked the next set of standard questions. I could hardly sense a being touched. Was the absence of touch here indicative of “untouchability”. To hold a person accountable for his or her life in narrative form may even be to require a falsification of that life in order to satisfy the criterion of a certain kind of ethics. Abu Z. as she conversed with B. it was bare. We are numbers.48 of the limits of knowability of oneself and others. It is seductive in its opening up of new possibilities for looking at relationality. 2005). “treat us like humans not numbers”. without looking at him. It’s not fair”. went the keyboard. or a being which was touched. tap. The practice of the official appeared barely embodied. Was this normal I asked myself? To “(violently) require that another do a certain violence to herself. They don’t know what it is to be separated from your family all this time. with real families and feelings. I hear calls for “distance”. Was it desirable in these circumstances to “think with touch”. one that tends to break with relationality”. or a “shielding” of the senses by the official? Or was it a lack of “trust”. affects and facts. politics and science?” (Puig de la Bellacasa. to open up the “potential to inspire a sense of connectedness that can further problematize abstractions and disengagements of (epistemological) distances – between subjects and objects. The result: a several page account of B. We’re just numbers on paper. for “less authority of lone officials”. They can do anything with us. as humans. to relation and corporeal immanent risk?” (Puig de la Bellacasa. for “objectivity”. not real people. 2009). Time is not the same for them. The “lure of touch” is appealing (Puig de la Bellacasa. feeling and knowing. as an arm disappeared under her woolen sweater. so they don’t need to see us as human beings. They put a distance. calls which ring alongside and inhabit the same spaces as pleas for “more humanity”. “less space between us and them”. says “we cannot understand the authority of the investigator. and do it in front of us by offering a narrative account or issuing a confession”? • . this latter being “the unavoidable condition to allow openness to touching. As Butler succinctly puts it: “The relationship between the interlocutors is established as one between a judge who reviews evidence and a supplicant trying to measure up to an indecipherable burden of proof”. From the same asylum seekers. when what forms us diverges from what lies before us. when our willingness to become undone in relation to others constitutes our chance of becoming human” (Butler. The rhythmic ticking and tapping at the typewriting machine droned on. tap. 2009). matter of factual.

says “We cannot think like YOU” “I think You are not Normal” The taken-for-grantedness of it all is challenged by the CONFRONTATION with a new sense of normality. and we think other” B. What is Normal anyway? “you think other..49 An (normal) interlude Reflections on NORMality My sense of norm-ality is jammed up. Reflections. You think about these things. One in which normal-ity needs Reconfiguring down. 1963) Old certainties crumble when we must face the ‘Other’ when we look him in the eye and see an i which is Other than i Then B turned to me and said . you like to stay quiet. 29th October 2010 • . When you have something not normal in your life. “people don’t like to go out very much. but in fact self-hate and self-derogation can also occur when only he and a mirror are about” (Goffman. You do not like to talk all the time with others”. and to back inside out out -side in Whose normal is normal anyway? “The immediate presence of normals is likely to reinforce this split between self-demands and self. Back to front.

She invited me to visit her and we took it from there. Мир так велик. with four children. De tranen als rivieren op de wangen. 9. lips numb from begging for help. I feel oppressed. What struck me at first was her beauty. when what has to be done is urgent and I am the one who is there and has the resources” (Lingis. Nobody really knew much about her background. Her mid-length jet-black hair contrasts with grey-green powdery eyes.50 Touched by Leyla A poem written by Leyla on 9 december 2010 Медленно бьется сердце мое.не дышится мне. hoop en vertrouwen in onszelf. voel me benauwd. Слезы рекой по щеке. 2007). надежду и веру в себя. Een onverdraaglijke pijn. Is het een leven? Dit is een hel op aarde. бездна боли в душе. любовь. I took the chance to talk to her whilst peering through the glass window at my son. and had dumped the headscarf. the Russians. maar hij lijkt klein. and from some others. de ziel een afgrond van pijn. В душе пустота. but it seems small. full of blood and lies. She supposedly hung around with Armenians (the thieves as I had been told by the Iraqi’s). hope and trust in ourselves. in a bedding of apathetic twists of fate that enable a “vision of non-separation between knowing and beingrelating.dood en verlies zijn overal. My heart beats slowly. Tears are like a river on the cheeks. Он без любви. A lone mother from the Caucuses. Russian and a common enemy. zij zwerft in de duisternis. We verliezen verwanten. уста застывают в мольбе. such an account of the closeness of touch stands for a conception in which ‘knowing does not come from standing at a distance and representing the world but rather from a direct material engagement with the world’”(Barad. он полон крови и лжи. one in which readily conceived assumptions are challenged by the blurring of borders between subject and object. verleden achtervolgt in dromen. I cannot breath. courage and vitality. nurtured or rescued is to perceive what has to be done. at the sports school. It is an effacement of the divide between touching and observing. love. прошлое следом во сне. но тесно в нем. 2009). Emptiness fills the soul. 2009). . De wereld is groot. We lose loved ones. An unbearable pain. Het leven is in wezen een marteling . It is an encounter of hope. Life is torture in essence – death and loss are everywhere. liefde. “To perceive the importance of things that have to be protected. Жизнь по сути мука. Hij is zonder liefde. Теряем родных. Невыносимая боль. I would have had no opportunity to really talk to Leyla had I not spotted her on a regular basis when collecting one of my own children from Tae Kwondo lessons. Ik kan niet ademen. I had heard about Leyla from B. Now she had become somewhat more modern. Разве это жизнь? Это ад на земле. The world is big. смерть и потеря везде. a past that catches up in dreams. Mijn hart klopt langzaam. Is this living? This is hell on earth. sharing as they did a common language. whereby worlds are “done and undone through encounters. она блуждает во тьме. which are not always those we might expect” (Puig de la Bellacasa. vol van bloed en leugens. the soul a painful abyss. sadness. In de ziel is leegte. 2007) An engagement with Leyla is to be touched by a “recognition of vulnerability” (Puig de la Bellacasa. It is without love. and the sadness which pervaded her whole being. at our children. only that when she first came she was modest in her dress. de lippen verstijfd in een smeekbede. and pale skin. What has to be done becomes what I have to do. wearing a headscarf and long clothing. wandering in obscurity.

etched deep into her expressions. A child bride. and she seems unawares of the consequences of her own behavior. or ask the right questions. Almost melting in the warmth of her unit which was heated to around 25 degrees. however. burly men.51 Images of Snow White spring to mind. Leyla felt a compulsion to show me photographs. “Yes. Recent developments in the law have increased the fine to some $35. Three more children followed. who gets pestered at school for having “rabbit teeth”. The COA refuse to pay on the grounds that she should look for a doctor who is closer by. she can in no way imagine that her own aggression and fast-paced chattering. who lay in wait for her as she walked home unawares of her fate one day from the local shops. taken care of by the eldest daughter. I heard the word “snatched” several times before it registered. I removed layer after layer until I sat. stashed under the sofa in her front room. He couldn’t use his right hand” she gestured. In the lowest level of Dutch education. but critics and women’s rights activists remain adamant that the practice is still rife. Contact with father. Leyla has deep-seated psychological problems and receives treatment in a psychiatric unit far from the “camp”. by the way. I listened and took note. until I asked Leyla for an explanation. her children and her husband. But he only hit me six or seven times in nine years” she said. ordinary daughter. Within two weeks virginity lost. aunts. cousins. Her face is marred by past experiences. not knowing what to make of it. and a rather spotty exterior. at home. and now she is alone with a fifteen year old daughter. I let it pass by. a day on which all children are kept home from school. for school mates. like it was the most normal thing in the world. Leyla is only thirty one years of age. a wicked stepmother and a magic mirror. showing photo after photo. which makes her barely understandable. This causes additional stress. snatched from the street at the age of fourteen. She worries about her eldest daughter especially. made recordings and only when I heard the term a few times did I question the concept more. thinking it may be a metaphorical description used in those parts. I was. not primed at that moment to zoom in. helps her “maintain her sanity”. of black hair and ebony skin. with a gap of some years in between. grinning. a lot of hitting. and has to pay the costs out of her meager allowance from the government. in the hills. the tradition is still going strong with up to one in four brides starting married life after having been kidnapped. but Leyla refuses as she feels “comfortable” with this doctor who. He thought I was joking”. According to recent articles (October 2010). as the train journey to and fro takes a whole day. all of whom looked morbidly like the archetypical Caucasus male and of Leyla herself feigning a Russian peasant woman in the countryside. “He was jealous. She laughed and laughed on recounting this story. a widespread tradition in some countries of the Caucasus including Leyla’s. primarily about school. Leyla’s daughter is also not the brightest and would seem to be lacking even the slightest iota of critical self-reflection. She recalled memories of nieces. “He grabbed me so tight that I kicked him as hard as I could and fled into the bathroom. there’s a lot of violence against women.000. was never regained. two sons of eight and seven and a daughter of six. looking at her photos. My comprehension of the situation felt flawed at that moment. Father was noticeably absent. and grabbed me by the throat with his left hand and tried to strangle me. He came after me. marriage by abduction or marriage by capture. (Feuchtwang. although mother was to come round later and maintain contact. as it is known. On occasions I have had to chat with her daughter. approximately. her descriptive vocabulary extends no more than to a description of school as “boring”. There could be no sharper contrast between a splendid mother and a somewhat plain. but it kept recurring in conversation. . I had some faint recollection of a documentary I had once seen on the practice of bride kidnapping. teachers and her mother. uncles. but married at fourteen. whose pride was seized that day. A room which was. 2010). spotless. She receives no reimbursement of train fares. Her tone had been so matter of fact. married and disowned by her own family. I learnt and must re-learn in a process of “learning and forgetting”. with her daughter looking on. and had her first child at around sixteen. anno 1918. in the city. just like the time she laughed hysterically on recounting the very first time her husband had hit her. her mother. I couldn’t talk. but I had no voice anymore. a process involving the “eliciting of local concepts” in which I was obliged to accept fluidity in terms of analysis and the richness of polysemy. side by side. with an occasional giggle. “as that was injured in the war”. on Leyla’s own account. by an unknown future husband from “the mountains”. make her an easy target to be pestered. partaking in “oohs” and “aaghs” at the sight of stocky women. A daughter. bare armed. the problems with school and her part in those problems.

