Violence on the Body: A Manual for French Police Escorting Illegal Immigrants

by | 29 Apr 2011

How to expel and illegal immigrant

The last decade has seen Europe experience a very important wave of xenophobia that is modifying our institutions in their very essence. As two current examples, Hungary is modifying its constitution in order to declare Christians “normal citizens” and Italy and France are threatening Schengen space to know who will have to take care of 20 000 Tunisian emigres who just fled their country.

In this context, the French alternative press website Mediapart (here is a link to the English version) just released a manual created for the French police containing clandestine escort preocedures to the border. In this manual, dozens of pages describe the procedure of strangulation in order to potentially calm who they call “the foreigner”. That’s in fact his only crime, believing that globalization was not just for goods, but also for people. He is categorized as absolute otherness, the one we are taught to fear and to expel.

The pages of description of the strangulation are interesting to look at. Their coldness reveals the banality of violence, and yet two things strike me:

The first is that the photos present this violence as a choreography that appears even more terrifying as it gives to it the disturbing ambiguity between an embrace and a rape.

The second is the analytical presentation of it that reminds me of the presentation of an architectural project. Diagrams, elevations (it shows front side and back), perspectives, texts, everything is here to describe an action on the body. This is a reading I do, in the spectrum of my thesis, which is that architecture is weaponized; it carries inherently a tremendous power on the body and exercises it by its physicality. This argument might appear exaggerated, especially in this extreme case, but I include at the end some photographs by Edmund Clark, taken in the current extreme architectural paradigm in this matter: Guantanamo camp. In both cases, violence is expressed in its banalization which is the absolute danger of our so-called liberal and democratic societies.

Léopold Lambert is an architect and Editor of The Funambulist,


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