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Nothing Personal?: Geographies of Governing and Activism in the British Asylum System

ISBN: 978-1-4443-6705-8
240 pages
February 2016, Wiley-Blackwell
Nothing Personal?: Geographies of Governing and Activism in the British Asylum System (1444367056) cover image


In this groundbreaking new study, Nick Gill provides a conceptually innovative account of the ways in which indifference to the desperation and hardship faced by thousands of migrants fleeing persecution and exploitation comes about.

  • Features original, unpublished empirical material from four Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded projects
  • Challenges the consensus that border controls are necessary or desirable in contemporary society
  • Demonstrates how immigration decision makers are immersed in a suffocating web of institutionalized processes that greatly hinder their objectivity and limit their access to alternative perspectives
  • Theoretically informed throughout, drawing on the work of a range of social theorists, including Max Weber, Zygmunt Bauman, Emmanuel Levinas, and Georg Simmel
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Table of Contents

Series Editors’ Preface viii

List of Figures ix

Acronyms xi

Acknowledgements xii

1 Introduction 1

2 Moral Distance and Bureaucracy 21

3 Distant Bureaucrats 48

4 Distance at Close Quarters 76

5 Indifference Towards Suffering Others During Sustained Contact 107

6 Indifference and Emotions 135

7 Examining Compassion 156

8 Conclusion 179

Methodological Appendix 191

References 196

Index 216

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Author Information

Nick Gill is Associate Professor of Human Geography at the University of Exeter. Co-editor of Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migration Detention (with D. Moran and D. Conlon, 2013) and Mobilities and Forced Migration (with J. Caletrio and V. Mason, 2013), Dr. Gill has published widely on forced migration, devolution, governance and activism. His current research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, focuses on activism around irregular migration and the legal geographies of border control.
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‘In this important book, Gill puts morality, suffering and compassion at the heart of asylum politics and scholarship. Drawing on empirical research, he offers a damning account of how the British immigration system has created a culture of indifference towards asylum seekers and examines the compassionate, but ‘risky’, activisms that have arisen in response to the immorality of border controls.'
- Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University, UK

Nothing Personal is personal: a thoughtful and timely analysis of the roles played by morality and indifference shaping detention in the UK. Gill insightfully explores spatial strategies such as dispersal, separation, buffering, and distance to better understand how people suffer (and die) in the custody of officials. This is an important read for anyone interested in understanding the people who run detention and asylum systems, and the politics of indifference at work there.'
- Alison Mountz, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
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