It’s not in my hands. We wait and wait and wait. reel at their stench and wish I could clear up the mess. and their families all get refused? Kicked out. knowing everything has changed in between? Does living in a garage for months with four children count as “bad enough?” That’s what happened to Leyla. or may in fact never even exist. evocative and poetic. a helping hand. corn. panicky and outrageous. of men eating separately from women. the man taking care of “money for the family”. cleaning and looking after the children”. a “commander”. no logic. a well of information.like the historian. italics in original). at times epiphanic. no happy endings. digested. potatoes. to talk to me. Governmental policy and how it is implemented sickens me at times. character and motive (Atkinson. Go back home. Some such things have meaning per se. I have been privileged enough to listen to the personal accounts of all of these people. the complex worlds of our research. “the textual devices of ethnographic writing portray readable worlds not through the literal but through the figurative uses of language” (Atkinson. or the novelist – to shape individual and collective action. As Atkinson writes. just fragment after fragment. Be it by the use of metaphors which “can encapsulate a vast array of instances. a man who was “twelve years older” and not particularly handsome. the biographer. a spy? What if none of those to whom I speak get happy endings? What if they. dreams and a failed suicide attempt. on the streets? No reunification. And I may add. Reels me to the point of disbelief and consternation. 1992). But then we come and [claps in his hands] the answer is no. Yet knowing that the whole is constantly in transformation. I get dizzy at the fragmentation. spewed out like vomit that cannot be held back for fear of gagging. but I can’t help myself. of marginalization and the drama of a multicultural dream gone wrong. the illusion of perfect re-construction. But what do I know of their lives before now? I can only guess how bad it must have been to want to come here. It’s not so easy”.52 Talk of local food. types and categories” (Atkinson. 1990. 2001). transformation is part and parcel of the ethnographic writing process. I oft times feel frustrated for my informants. Like vomit. This was “the poesis of the ordinary” which “draws attention and becomes habitual because things don’t just add up. Chewed up. how bad must it get before you go back. that I’ve somehow handed it out to the authorities. or some semblance of it. Will I be able to comply when I contemplate “the poetic thrust of our work together acts simultaneously to alert us both to the relative inability of words to carry the true fullness of experience as well as to the absolute richness of language and the almost inescapable desire inherent in wordmaking which compels us to try to word our own worlds anyway” (Rasberry. most have force in some other form” (Stewart. fill me with apprehension. It doesn’t make sense. sent back. and academic pressures to hand over a “readerly” text. the situations I experience. counterintuitive. then the asylum seeker will come. apart from the odd lump or two which somehow manage to remain whole. coughed up tiny fragments. 1992) or by the inescapable use of reflexivity to recontextualise and delineate the social phenomenon in question. interspersed with the story of being “snatched”. vulnerability. No order. barely recognizable. I endeavor to create some form of narrative. at others grim. That is my work as researcher “. Sometimes I heave on hearing stories of despair. a researcher. 2008. experiencing pangs of guilt at letting them. can’t quite convince myself of the absurdity of my own thoughts. What if there’s a jinx on those who are complicit in this research project? Bizarre and ridiculous as it may sound. Stories are thrown at me. in a long sprawl of merging textual realities. in Atkinson.. expulsed. some way of retelling the stories I hear. 1992). bits and pieces. of “troubles” after the death of her husband. pouring out. I even feel some weird sense of guilt. “If there’s a possibility to come. that I’m on the other side? It’s disturbing for me. religion and tradition. Something throws itself together and then floats past or sticks for some reason. or complot? Will they think they’ve fed me too much information. trying to make sense of it all. I can’t say whether my future will be good. put in detention centres. How do we judge which bad is bad enough to count? What kind of proof is necessary anyway? And what becomes of those who are deported? What of . encouraging them. women doing typical women’s work in the house “cooking. It was messy. feel sick. “Why do they let us in?” A. asks. Will they see it as coincidence. yet it makes perfect sense and I even recognise many of the dilemma’s of open borders. whilst who am I in fact to them? A student. maintaining their former identity. Sickening for them. lamb. and disturbed. curious at how the parts fit together. The myriad ways in which I could produce a text of the lives I have heard. and of differences in mentality between “city and mountains”. no hope.

Various authors point out the tension between the “readerly” and the “writerly” text (Atkinson. is not simply about becoming poets. and your stories will comprise different versions of the same tellings. I engage with the words I write and am compelled to consider time and again the appropriateness of what eventually reaches the paper. patient. You are there. Perhaps this is also the researcher’s curse. the only specific tool I have for penetrating the barrier. new identities. describing. The puzzle pieces are disoriented for a while. “threads that we trace but never to conclusion” (Marshall. for even though “words. confused and frustrated client of the system. titles. you exist. “The readable narratives and recognizable metaphors necessarily reduce and subsume the complexities and indeterminacies of social life. actor. victim. into who you are now. an asylum seeker. but which nonetheless find ways to reform. in a multitude of ways. Leyla has a love of writing. wondering. . Contrast this to how Leyla is vilified with words. But I can try to make visible the partiality of this account. and asked if she could write a poem for my research. son. graffiti spouted for all to see next to the dustbins proclaiming “Leyla bitch f…cks everything”. yet they are not the whole story. yet it remains partially hidden. “What is happening here?” (Rasberry. • 12. 1992. a Russian-speaking refugee from Kazakhstan. behind shadows of painful memories and unborn hopes. which have been shattered and torn apart. student. The “voice”……needs to be not only “artistic and aimed at naming yourself [but also] political and focused on naming the world” (Lensmire 1994a). 1996). poetically” (Rasberry. Perhaps this is the writer’s curse” (Jerome. even if you wanted it to be? It’s like puzzle pieces which no longer fit together. To leave out Leyla’s wor(l)ds of despair and desperation would be to violate her trust. interrogating – our own living. for she has suffered violence enough. The words open up new worlds of “listening. a father. Non-violently. 2001). She is wooed and admired. indexes etc. reshape. Her beauty screams out to be seen. even if it is writing we sometimes choose to name as poetry. I am beginning to think. they are “at the same time. our own wording of our worlds – pedagogically. She sent it to me by SMS on 9th December 2010 and it was translated by a friend. 1989).) are also arbitrary forms of classification and codification” (Atkinson. sub-headings. but move and become new puzzles. or the equivalent of half a week’s allowance for an asylum seeker. in Schaafsma. Which begs the question how to textualise the field without “reducing the complexity of social life” and “imposing an unwarranted degree of analytical closure?” (Atkinson.53 their transformation. Rasberry. 2001). The (w)hole can never be known anyway. “Our writing. 1992). friend. they have impact. Leyla’s account screams out at me to be told. 1992). 2009). are the specific barrier against seeing things clearly”. making us laugh and cry together. a mother. the disjunctures and the gaps. carer. and that of their children? Is anything retrievable. It is too soon to hope. they explode lives or induce calm. ex-something or another. adopting new forms. with brief flirtatious messages written on cards sent with bunches of flowers costing twenty five Euros. (Denzin. 2001). The standard literary forms of academic monographs (chapters. Words name things. incite passion or thrust us into fits of giggles. daughter.

deep Etched into one’s very being Of experiences. It’s Islam. family OF knowing old certainties Think of eyes/i’s filled with pain. yet tinged with the sadness of loss. Heads turn. walls with L. A transfer elsewhere? How bad here? NO they said.54 Leyla’s interlude An Account of Leyla Imagine a beautiful woman. No more graffiti. Broken. The clock turns. un-forgetting and of doubt. Heads turn as you walk by. It’s our tradition. In-sis-tent despite having nothing here and a wife and several children back home. Your hands. WHY would WE move YOU? A handful of tablets. S. remembered. No more pestering. turns of life. In Iraq. before that time Re-turns? (Re) turns. Clock hands. He tries AGAIN. Eyes. in-filled with a tenacious courage of Must Be OR Else. Cracking and pulling of fingers. Eyes. though. C r a c k. C r a c k.ck everyone written on them or people laughing as you pass. You refuse. of happy times. but they must accept it”. OF i-dentity. joyous. C r a c k. You can become the second wife. likes to F…. Imagine Leyla. deep pools of remembrance. Turns in your hand. But you want PEACE. piercing. Jaws drop down at your beauty. thenthenext. “The women don’t like it. When will life re-turn to normal? For Leyla? For her family? Time turns. Your draw drops. seemed the only way OUT! It worked you got your transfer without problem the day you came OUT! Of the hospital. Hands turn of the clock. Your head. The problems re-main. Which way is OUT? • . Life turns. of home. 23 sleeping pills. Firstthisway. how long Jaw drops. says Abu Z. s m e a r campaigns. A head Turns. sends flowers to tempt you. Twisting and turning – one in the other – grinding and turning.

10. I understand the reasoning. He has told me many a time that the COA register everything the asylum seeker does. Perhaps this is a form of defiance against the authorities. The physicality of this experience is one of a dense expectancy impinging on my body from the weight of dread of an exterior gaze. I wonder if they are keeping an eye out. It cannot be halted by rational thought or logical reasoning. First I must park. The idea that one must register. then it is true. sinks and its contents fumble around inside as if fleeing some impending collision. Coming from the dual carriageway I need to go across two roundabouts passing a local firm which arranges subsidized work for the unemployed who can’t find regular jobs. slowly pervading my body. they keep account of everything “to use the information against us in the future”. which I associate with pleasurable anticipations or new awakenings. There is nothing of the light featheriness of butterflies. and the self-imposed adoption of an identity discredited by its categorization as asylum seeker and a temporal living “within the world of one’s stigmatized connections” (Goffman. Both these buildings house the marginalized. I wonder what they are thinking. A humiliation of the stigmatized. If they see me as a possible girlfriend. and then report to the reception. My discomfort grows the closer I get to the camp. sign in. round and round. “Whether an individual’s biographical life line is sustained in the minds of his intimates or in the personnel files of an organization. he is an entity about which a record can be built up – a copybook has been made ready for him to blot. say “are you visiting”? and then continue to register everything. the excluded. I find despicable. churning like butter. ask where you’re going. The asylum centres are often situated on the outskirts.55 The “camp” as “total institution” “The remarkable efficiency with which a mental-hospital ward can adjust to a daily shift in number of resident patients is related to the fact that the comers and leavers do not come or leave with any properties but themselves and do not have any right to choose where they will be located” (Goffman. precipitating a tender encounter or a sensuous meeting between new lovers. 1961) and loath the feeling I get every time I go in and out. somewhat isolated encampments. for everything to be carefully noted down. I detest the idea that I have to register as if I am a criminal myself. where the guard sits waiting. finds it a hassle and waves his hand discouragingly when I suggest I sign in. clumpy and thick. write it all down. disrupted. and then the road turns off to the camp. It came upon me. One guy recognizes me. or on the edge of towns and cities. I sometimes get the feeling that their eyes are staring right through me. I skulk along the pavement. I don’t understand why I feel like this. alongside the name of the person you are visiting and his/her room number. or driving license. But I do not know. They just ask for your documents. engendering a feeling of guilt with each encroachment. It is a feeling that has grown steadily with each visit to the camp. marginalized from what may be deemed “normality”. those who society would rather not see. and whether the documentation of his personal identity is carried on his person or stored in files. Separate. looking. 1963). it could be damaging to his future request for his family to be reunited with him. a notion of figures in the shadows. 1963). if they will come running after me when I pass over the “border” from inside and outside without first calling in to . sometimes trying to avoid being seen because B. but I still can’t help but loath its “encompassing tendencies” (Goffman. “It’s not necessary”. 1961) Each time I approach the “camp” my stomach turns. “Why” he always asks. And so my presence conjures a feeling of guilt at the idea that I could be harming his case in some way. hand over one’s passport or identity papers. the rest I don’t know. It is the “chronic anxiety” described by Goffman (1961) at the thought of breaking the rules and the consequences that rule-breaking brings with it. or perhaps a form of self-protection. He is anchored as an object for biography” (Goffman. The guards are more or less pleasant. big brother watching over me – an all-present drone to which one never quite becomes acclimatized.

