University of Cambridge > > Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography > Colonial Afterlives of Infrastructure: From Phosphate to Asylum Processing in the Republic of Nauru

Colonial Afterlives of Infrastructure: From Phosphate to Asylum Processing in the Republic of Nauru

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Recent years have witnessed the outsourcing of immigration and border controls to economically struggling states. Infrastructural projects around controlling migration are transforming localities in the Global South: from shifting legal and political economic systems to altering socialities between migrant and local populations. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in the Republic of Nauru, this talk considers how past and present infrastructural forms give shape to the ways that (in)justices are created through the concept of the ‘colonial afterlives of infrastructure.’ Nauru, the world’s smallest island state, was almost entirely economically dependent on the phosphate industry in the twentieth century. After the wealth it derived from phosphate extraction was depleted in the 1990s, the sovereign state resurged on the back of the asylum industry by importing Australia’s maritime asylum seeking populations. In this talk, I examine the material life of infrastructure around managing migration in Nauru’s 21 km2 locality, including the toxic interrelationships between phosphate and asylum processing, the industries’ built environments, and the people who live and work in them. I explore how Nauru’s refugee project has reconfigured colonial infrastructural forms, practices of dependency, and socio-legal affiliations as the country is refashioned as a company town in line with new forms of human production.

This talk is part of the Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography series.

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