Mobility injustices, racialised bodies, and Australia’s pandemic borders: The history of the present

'Fighting Flu on the Torres Straits Islands', published in The Queenslander, 3 April 1920. Courtesy of the State Library of Queensland.

Dr Umut Ozguc, Deakin University

Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic creates multiple forms of racialised borders at both national and local levels. In the context of the current health crisis, the unequal implications of lockdown measures and multiple layers of bordering practices reconstructs the persistent racial mobility injustices in Australia. This research adopts a critical approach to the study of borders and defines border not just as a line on the map, but as an affective practice/experience. Borders are always (re)created and contested by the bodies on the move, their representations, and their entanglements with one another. The project offers a new perspective on Australia’s pandemic borders through a historical analysis of borders understood as affective practices. It builds on the proposition that the contemporary pandemic borders reflect Australia’s enduring border obsession that has been constitutive of racial subjectivities since the European invasion of the continent. Taking this proposition as a starting point, the project historicises Australia’s contemporary pandemic borders and explores what forms of racial subjectivities shaped official responses to Australia’s past public health crises in the twentieth century. It examines how the racial boundaries have been enacted in Australia over time, how they are normalised and reproduced, as well as contested and resisted. By linking the discussions on settler colonialism with the notion of racialised borders, the project will provide new insights on the link between public health crises, racialised bodies and mobility injustices.

Dr. Umut Ozguc is a Lecturer in International Relations and Politics at Deakin University. Her areas of expertise include border politics, critical security studies, settler-colonialism and carceral geographies.

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