you don’t work’” (Goffman. Like passing through customs at the airport. A discernable. they think asylum seekers are not good. but all the same you almost break out into a sweat at wanting to avoid the eyes of the officers. the colours I wear. namely our sleeping. but I don’t dare. I instinctively avoid meeting any one. Iraqi women with status. that we are bad. although under specific circumstances some asylum seekers are able by law to engage in paid labour several months per year. that everybody is pointing at me with his finger. I could pass for an asylum seeker I think. I stick out. “otherwise we have to take a paracetemol. my handbag. The barriers. But when I get my status……I can meet other people. it’s not dangerous here. 1961). 1961). Here in the camp there is no separation. appointment times and contact moments are regimented. But it hasn’t happened yet. I have been infected by all the horror stories I hear at that place that I start to get suspicious myself. I don’t know why. When you live in the AZC people think you’re not good”. It’s as though I have to make excuses for being there. one which the asylum seekers don’t possess. Nobody of the asylum seekers I have met works “outside”. that AZC people are thieves. 1961). They don’t want to have anything to do with asylum seekers. neatly arranged for the sake of routine and order. automatic beams and high fences. Compare Goffman’s words with A. playing and working arrangements (Goffman. The dread. Every time the fear. no. don’t I? At least that’s what I’ve been told. who told me: “yes. “We can be sick between these hours” I am told. a different culture. You don’t quite dare look them in the eye. why should they be looking at what I’m doing? But I can never be sure. if not an “easyputintowordsdifference”. They no longer offer me a cigarette and their eyes seem to say. my clothes. When we get our status. Those I know who have tried are either not eligible and do not fit into the system’s . Is it my hair. I cast down my eyes because I feel myself wholly inferior. a fabulation of sorts. a better story than the one I’ve already got. jogging alongside each other with points of official contact but little mutual penetration” (Goffman. Or maybe it’s pure invention. as if I have got something to hide. what it is that makes me recognizable as not being one of them. 1963). signs asking all visitors to first report to the reception. And “when I ask women to come here to see me. I would like contact with Dutch people.56 their office. the awkwardness. symbols of what Goffman calls “the barrier to social intercourse with the outside” (Goffman. Yet I can’t avoid it. or come back tomorrow”. the anticipation. divided into manageable slots and accountable hours. It will be different then”. or the time when T’s mother told me that her daughter never gets invited to other children’s homes to play because “Dutch families don’t like it. but not now. Girls don’t want relations with us. as if I need to have a good story. You’ve got nothing you shouldn’t have in your suitcases. I know there’s no reason to feel this way. but everything about me tells me there’s a difference. “Two different social and cultural worlds develop. just a difference. they are maybe afraid of asylum seekers”. but suspect that looking at the floor is also not the best strategy. go for a walk. Whatever. When I go along the street. They don’t want to come to the AZC. as the three spheres become all meaningful or all meaning-less. I sense what Goffman refers to as a “breakdown of the barriers ordinarily separating the three spheres of life”. and I can get along good with others. ‘You are not worth it. kept under surveillance and controlled. the way I walk? I do after all have dark brown hair and off-white skin. So too when I walk into the AZC. Mediators act as watchdogs. When I go out. because they think we won’t be here long enough anyway. Blocks or units are managed and coordinated. I can’t’. Perhaps there’s an air of certainty around me. At times I just think the guards probably don’t give a damn. I must remember to ask B. I feel ashamed. it seems to me that I can’t be compared with an average citizen. I feel deeply uncomfortable every time I pass the control post. they always say ‘no. They greet me indifferently when we meet. “How hard and humiliating it is to bear the name of an [asylum seeker ]. I look different to the average asylum seeker. Former acquaintances and friends of better times are no longer so cordial. to ensure officials are not “swamped”. we can start a new life.

who in her own country had little but the practical knowledge of how things worked. supervising in the computer room. You came here as an asylum seeker. not for a holiday. Waiting. You don’t even think if you are brave or strong. but left unexplained. But now I am tired. said. of what was expected of her. reliance on the outside to offer comfort. to know one’s place. waiting. 23 years). Then he was “somebody. The only way was forward then. autonomy. affection. 1961). largely unaided by officials in the name of privacy and independence. or unconcern – is one symbol of self-determination” (Goffman. Language appears as a superfluous appendage. Work then is no longer a daily occupation for the majority of asylum seekers. the individual who was work-oriented on the outside tends to become demoralized by the work system of the total institution” (Goffman. the chances are often slimmer. Or Leyla. and freedom of action. unnecessary to sense moods and track affectations. because we all want to be somebody. Goffman’s “disculturation” (1961) describes a process of unlearning that what has been learnt on the outside. waiting. anything which can be grasped as a sign that there is more to this life than the uncertainty of the camp. Letters from bailiffs threatening to dispossess her of the little which she has because she inadvertently forgot to cancel her subscription at the sport school.57 strict conditions. bound as they are to their household chores and children. I hate myself” (A. “A margin of self-selected expressive behavior – whether of antagonism. I couldn’t do it again”. she is overwhelmed by systems. Leyla. as asylum seekers waiver in their attempts to uphold their own dignity despite repeated de-stablisation. tells me about when he was an Officer in the Republican Guard. groping for information. 2010). My heart is breaking. you are an asylum seeker. “I never had these psychiatric problems before. “The authorities say you are only an asylum seeker. The way he stated “before I was there” gesturing upwards with his hands. 27 years). Here. 1961). if and when he gets back to it”. That’s our mentality”. in the dark. And for women. or have been too overwhelmed by the rules and the paperwork. in part meaningless. to continue their pursuit. and demands for deference to authority. B. and Leyla “read” me. in transition or lying in wait for a momentary outburst. crossing them steadily one over the other. and the general maneuvering in an unknown world. Or “don’t worry too much” and “I can feel that you are very happy. “You have been crying”. Tired of all the waiting. Could the blankness of Leyla’s gaze be significant. 1961). A failure to retain this kind of adult executive competency. Sharply developed sensibilities signal a force of the sensate. has been reported to the local child protection agency after an incidence in which her daughter took some sleeping pills. I have nothing”. in which words are secondary ways of “knowing”. hope. Actor-ship is contested. you are any asylum seeker. assisting in the technical division or helping to mend bicycles. What has happened to you?” . Opportunities exist to work for pocket money. in that it symbolizes her evident loss of self-determination? By which I certainly would not want to suggest that I do not occasionally see a fire in those eyes. one in which the “inmate” or in this the case asylum seeker is rendered “temporarily incapable of managing certain features of daily life on the outside. however finds this work in part de-meaning. doing jobs around the camp. But (so) much of that passion seems to have dissipated in her long. A culture of dependency is an emergent factor of life inside. I recall how B. such as collecting rubbish. but what can I do” (T. What amazes me though. “and now I am here. procedures. For your children. solace. rules and regulations. lowering the position of his arms. un-knowing. exhausting struggle for a life. appointments with schools to discuss the progress or not of her children. like Leyla or G. a paper pushed into her hands by a hospital nurse. The camp as total institution “disrupts or defiles precisely those actions that in civil society have the role of attesting to the actor and those in his presence that he has some command over his world – that he is a person with ‘adult’ self-determination. “You are sad today” B. or at least symbols of it. “Whether there is too much work or too little. and humor and a passion for life. You have to move. of “collective affectivity” or a passionate encounter with the other (Manning. warning that she. “You are an asylum seeker. can produce in the inmate the terror of feeling radically demoted in the age-grading system” (Goffman. is the uncanny way in which B. ephemeral.

2008). As Goffman also writes: “Inmates may be required to change their cells once a year so as not to become attached to them” (1961). If I do it might affect my asylum procedure. has put it. I am nothing here. The man. it is mortifying to say the least. most vividly in the deferential positioning of asylum seekers in face to face encounters with representatives of the authorities and in their placid compliance with that which is imposed upon them. Not being able to share in a common way of expressing ideas and thoughts about the world is for most a daunting prospect. an asylum seeker from Lebanon. The rest we have to throw out or give away. some willingly. not being consulted about who you will share intimate spaces with and who not. When he left the camp early afternoon he had a two person room to himself. who had been living the other side of the Netherlands. 1961). Total institutions impact the lives of those who live within their borders in ways which challenge their status as civilians. was not the only one who said on many occasions “we cannot do anything. so if they want us to move we have to take our stuff in the suitcases we carried in here. The basic non-referential character of being. and develop new social ties. only an asylum seeker. other items had been dumped. most not. of living out daily routines whilst one’s fate lies very much elsewhere. We get a day card for public transport and a few hours notice and then we have to go”. Interpreters help. Having given an “account”. a recurring reminder to reinforce the discourse of “lack” which already surrounds asylum seekers. in the linguistic inability to comprehend the world around for lack of the right vocabulary. remake contacts. and they make sure we know that”. social support networks and trust. is not a choice most make lightly. but does not necessarily infer a longing for (w)holism on my part. identity.” from the automated fingerprint kiosk. Rather I refer to the way in which “lack” dominates a common discourse on asylum seekers. some stuff he had left behind and given away. or even as human beings. Many of the rights accorded to “normal” citizens are revoked. On returning he noticed a light was on and on entering his bedroom he was greeted by the newest arrival. got a similar shock one evening. “less ceremonialised but just as extreme. practices and regulations. The question of why is often left unanswered. . in terms of language skills. find new schools for your children. When made for you. A. Not forgetting “the practice of mixing age. suitcases and plastic bags in one hand. and all have been “inmates” at different centres throughout the country. the inmate is excluded from knowledge of the decisions taken regarding his fate. stripped of the dignity of self-determination and constantly aware of the possibility of sanctions if they fail to comply. The disciplining gaze is omnipresent. having to change rooms unexpectedly. reinforced by feelings of incompetence by asylum seekers themselves and by the dependency engendered by systems. at being fingerprinted on a weekly (sometimes even daily) basis and dreading the sight of the words “Go to…. as in concealing travel destination from enlisted men…such exclusion gives staff a special basis of distance from and control over inmates” (Goffman. with its own particular rules and regulations. He had packed up most things.” (Goffman. whilst the same can easily be said of the situation of asylum seekers. Whether the official grounds are military. Indeed. routines. There is a focus on what is “missing” and on loss. ethnic and racial groups in [prisons and mental hospitals]…which…can lead an inmate to feel he is being contaminated by contact with undesirable fellow inmates” (Goffman. We are like animals going to the slaughter. and with a train ticket in the other.58 The lack of competence is nowhere more evident than in the loss of one’s language skills. Inmates are required to conform to a new regime. had been told at 10 that morning that he had to be out by one. This loss symbolizes fragmentation. B. I have seen asylum seekers leaving. without consultation. Letiche refers to the “model of the lack” in healthcare (Letiche. but they are still mediators. knowledge. Without exception all asylum seekers I have spoken to have invariably been moved from unit to unit. As Goffman writes “characteristically. is the embarrassment to one’s autonomy that comes from …. The decision to pack up one’s belongings. I cannot make a fuss. 1961). for fear of what awaits. move out. 1961). and on asking they invariably confirm that they have most recently received notice to vacate their rooms and to go to another camp. 1961) not knowing whether you may be ordered to leave one camp for another at the drop of a hat. Whilst loss of self-determination is not “ceremonialised” to the extent it was in the concentration camps (Goffman. the other “plays God” as G. Asylum seekers’ own notions of lack are reinforced by the uncertainty of existence in an asylum centre. As one asylum seeker put it “we get no help because they say we came with only a suitcase.

or some floozy with whom he was having a loose relationship in the absence of his wife and family. next to the dreaded words “Go to…”. inceptions and terminations that take form on the levels” (Lingis. including “they confirmed to me later when I got out that they keep records on you and on your family and they use it against you if necessary”. not waiting to find out why they have been summoned in the first place. obliged to undergo fingerprinting on a weekly or daily basis. in fact. contours. eliminating the need to engage in face to fact contact with asylum seekers. This is a prime example of how the asylum seeker is “shaped and coded into an object that can be fed into the administrative machinery of the establishment. Fingerprinting occupies a rigid time slot. or “you can’t trust them [the COA. and which served to dampen an in-felt desire for safety and for reducing the risk of being caught out. being caught out for what? The same guilt. I had to make sure that it could not seem that I was his girlfriend. This “digitalization of processes is part of working rationally” according to the 2009 COA Annual Report. Sometimes. We adjust to the levels in orienting ourselves. if and ever it gets that far. I’ve nothing to hide. producing powerful imagery and engendering unpredictable courses of action. They are. as I don’t know what they might do to me. I would not lie if anybody asked. contrasts. 1998). 1998). so that everything can be used against you in the future” I was told. however. smell and taste are salients. noting that “the particulars we see. invented elaborate stories about why I might be driving him to Den Bosch. But they didn’t make sense and were in any case blatant lies. Yet. but compulsory. and failure to appear leads to sanctions and withdrawal of (part of) the financial allowance which one receives weekly. He reasoned that the authorities would ask why else would I bother to drive him such a long way if there was not an illicit relationship going on? After refusing all the scenario’s and telling B. keep big files on us and try to catch us out all the time”. It seemed ridiculous to me. neither. in so-called “conducted moves” in which we achieve consistency and coherence in the intimate spaces of co-existence whereby “from the . As Lianne told me. “The outlying regions of the alien are expanses where the levels come apart” (Lingis. Like “I just got a lift from a friend. My orientation is at such moments dis-oriented and I no longer walk in step with myself or with my environs. our sensorial perceptions. touch. 1961). and is part of an ongoing goal to optimize “resident related administration processes”. except in those camps designated specifically as detention centres or so-called “limited freedom facilities”. nothing more. he seemed resigned to the fact that the IND would find out anyway and keep records of my accompanying him on this journey. Think of B’s apprehension at stating that I was just a friend who offered him a lift because of the unfortunate time of day which he would have otherwise had to leave were he to take the bus and the train to get to his appointment on time. or too unconvincing. as part of the mechanistic ritual of control and disciplining that comes with being an asylum seeker. Their fear is too great to allow a rationalised response to the words on the screen. I cannot control the fear. Lingis contrasts the “intimate” with the “alien”. The idea alone leads to the fabrication of stories which may even appear ludicrous and insane. “My hands are trembling all the time. a new story. because the truth of the matter may be too simple. from those still within the system and those who have long had resident status. These “touching technologies” disengage human contact yet the sensorial experience can be compelling. or during the initial procedures on arrival in the Netherlands. to be worked on smoothly by routine operations” (Goffman. one which seemed appealing at the time. except when the Red Cross “X” appears on the kiosk screen. I recall the feeling of staring in the face of absolute power sitting on the other side of the table. unfortunate asylum seekers on facing the instruction to “Go to…” take to their heels and flee. write it all down. IND]. nothing less”. 1998). “They keep records of everything. B. I feel disconnected from the “levels”. and others. an alien lacking “intersensorial consistency” (Lingis. Then an encounter with the authorities is not only inevitable. hear. too remote or not filled enough with intrigue and wanderings of the mind. I feel a knot in my stomach and I keep looking at the floor. I almost became part of the fabulation of a new complot. At B’s interview with the IND to which I was privy. They could do anything with me they wanted”. I am alone with my children and I don’t know the rules. as that might be reason enough to refuse their repatriation request. all confer that “personal files are kept on everything you do and say”.59 Asylum seekers are not forced to stay within the camp’s boundaries. the same illogical reasoning as when I affront the gate posts of the camp and walk in assuming a posture of someone with something to hide when. they take notes. but from many accounts I have heard since. as I was told by B. B. The systematic taking of fingerprints in the camp I visited was fully automated.

in fact I reduced my resistance to a level of zero. Which story to tell. even if they do not appear to make sense at the time? Perhaps we can talk here of “atmospheric attunements” as described by Stewart (2010). sotto voce profaning asides. at the health centre. 1961). these vivid encounters with alterity. I did not want to risk appearing as a trouble maker.60 first we find ourselves accompanied. and their refusal to transfer her to another camp.” if their attitude to what is requested of them is less than compliant. as B. so as not to displease the officials”. At such moments there is no coherence and focus may be lost. “The protective response [of the asylum seeker] to an assault upon self is collapsed into the situation. he cannot defend himself in the usual way by establishing distance between the mortifying situation and himself” (Goffman. in our movements down the levels of the field. which would allow me to employ diverse strategies for achieving my goals. until she eventually did protest with a suicide attempt. The interpreter had the power in this case to decide whether or not I should be allowed to be present to give B. let’s say an asylum centre. The zone of the intimate is a pole of warmth and tranquility that we keep sight of as we advance into the stretches of the alien and that our nomadic wanderings gravitate back to” (Lingis. 1998). 1998). and derision. I had no recourse to my usual arsenal of knowledge. or fugitive expressions of contempt. but there is no time to survey the route before plunging into deep waters. But where then is this “home base” for asylum seekers? And are we always attuning to levels even when in total discord with our surroundings? Does the discord itself provoke a form of attunement to the levels of that moment. In the setting of a total institution. As Goffman explains “in civil society. he is allowed a margin of face-saving reactive expression – sullenness. irony. smell is disrupted and voice reveals dis(cords) of uncertainty and a faltering capacity to produce meaningful sounds. with the “alien” has exerted its seductive powers. The tangible smoothness of contours once known. by other sensibilities. and thereby opening up the possibility that she would make a mental or physical . 1998). Lianne’s fear of what might happen to her facing a forced repatriation procedure alone. “In total institutions spheres of life are desegregated. will have to make a new appointment to finish his interview at another time. other sentient bodies” (Lingis. and of unsettling the “home base” which once was a “pole of repose and departure. Yet I cannot help thinking that “attunement” does not capture “deference patterns” or “looping effects” as engendered in total institutions (Goffman. failure to offer usual signs of deference. I eventually gave up for fear of upsetting the official. as did B. are replaced by rocky reliefs and sharp cliffs jutting out on a wild ocean. leading “onward to the outer regions of the alien” (Lingis. A’s resignation at having his requests to move unit being turned down several times and Leyla’s despair at having to defer time again to the unwillingness of the authorities to take her stories of feeling threatened by other inmates seriously. is likely to be associated with an expressed attitude to it that is not itself subject to the same degree of pressure for compliance” (1961). I cannot say when that will be”. auditory capabilities are fuzzy. but rather wanted to know what B’s rights were in such a case. She does after all play a decisive role in the handling of his asylum request. 1961). the asylum seekers may risk further sanctions. put it himself. 1998). the depths of which are murky and dark. then. G. so that an inmate’s conduct in one scene of activity is thrown up to him by staff as a comment and check upon his conduct in another context” (Goffman. But “the levels have a way of separating” and “the intense cold settled on the plains separate us from the level of the vision extending paths where things are to be seen” (Lingis. Compliance. by riling the official. I felt what I imagine to be a similar form of helplessness at being informed by the official half way through B’s interview that the new interpreter “does not want you to be present during the meeting”. exuding a rich vibrancy and an invitation to “follow the ways the patterns emerge and dissolve”. Several paths open out. This research. and went along with it for B’s sake. B’s searching for a “good story. 1961). which truth counts. I recall A. when an individual must accept circumstances and commands that affront his conception of self. or punishment in the form of written notes in one’s file which “may be used against [us] if we don’t do what they ask. moral support. which version is the least damaging and who is the judge? Whose ac(count) counts? The total institution has a way of unsettling the levels. Having made clear several times that I was not really interested in what was “normal”. Regions where vision is blurred.’s description of the IND doctor as “God”. On lightly prodding the official I was informed that “it is not usually normal to have somebody else listening and if you insist we will have to cancel the rest of the interview today and Mr B.

2008). Whether this made any sense at all.61 note of dissatisfaction with the proceedings which may. demand respect and claim dignity. it was perceived as a threat and neither myself nor B. wanted to take a risk at the time. or happened to be “true” was of no consequence whatsoever. in turn. “One side has and the other side wants”. have negative effects on B’s procedures. . 2008). So we submitted to the authority of the official in disidentifying ourselves from our intrinsic reaction to fight back. Dialogue or narrative exchange was absent in this evident “power disequilibrium” (Letiche. The autonomy of the act itself is violated” (1961). As Goffman puts it “each specification robs the individual [asylum seeker] of an opportunity to balance his needs and objectives in a personally efficient way and opens up his line of actions to sanctions. Goffman’s text reads “unemployed man” where I have used “asylum seeker”. to put it bluntly. so we enacted the roles expected of us in a simulacra of consensus which to all intent and purposes was an “imposed ‘consensus’” and not a “genuinely validated consensus” (Letiche. Is there “truth to the care” in the setting of a total institution and its apparatus of appendages and working officials? Or are they beyond caring? • 13.

must not avoid responsibility. For “discussion could allow each [asylum seeker’s] unique claims. I cannot but Care can I? Otherwise I would not have taken on this challenge → to learn. political. I believe. for there can be no “singletruthtoevents”. established. Knowledgeable [informants. in a “nonappropriative logic”. diagnose and know. Is “being-two” care? Do we derive our “humaneness” from “the ability to exchange gazes”. instead of the other way around”. Or is care a question of “Effectiveness and Efficiency”? neatly embedded into a “Management discourse”? “But (such) industrialization denies the specific. to dialogue. I prefer to relinquish my “knowledge power” in favor of a more “discursive [research model]”. known. “Relationship demands difference or beingtwo”. “The power of the [researcher] is grounded in their gaze.[I]…. economical?” And if a humanistic text “requires that [researcher and informant] really communicate about what is happening then intertextuality is essential”. In such a dialogical or polyphonic system. symptoms. and multifaceted quality of……” [being an asylum seeker].62 A caring interlude Do I care…. Can I refer to research as “intertextual”? As “laying emphasis on how every text or act of speech relates to prior models and other speech and implicitly can only exist thanks to unmentioned associations and assumptions”? Which “texts” are familiar.. demands and desires to surface. I do agree that “only by embracing critical though and respect for difference and by realizing that …. The care dilemma is unavoidable. juridical. to reject myself as the “Expert”. . the “existential plenitude of relationship and …. Looking for the “hidden intertext” and making it Visible. they see. all the issues of difference would be free to emerge”.can good [research] prevail”. I cannot see myself as the “Expert”. legitimate when it comes to asylum seekers? And the humanistic text? “Social.the lack of self without the Other”? Research implies relationship. asylum seekers] look at the [researcher] with the intent of judging their actions. to construct together. unicity and relationship….for you? My research (object)? Do those with a duty of care CARE for you? When I think of care I imagine “circumstantial sensitivity”.. accepted. individual.

How does COA manage to avoid “issues of relationship”. Letiche. there would be no disciplining (Foucaultian) gaze for the [researcher] to lose. but there would be a Mutually Concerned Episteme of Involvement” BECAUSE “If the gaze was ethically humanist.63 YES because “If [research] was dialogical. 2008) • CARE? In the name of HUMANITY? . or in caring for the Asylum Seeker. NO “things are not necessarily as Simple As That”. In the “management of [asylum]” “what is the relationship between the current [asylum] reality and the normative situation that is desired”? WHO asks thess questions? We cannot surely expect “more equality in [asylum] relations”? Can we expect the asylum seeker to “speak up for her or himself. We cannot avoid “issues of relationship” in research. influencing the course of their [asylum procedure]”? “Is narrative competence in listening and speaking a prerequisite to care”? Can researchers “engage in dialogue in an environment where they trust each other enough to be prepared to approach the edge of chaos to reflect upon themselves and their situations and to embark on uncertain adventures with each other”? Which “entails exploring new concepts and experimenting with unusual courses of action”? Can I open up “spaces of creativity where emergence can take place [in my research]? Can those in the system of “caring” for asylum seekers do the same? In the name of Who CARES? (all texts in quotation marks derive from “Making Healthcare Care”. or the “responsibility to communicate as fully as they can”. Quality of CARE. it would involve the discovery of humanity in [research] and in involvement by attending to the Other via the subject’s responsibility and quality of concern.

but getting up time and again only to carry on running. With the negative result pertaining to your asylum request. whereby there is a real danger that the party involved will try to escape [forced] repatriation. uncontrollable anxiety and suicidal tendencies which impinge on your being and occupy “the whole of consciousness” (Lingis. and that you suffer from panic attacks and obsessivecompulsive disorders. X You have not complied with the Legal requirement to leave the Netherlands of your own free will. fled before the police had a chance to forcibly remove you to a camp with limited freedom of movement. an animal running in flight. 2007) and in your case also by panic. from your case manager. and worry all the time about their wellbeing and safety. the authorities may try to deport you under duress. 108. protective custody). rammed. experiences past. you are now liable to being cleared out. We have informed the police that they may proceed with the clearing of your living space”. You received this letter just a few days ago. You are prone to depression. first paragraph of the Alien Law 2000. a juridical institution of Prussian origin that the Nazi jurors sometimes classified as a preventative policy measure insofar as it allowed individuals to be “take into custody” independently of any criminal behavior. he is liable to prosecution / punishable by law”. The interest of public order require the imposition of this Measure ex Article 56 Alien Law 2000. 1998) The image of a rabbit in the headlights came to me when I met Lianne for the first time. your right to shelter is also legally terminated and now that your departure deadline has expired. solely to avoid danger to the security of the state” (Agamben. One could describe you as a confrontation of sensibilities whose “rhythms of life are interrupted by experiences” (Lingis.64 Rabbit in your headlights “It has been noted that the juridical basis for internment was not common law but Schutzhaft (literally. anger and woe” (Lingis. You said “I will not leave here alive. If the party involved does not adhere to this Measure. A frightened creature. 2007). nervous depression. you were informed: “Measure ex Article 56 of the Alien Law 2000: Measure of determination of free movement as meant in Article 56. who did his best to get you to comply with rule article 56 of the Alien Law 2000. have serious suicidal tendencies and have difficulty controlling your emotions. bashed. facing the spotlight. You. a future dreaded. not knowing which way to turn. You are only 27 years old. being hit. fearful that should you comply. outbursts of joy. In the framework of this Measure I order the party involved to reside in the local district of Vlagtwedde from 26-11-2010. Reports from the psychiatrist and therapist you have been seeing for some time note that you have severe psychiatric problems. X You have neither a fixed address nor sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses. And your children are four and five years respectively. as there’s no way I’m going back”. 11. A letter addressed to you from the COA states: “We have been informed by the IND that your departure deadline has expired. fleeing from some force known or unknown. . as yet no hope in sight. It continues: “We assume that you are aware of the consequences of the termination of shelter. on the basis of Art. being “the party involved”. fear. But what of those experiences? They have indeed been “marked by astonishment. first paragraph of the Alien Law 2000. In another letter you received on the same day. 2007). trembling. You are overly possessive of the children.

We escape for a second the gravity of it all. continuous or fixed. it cries in its pain and anguish at the present situation. separated. frail. Human life is “more-than” …. Two young single mothers. Your words cannot adequately express the emotions I sense. 1995) and in particular of sharing at this moment your “pathway through [the] world”. however full of pitfalls and obstacles that may be. 2001). I see them shaking lightly. trying to lighten the atmosphere with a joke.65 When you talk to me your hands wring together and when the intertwined fingers release their grip on one another and you hold out your hand to pass me your letters. becomes a place of crisis for the negotiation of identity” (Rasberry. Leyla is a friend who you met three years ago when you both arrived for the first time in the Netherlands. a suggestion. as the shower episodes are almost made to look hilarious. rather. this small. Your account has me transfixed. moved on to different camps. and importantly defined by their capacities to affect and be affected” (Blackman & Venn. Luce. so you fled in the night. freezing temperatures with your two children and came here. then spread out. and yet now I see only confusion. We are then “tangled” and “the tangle then. 2010) “A sense of self-identity does not really have a fixed location inside the body of the individual but. I experience a sunken feeling in my stomach as I watch you close your eyes every now and then whilst recounting how you used to hide in the shower at the sight of the alien police at the camp. to leave an abusive relationship in your homeland. 1996). “The “voice” that rings in [the room] needs to be not only “artistic and aimed at naming yourself [but also] political and focused on naming the world” (Lensmire. a so-called “limited freedom location”. inside. listening. how you run and hide now if there’s a knock on the door. but at the time you only feel like crying. what I cannot see. angst and exhaustion. And when I am finished. to Leyla’s place.a sense of self or communal identity is not stable. the courage and the resilience to have made it this far. occasionally shifting position to the floor. I am mindful of the “need to honor the complexity and the difficulty and the ambiguity of “making pathways through [the] world”” (Greene. adding a word here and there every now and then. just in case. Your narrative is compelling. Identity cannot be contained within immutable categories” (Sumara. but not bodily. I wonder how amidst despair you somehow managed to get here. as I become ever more tangled in your telling. I contemplate the enormous strength you must have inside. to flee to the West. “Affect is collective” (Manning. 2010). you can’t move from fear”. the rise and fall in its tonality and the quivering in your recollections. I observe Leyla who sits rocking gently on the coffee table. you arrange your documents neatly. You received a letter a few days ago stating that you have become eligible for “clearing” by the alien police and that you should report to a location where your freedom will be limited. leaning on the edge of the seat as you tell me (part of) your story. and every now and then you glance sideways to Leyla appealing to her for support. My curiosity is charged. how your eyes flinch at the noise. 2010). Your command of the Dutch language is broken. Physically apart. removed. 2010). then the sobriety returns as Leyla says “we laugh about it now. Me. to survive the last three years of uncertainty and I wonder even more how you will manage to face the coming winter. is ambiguously located amid the human subject’s perceived and interpreted relations in the world…. and it probably does. 2010).Kapler. And now? Nobody knows which course of action you should take. intertwined. I consider who you are and how you negotiate all those identities within one body. whose paths crossed. but there is more. The rest you left behind. “where the body is but one verging surface on the field of experience. You affect. trembling. at the hopelessness of it all. You couldn’t take the risk of being forcibly deported. banter. it affects. where the body is always more than One” (Manning. female frame? But what lies hidden. For Manning affect resides in its . Watching. You hold the plastic folder with its compartments tightly on your lap. I did not ask the ins and outs of why you fled and you have not told that story yet. it re-lives what is past. it describes. It works momentarily. And every time we perceive the cough of a small child emanating from the already overcrowded bedroom. it names. There is the body – “…how bodies are always thoroughly entangled processes. but sense in an “affective welling – of a life’s transductive potential?” (Manning. 1994a). as “affect is invoked to gesture towards something that perhaps escapes or remains in excess of the practices of the ‘speaking subject’” (Blackman & Venn. focused on your voice. as if it contains your whole life within it. Your voice is gentle. not in affect. so you have difficulty finding the right words. With your papers and a small sports bag.

and for my own singularity. Is it not enough these days to be a [good] mother or carer? I can barely escape these deeply embedded assumptions of what a worthy life is. I am delighted. “the I. it is an I that is connected. or at worst driven into a life on the streets. or rather exist in a state of limbo. thoughts and possibilities all depend on it. In relationship. What is worst? I only know that in your case the thought of forced deportation is too much to bear. the body as resonant materiality. 2009). in the only way I know how. my sobbing. to be. A young orphan. like you. No homeland. and you alone. Once the children arrived. 2010). the body as the metastable field before the taking-form of this or that” (Manning. accused of being a threat to public order. in advance and toward subjectivity. Others I have spoken to have been waiting for years for the post to arrive. in the art of “relatedness”. with her uniqueness. ordered. to become” I ask? Then realize that my Western notions of accounting for oneself in terms of ones occupation. and could never teach anybody else. You play the piano beautifully. singularized and brought to a peak of concentration and intensity. absurdity and accident. This all is confounded by step-parents. Driving home an intense sadness grips hold of my body as I consider the absurdity of it all. Your story is performed like a tragedy of sorts. You look knowingly at me and reply that of course you would have liked to study. my jealousy. and few rights as an ethnic Armenian who has never known Armenia. with her alterity. to shun instrumentalisation and to connect. are summoned. and in trying producing a text which “implicitly develops an ethics of affectivity…. having had several years of lessons from someone who came home to teach you. but in reflexivity I explore the complexity inherent in my research project. Your step-parents did teach you your own language though. and falter in my words. 2009). addicted spouse. I summon Letiche’s words “life is full of coincidence. Affectivity just occurs – it just is. But how? “The being of being-together cannot be objectified without destroying its process in nature” because “objectification endangers living relationship. your civility. Affectivity requires no explanation” (Letiche. and back again. and you would like to learn many other languages if you get the chance. a “zone of intimacy” or a “style of synergic mobilization of sensibility that is induced from the styles of the visible. I am part of the trajectory of “accreting attachments and detachments. Social relationship and the intersection of ideas. an abusive alcoholic whose violence reaches beyond you to your small children. as you repeat that you won’t leave this place alive. in-between. in affectivity. but he hasn’t yet received notice to quit the camp. my blushes. parents-in-law who keep you largely confined to the household. and you grow up with few official rights and no documentation. 2007). and carted off to (semi) closed camps.wherein the unique otherness of the other is made present” (Letiche. is akin to dismissing your value as a mother. 1998). you were even more housebound. Armenian. Affectivity occurs in the buzz and hum of circumstance. You laugh that you play only for yourself. we are in the actual and “there is no going beyond actual occasions to find something more real” (Whitehead.66 collective nature. 2010). never trodden its soil. I do my best to avoid this objectification. but fate would have it that you were born there and me here. One of the challenges I face is to avoid the treachery of representation (Letiche. 2007). he’s not yet been singled out for “clearing” like you have. 2009). brought up by neighbors then enlisted to marry the neighbor’s only son. tightening body. a weekly allowance and some (tiny) semblance of security and others. recoiling. My I. my astonishment” and in my compassion (Lingis. 1978). touched and affected. 2009). Mistakes are perhaps inevitable. In my encounter with Lianne’s otherness. and drawing on Simondon he shows the body’s livingness across lives. The seemingly arbitrary nature of the system. I am completely in my rage. which can only exist outside of objectification’s ‘truth’” (Letiche. I am enraged. as one human being to another. moved around between different countries. differences and indifferences. it makes the interanimation of culture and thought possible” (Letiche. I am compelled to account for my work as researcher. To what end my research? “Affectivity is intersubjective.. Why are some asylum seekers whose files are closed nevertheless still provided with shelter. “I am not at a distance from my trembling. to leave the Netherlands. which means you have no work experience and spent your days going to and from school to home. At that moment we are bodies “alive across lives” (Manning. only this time also having to deal with drunken bouts of violence from an aggressive. Yet the countries where you have lived fail to recognize your personhood. “What would you have liked to do. and live. I am terrified” (Lingis. I sense a deep attunement of the levels. 2009). into illegality? A’s file has been closed for months. is I am thrilled. “not the body after the subject…but the body before the subject. . In this “compositional present” of attending to your story. the tangible and the sonorous” (Lingis. the body as the complexity of imminent collectivity.

2010). and I feel the quickening and slowing of your breath as you recount the past and imagine a future better than this one. whereby there is a real danger that the party involved will try to escape [forced] deportation. first paragraph of the Alien Law 2000. We share this space of “worlding” of a life attuned to all your laboring and visceral motions. I hear your voice. a commencement. 2004). a cut made in the extending map of certainties and probabilities. Yet this body must be trusted in order to trust. It continues: “We assume that you are aware of the consequences of the termination of shelter. X You have neither a fixed address nor sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses. It has its own momentum. 2003). who did his best to get you to comply with rule article 56 of the Alien Law 2000. your life is too far removed from comfort to stall the fight for justice (Lingis. With the negative result pertaining to your asylum request. at risk of being subsumed by the reductive essentialisation and the violence inherent in the practices of knowing which I would argue masquerade in official discourses of professionalism under “liberal aesthetic guise” (Kosofsky Sedgwick. but one very much of “the linear logics that enforce dualistic thinking” (Kosofsky Sedgwick. you were informed: “Measure ex Article 56 of the Alien Law 2000: Measure of determination of free movement as meant in Article 56. first paragraph of the Alien Law 2000. Yet desperate as your situation is. swelling one’s mind and launching one on the way” (Lingis. The interest of public order require the imposition of this Measure ex Article 56 Alien Law 2000. on the basis of Art. a capacity for mobilization or in the words of Lingis (2007) “impassioned energies”. If the party involved does not adhere to this Measure. your right to shelter is also legally terminated and now that your departure deadline has expired. I sense a courage and a strength of being in you. and builds on itself. In the framework of this Measure I order the party involved to reside in the local district of Vlagtwedde from 26-11-2010. The force that breaks with the cohesion of doubts and deliberations is an upsurge. and more importantly. you are now liable to being cleared out. from your case manager. You are not yet ready to give-up. In another letter you received on the same day. We have informed the police that them may proceed with the clearing of your living space”. No. and one feels trust. 2004. at random. X You have not complied with the Legal requirement to leave the Netherlands of your own free will. your “courageous body is a body attuned to chance. 2004). like a river released from a lock. You still remind me of a rabbit in the headlights. I sense your trying to make “something of things”. densely textured and exposed. I see your face. to hope and terror” (Lingis. 2003). to sell-out. italics added). he is liable to prosecution / punishable by law”. “Trust is a break. Theirs is not a world of “beside” as Kosofsky Sedgwick propounds. a birth. How one feels this force! Before these strangers in whom one’s suspicious and anxious mind elaborates so many scheming motivations.67 losses and proliferating possibilities” (Stewart. in order to trust itself “to be able to deal with the unknown when it shows itself” (Lingis. You received this letter just a few days ago. new rhythms and possibilities. at times waning and frail. a weighted life. but one that nonetheless fights on. • . 2004). A letter addressed to you from the COA states: “We have been informed by the IND that your departure deadline has expired. abruptly one fixes on this one. seeking out potentiality. 108.

.if you've made your peace... Then the devils are really angels Freeing you from the earth... You'll see devils tearing your life away.... away... Fat bloody fingers are sucking your soul away.. away • ... Away.Radiohead: I'm a rabbit in your headlights Scared of the spotlight You don't come to visit I'm stuck in this bed Thin rubber gloves She laughs when she's crying She cries when she's laughing Fat bloody fingers are sucking your soul away.from the earth White worms on the underground Caught between stations Butterfingers I'm losing my patience I'm a rabbit in your headlights Christian suburbanite You got money to burn. (Away... Away.from the earth..........68 A musical interlude Rabbit in your headlights Thom Yorke .away.) I'm a rabbit in your headlights Christian suburbanite Washed down the toilet Money to burn Fat bloody fingers are sucking your soul away.. But.. away...away... Sample from movie Jacob's Ladder : If you're frightened of dyin' and you're holding on.. away.

2 made or adapted for a particular purpose or person.69 (A) tailor-made interlude Tailor made: adj. to our concerns” (single mother asylum seeker from Armenia) “We have an active policy of discouragement” (COA employee) “The COA is afraid of getting involved with us” (male asylum seeker from Iraq . 1 (of clothes) made by a tailor for a particular customer. we are the reception organization that ensures the smooth reception of aliens. (Concise Oxford Dictionary. A tailor-made garment. Slang. 2. so we will pay special attention to your special requests – services that make a difference – the freedom to specify your own dimensions – if you see something you like and it’s not available in your favorite color. “I let them know what life is really like in the Netherlands if they get a resident permit. 2009. in order for the reception of aliens to remain manageable and justifiable for politicians and society at large”. 10th ed) Tailor made: adj. 1. entitled “Tailor Made”: Vision “For Dutch society. (Collins English Dictionary. English version. “Our employees act as guides to the world of health care and offer a helping hand. “I waited 4 weeks to get antibiotics for my children. A cigarette made in a factory rather than rolled by hand. 3. nobody cares” (mother asylum seeker from Syria) Mission “We ensure in a professional manner that people in a vulnerable position are accommodated and supported in a safe and liveable environment. Made by a tailor to fit exactly: a tailor-made suit. if the resident has any questions about the organization of health care”. We do this by providing safe accommodation. we can still make it for you – we can provide for your specific needs……(Google: type in “tailor made services”) Annual Report COA. Perfectly meeting a particular purpose: a girl tailor-made for him. They can forget about education. 4. “We take care of the reception of asylum seekers during the entire asylum procedure”. By the time I got them they were so sick they could hardly stand” (single mother asylum seeker from Chechnya) “We get a bed and an allowance. but they don’t want to listen to our stories. 3rd ed) Tailor made services – based upon needs – made to measure – quality – excellent customer service – just tell us what you’d like and we’d be more than happy to provide it – we know the language. as they’ll more than likely be cleaning streets” (COA employee) “Nobody listens. “COA employees have been given the important task of educating asylum seekers in how health care in the Netherlands is organized”. a means of existence and tailored programmes”. ~ n.

we have to wait months” (male asylum seeker from Iraq) “I don’t think they see us as human beings” (young woman asylum seeker from Armenia) “They didn’t listen when I told them I was being pestered and wanted a transfer. We are only asylum seekers” (adult male asylum seeker from Syria) • . ranging from individual support to informative talks about important issues about the asylum seekers’ centre”. it only leads to problems”. “Our employees paint a picture of participating in society in the training “Knowledge of Dutch Society (KNS)”” “In all stages of the asylum procedure our employees have conversations with the asylum seekers. “Across the alien chain. “Heart for employees”. COA shows what the alternatives are. We don’t pamper them anymore” (COA employee) “They say you’re an asylum seeker. what the best option is on an economic and financial level and in implementation”. That is what COA stands for: made to measure solutions”. safe and controllable living environment where residents can manage by themselves”. “Due to our professionalism. “We accomplish this by offering our residents a home away from home”. “Expert made-to-measure service” “The essential key to success is to keep delivering tailor-made solutions”.70 “Our employees also detect social-medical problems due to the great deal of contact they have with the residents”. They don’t apologize for the inconvenience. It was only when I tried to commit suicide that I got the transfer I requested” (young single mother asylum seeker) “We don’t allow them to show signs from their home countries. (male asylum seeker from Iraq) “I wanted to do a language course. we also provided tailor-made solutions in 2009”. “…. Otherwise we just have to wait until the next day”. “The reception of asylum seekers goes beyond offering a bed. “We are veterans and we know how to give shape to the business of reception”. but nobody tells us anything. like flags. “We add meaning and significance to our work with our mission. vision and ambition to be the reception organization of the Netherlands. but the waiting list is too long. we feel it is obvious to provide tailor-made solutions”. and the noise is unbearable. COA provides a liveable. you didn’t come here for a holiday” (young male asylum seeker from Iraq) “We can only be sick at certain times of day when the office is open. “They have to take care of themselves and their children. In this way.we also delivered tailor-made solutions in 2009. bread and a bath. (COA employee) “The work has been going on outside for weeks.

I reflect. I eschew a radical distinction between “two opposed clusters of values: at one extreme. and argue instead that affective exchanges “begin and end in the space of a gap between events and their meanings” and then “fasten onto the meaningfulness of graphic images of composition and decomposition” (Stewart. ‘objectivity’. the facticity of the social fact. 1990). but misinformed. Poetics is part and parcel of these life-world texts and if we do not intend to “lapse into meaningless solipsism and a ‘private language’” then we “must engage in communicative acts with hearers or readers” (Atkinson. like laying a claim to an imaginary wholeness. nor are they simple records of human experience. I do not lay claim to a “factual exploration of the social or natural world” which is why. That is what the public secret. the ethnographic tale is a utopian tale of self and social redemption. Try to imagine living in a world whose signs were indeed “natural”” (Taussig. As Stewart argues. No matter how sophisticated we may be as to the constructed and arbitrary character of our practices of representation. our practice of practices is one of actively forgetting such mischief each time we open our mouths to ask for something or to make a statement. of affectivity and worlding. arguing that sociology and anthropology alike are rhetorical and moral disciplines. of this methodological maze. The complex interaction of implicit and explicit analysis finds itself interwoven in argumentative arrangements. and at the other ‘art’. or a petrification of moments in time of my choosing. Not to do so would feel dishonest. I do not know the way out of this conundrum. These texts. My authorial “i” / eye is an “i” that is present. ready and willing to account for itself. Seductive. nor so familiar as to seem hackneyed” (Atkinson. More deeply. ‘measurement’. occurrences. Atkinson calls such duality a “gross over-simplification”. ‘subjectivity’. and the “result is an interpretive space in-filled not only with the dialogics of different voices but with the very act of unforgetting the tenuous hold of concept on event” (1996). socially created. 1993) As I write. “Thangs happen” in these 12. And on reflection I am obliged to consider which accounts to include and which accounts to leave out (of my account). with care and attention. These accounts are not meant to cause harm. and occasionally creative beings. Rather “this tale is a means of experience for the reader. We dissimulate. but I purposefully shun “sequences of cause and effect” which Anderson (1978) would argue are necessary to “construct plausible accounts”. ‘facts’. Yet to pick out bits here and there to illustrate some well-conceived point of mine. one which is “richly endowed with ‘concrete interactional events. Try to imagine what would happen if we didn’t in daily practices thus conspire to actively forget what Saussure called the “arbitrariness of the sign”? Or try the opposite experiment. persuasive devices and contrasting rhetorics. 1974). scenes and happenings someplace in the real world” (Lofland. ‘aesthetic’” ( Atkinson. episodes. 1996). perhaps. given that my research requires the accounts of others.71 Is this the END? “Now the strange thing about this silly if not desperate place between the real and the really made-up is that it appears to be where most of us spend most of our time as epistemically correct. I espouse to arrange their empirical reality in an “eventful” way. 1997). reducing events in the “space of the gap” to logical occurrences and objective tellings. 1990). We act and have to act as if mischief were not afoot in the kingdom of the real and that all around the ground lay firm. The attribution of cause and effect would arrest images in their tracks. ‘exactitude’. these accounts which are presented in this discursive exploration of moments of attunement. This work is a (re)construction which has been crafted. images “just come”. ‘science’. exudes an unease pertaining to an essentialisation of my objects. . incidents. a tale that brings a moral compass back into the readers (and the writer’s) life” (Denzin. being a social being is all about. care-fully. To cram all accounts into one would be murderous. attempt to be “neither so ‘novel’ as to be outré. “predicated upon the texts of everyday life”. 1990). It is a vehicle for readers to discover moral truths about themselves. ‘discursive’.

ordered and re-ordered. That’s why they say that all Iraqi’s will get 6 months now to stay and won’t get sent back til it gets better in Iraq”. trust. Despite my best attempts to know the source of the Iraqi optimism. also with flip flops on. linking times. one given to fecund imagination and a proliferation of stories. but it was Sunday after all. about slander. They produced papers from the internet on the worsening security situation in Iraq and on the forced deportation of Iraqi refugees. mindful meanderings and associative ponderings where one never truly arrives at the sense of it all. said and he pointed out their Libyan roommate. imagined. he commented. as “only Allah can protect us”. “Do you think it’s summer” I laughed. but we don’t know when. The unknown cannot be captured. about the founder “Lassange”. A. things which textualize the world in unpredictable ways. spiraling into lyrical tellings which are soaked up. made coffee and we sat around. This space is a cultural space. “I don’t know why. Social life is textualised and “it becomes a space in which people literally “find themselves” caught in space and time and watching to see what happens. “How” I asked. government policy and the “evil eye”. mentioned WikiLeaks stating “that’s got to make a difference to us. not good” according to B. “We don’t know. I got a comment on my jeans – did I just come from a disco he laughed. At the time not. fabulations of some desired cultural and political real. B. I told them this. but people say a Dutch politician from the UN had a problem in Iraq. And she couldn’t do anything about it. narratives which are constructed. Turning time back on itself she remembered what she may ordinarily have wanted to forget. recalling her first time in the Netherlands three years ago. The situation is not good there. in a drunken stupor. that the government was killing people. Africans and Arabs it seemed. and yet it also makes them irreducible subjects encountering a world” (Stewart. the same guy who had been on the lookout for a fight two nights ago. more plausible story emerges. I had just been to see G. I asked what it meant. news. where that which had happened just did. It was freezing. But the lawyer didn’t do things right the first time. invited me to go and have a coffee. the accusations. and people with actions and inactions. when everybody is happy anyway. “Abu T got sent back here. 1981) and opens into tensions. which is something which many Muslims wear. don’t you think? This is fair. So they should look again at the internet. with a bomb in Baghdad. Abu Z. with places. B. and the others tried to make something of the stories. 1996). arrived on his bike too. the internet. Abu Z. Looking around I noticed a Somali man in typical attire – a coloured cloth wrapped around him. Nothing’s better since the elections in March”. then I went to the court and the court gave me a positive answer. whose name they didn’t know. good news. at the WikiLeaks. We exchanged WikiLeaks stories. just what people say. One day I ran into B. “Everybody is happy now” B remarked. but which is “not Muslim. was now bouncing the ball up and down and running madly across the court. with “memory and relating taking on the full weight of unforgetting” (Stewart. him. 1996). and now not. only “we are all happy now. cycling back from the bank. Leyla: I had one negative the first time. That’s important for us”. ways which leave “analysis and description caught in the space of alterity itself where the other remains exorbitant – an irreducible enigma that “refuses to be tamed or domesticated by a theme” (Levinas. that I was in danger. and was just about to leave. everybody says it. me and Abu Z. inserting gaps in the meanings. 1996). and the European Commission. and indeed there is no need felt to rob the allegorical of its magical depths. If they don’t. We heard there will be a new report on Iraq. He has to wait now” I was told. points of view. but B. Maybe they will stop the deportations. it won’t be justice”. The eye that protects. “Don’t know. The money machine wasn’t working he said. was outside in his flip flops. latent possibilities and states of desire” (Stewart. an ethnographic space. There was someone from Mongolia playing too. We hear things about the UN. told and re-told. Sitting in Leyla’s living room she started on about her procedures. clad in a thick woolen hat to protect him from the biting wind. The gaps in the meanings left spaces for exploration. curiously. 1996). It was true that I usually dressed more soberly.72 spaces of alterity. otherwise they wouldn’t have sent . They asked me about these things in my first interview and I told them about these problems. Imagine the circulation of stories. B. about hate campaigns. There was no “finalizing cause and effect and encompassing explanation” (Stewart. At least not now. only to implode in on themselves when a new. A group of lads played basketball outside. The IND had information from the internet during my interview. all Iraqi’s are happy now”.

73 us back to Poland. but one that takes place in the course of historical forces such as the collective saturation of the senses. You can’t got to another AZC. According to Stewart “there are countless such moments in which something throws itself together – moments that require a kind of weak theory or a space in which attending to such things is made habitual. I said it was the lawyer. the seamless sprawl of the built environment. maintained or cast aside. When I lived there [she mentions the place name]. Leyla’s daughter: I think they just don’t like us here in the Netherlands. Difference is complex. the broken windows. My contact person said this is not our problem. they asked how it happened that we got sent back to Poland. because the court had given us a positive decision. the shame. reinforcing her disgust at “those men” in “that place” and the staff who “don’t listen to us”. It is “theory that comes unstuck from its own line of thought to follow the objects it encounters. affinities. “aaay aaay mama”. and of the nightmarish scenes of profanity and inhospitality. the sleep. She [Eve Sedgwick] calls this “reparative” theory – a good thing – in contrast to a “paranoid” or “strong” theory that defends itself against the puncturing of a dream of a perfect parallelism between the analytic subject. I just think he didn’t do his work good enough. She recalled the feelings. This “throwing together” of encounters which share a space and then form a composition of “lived collective fictions composed of diacritical relations. and “oh yo yo” and “ooooh aaayhhh mama”. bruised skin. They don’t like to give transfers I think. and the world – a kind of razed earth for academic conversation”. five months and then one family from Armenia got a transfer. Lianne’s associations with that place drew us into scenes of anger. We don’t know why they are so difficult. And she ranted about what they [the Afghans] wrote about her for the whole AZC to see. and then it was peaceful for a couple of weeks. but he “got moved” anyway. of two friends sharing worlds. I have used the term “new ethnography” to describe my methodological machinations and drawing again on Stewart who uses a term originally coined by Eve Sedgwick in 1997. Difference is. lack of care and loneliness. 1996). I want to live here if I can live peacefully. Not an innocent or uniform space. affects. Stories will get tangled. and supporting one another. differences. you have Dublin. Those men from Afghanistan were pestering me. They don’t have a heart for children in the Netherlands. painful memory and self-parody. her pain at her “robot-like existence” and at “never having anybody to care for me”. I say OK. Vivid memories of her own husband’s harsh treatment of her. who was an “artist” and who was sweet to the children. her concept. the voracious productivity of the marketing industry. We are complex. Only the time was not right for anything more. We just have to give you errr good housing. the hard-edged. or becomes undone by its attention to things that don’t just add up but take on a life of their own as problems for thought. I always got refused. medicine. eccentric characters and unearthly voices all point to a world in which there is more to things than what meets the eye and people are marked by events and drawn out of themselves” (Stewart. understood. interspersed with contempt for those men who do “those things” to women. Ordinary life is complex. emotions fraught. “Leyla bitch f…cks everything”. using words like “aay aay mama”. the chronotypical changes in times and space. I said to COA give me a transfer. But not after a near-death encounter. I can’t live here. his violence. I would like to add “weak theory” (Stewart. his alcoholism. and . The last time I went to see the doctor he was really rude. the fear. Leyla: I will get a definite answer on 8th November. Transfer accomplished. Then Leyla conjured up images of that place. you have to live here. That’s what everybody says. waking in a hospital and moving out the next day to a new AZC. I got so mad I just slammed the door and left. meanings acquired then questioned. I think the whole time about the 8th. 2008) to the picture. 2008). the tablets. But there were stories which dwelled on happy times. I asked for a transfer but I think it’s difficult. caste-like quality of relations of race and class. “Uncertainty and challenge. When I came back the second time and I saw the people from the Refugee Council. Of another “kind man” who helped. lived and relived. so much I have to take sleeping tablet so I can sleep at night. the anger. The last times I wanted a transfer. but I don’t know. that’s what they told me. damaged arms. then dis-embedded. and all the things that happen to the status of the event itself” (Stewart. associations embedded. but above all. Four. But then the troubles with the Afghans started again.

2010). have been truly soaked. As it has never been my goal to construct a text which imposes a theoretical framework on the world or which seeks to reduce complexity and achieve closure. I harbor a slight hope that my attempt to embrace the complexity of this research project has not been in vain. defining them as disempowered or oppressed. of spaces of desire and becoming. Similarly. I set out to do something meaningful and ended up here. instead of the dull and dangerous moment of final conclusions” (Schaafsma. dizzy encounters with the Other. it raises questions as to whether I really do. or some semblance of it to the asylum seekers whose accounts are told in this thesis? Whilst I seriously reflect on whether or not I “steal the other’s voice”. 2005). I am such a researcher which means that the careless bandying of terms like voice without reflecting on its implications. But can I truthfully say that I wanted to layer my text with the voices of the authorities. Epistemological foundations rocked and ontological certainties confounded by a project of surging affectations.74 trajectories” (Stewart. I certainly wanted to explore voice in this thesis. You are you because you are not me. impassioned attunements. seems to characterize my research project. if I am to judge my thesis on the grounds laid out by Letiche in his article “Polyphony and its Other” (Letiche. 2010). as human beings we are partial. and a textualising of the social and the individual. Repression. identity. researchers take a particular ethical stance toward their informants. enraging flirtations with hopeless-ness and powerless-ness. As I stated when I started writing this thesis. disorder. ambiguous and hybrid. . in multi-layered engagements with alterity. multiple and complex (Latimer. 2005). 2010). but feel I have failed therein. These accounts are narrativizations of the complex lives of asylum seekers and are partial in their tellings. regardless of how the informants define themselves” (1993). “critical exploration and continued performance…[and]…the potential to lead to an endless exploration of possibilities. 2009). emancipatory. knowledge. and impose my point of view (Letiche. the voice of the asylum seeker. 1990). letting them engage with those whose voices are historically silenced “as equals and engage in dialogue that is in principle unfinalizable”? (Morson and Emerson. anxiety and violence”. I thought I would make an attempt at a polyphonic text. Did I ever intend to take a less “authoritative role”? Do I want to provide a space for “multiple voices which remain distinct but nonetheless form the unity of an event” (Letiche. my senses. Voice is politicized. overwhelmed. and “touched” in ways which have problematized my epistemological foundations and confounded my sensorial universe (Puig de la Bellacasa. representation. According to Lincoln (1995). And as Wray-Bliss points out “who defines ‘the silenced’ as silenced?”. though. The so-called individual can only be defined by what he or she is not. or did. for those with social ideals pertaining to justice and equality. One in which the senses. 2008). want to create a text in which a “polyphonic discourse” takes place. may be nothing more than a misguided misappropriation of their voices to serve my own naïve goals. “Since everything is relative to everything else. suppression. This when I am not yet able to say whether I do justice. (Robert Cooper. Today is today because it is not yesterday or tomorrow”. Or LeCompte – “by the very act of engaging in critical. one in which “dialogical rather than monological authorship” dominates (Letiche. It raises problems for researchers intent on challenging exclusory practices. nothing is complete in itself but is part of the continuous movement and interaction between things. 2010). I have chosen to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity. oppression and silence consequently imply deprivation and lack of voice. my research has no beginning and no end. In the gap of a social imaginary. 2008) and the nature of our complexity is nowhere more clearly expressed than in our relationality. Indeed. My relation to the asylum seekers is an ethical one. inclusion and exclusion. Reminding me of Genesis by Serres (1995) – a noisy journey into poesis – probing “the relations between order. voice concerns the question “who speaks for those who do not have access to the corridors of knowledge or the venues of the academic disciplines?” It is a concept intricately bound up with empowerment. empowering research. is to be avoided. in full awareness that my ideological endeavour to in some way contribute to giving a voice to the disempowered. 1996). which demands a suspension of the [academic] expectation of coherence and a full or final answer (Butler.

who he or she is.75 Writing this thesis has been a delight. • . 2001). it is to experience the very limits of knowing. To acknowledge one’s opacity or that of another does not transform opacity into transparency. by the way. my reader. To know the limits of acknowledgement is to know even this fact in a limited way. and I will be under a similar obligation to offer forgiveness to others.between what is incommunicable and mute and what is communicable and sayable – was taken from us forever” (Agamben. even enduring. the organizing bodies. a true (re) discovery of the joys of writing (people’s lives) where “our knowing and our meaning making – made possible through our relationship with and through words – are influenced by our work and play with text. By not pursuing satisfaction and by letting the question remain open. it must be allowed to develop its own path. But there is still much more I would like to do. as a result. by which I mean the side of the institutions. Things which I have chosen to leave out in the space of this thesis. we let the other live. The “simple” act of moving words around the page alters the ways we (get to) know text. to ponder over the words of Butler (2005): “When we claim to know and to present ourselves. the ways we get to know knowing” (Rasberry. 1998). who are also constituted in partial opacity to themselves. And now that a passion to write has been awakened. And why “in the camps. Through writing” (Rasberry. To try to understand why “there is no return from the camps to classical politics”. I embrace this version of recognition. is granted in the future. especially if my request to research “the other side”. it will be important not to expect an answer that will ever satisfy. If letting the other live is part of any ethical definition of recognition. And I will leave you. or ask that the other say. and the possibility of differentiating between our biological body and our political body . We cannot reasonably expect anything different from others in return. This can. and to meander a journey of “knowing and now knowing enacted. then this version of recognition will be based less on knowledge than on an apprehension of epistemic limits”. we will fail in some ways that are nevertheless essential to who we are. finally or definitively. I will carry on my research with asylum seekers. 2001). city and house became indistinguishable. and may explore polyphony in greater depth. If the identity we say we are cannot possibly capture us and marks immediately an excess and opacity that falls outside the categories of identity. Things like a more in-depth reading of Agamben. constitute a disposition of humility and generosity alike: I will need to be forgiven for what I cannot have fully known. then any effort “to give an account of oneself” will have to fail in order to approach being true. As we ask to know the other. since life might be understood as precisely that which exceeds any account we may try to give of it.

And it is well you should. “I have found the path of the soul. but also a readiness to read texts from a more ‘literary-critical’ perspective” (Atkinson. how we “write lives”. The soul unfolds itself. The demands on rigor will undoubtedly increase as our engagement with reflexivity and complexity increases. The soul walks not upon a line. But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure.” but rather. Not only do we need to cultivate a self-conscious construction of ethnographic texts. The first steps I have trodden have lead me to the enchanting world of social poetics and to realize the significance of (our) texts in how we (re)produce knowledge and (re)present the world around us. and particularly on social ethnographers. arguing that “if we comprehend how our understandings of the world are fashioned and conveyed. 1990) and I encourage others to enter this entrancing arena of research. ethnography and social poetics with me. on which I am now starting to embark.76 Postscript – an En-trance(ment) “And a man said. then we need not fear that selfunderstanding. 1990). But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.” Say rather.” Say not. A journey whose exploratory potential as yet is unknown. Rather than detracting from our scholarly endeavours. . My research now and in the future will engage in this “fascination” with my own writing and “the writing of others” (Atkinson. And he answered. the possibilities and limits of its own language. textual devices” they employ. For self is a sea boundless and measureless. saying: Your hearts know in silence the streets of the days and the nights. serving as an en-trance to a journey of entrancement. “I have found a truth. as there are countless roads which could be followed. Atkinson (1990) calls on researchers. An arena wherein “the fully mature ethnography requires a reflexive awareness of its own writing. You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams. “I have met the soul walking upon my path. And seek not the depths of your know-ledge with staff or sounding line. Say not “I have found the truth. You would know in words that which you have always known in thought. to be critical of the “rhetorical. The Prophet) I recognise that this thesis opens more doors than it closes.” For the soul walks upon all paths. Speak to us of Self-Knowledge. The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea.” (Khalil Gibran. But our journey will never be dull. And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes. neither does it grow like a reed. and a principled exploration of its modes of representation. an understanding of our textual practices can only strengthen the critical reflection of a mature discipline”. like a lotus of countless petals.

Where I also sought to add something to the debate on researcher reflexivity and to stimulate other scholars to delve deeper into methodological questions on how to research and how to write affectively. I ended up. Perhaps this risk of “unknowingness” was what entranced me to “become undone” in my relations (with asylum seekers) and it may arguably be the only path which really “constitutes our chance of becoming human” (Butler. in the words of Rasberry (2001).” And that this piece will make/makes a meaningful contribution to an understanding of the lives of those I have written (about). in order to “remember myself differently”. and the complex dynamics involved in the (extra)ordinary practice of day-to-day living in an asylum centre. “forgetting” who I was.77 I hope that in some way my research has achieved my initial goal of “Finding out what a self-other account of asylum seekers looks like if I try to get to know them. 2005) • .

78 .

79 .

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