Disgust: Border work as dirty work

Event date
7 February 2024
Event time
15:30 - 16:45
Oxford week
HT 4
Microsoft Teams: please find the link to join below.

Ana Aliverti, Warwick University

Notes & Changes

This chapter builds on the moral philosophy of emotions and the sociology of policing to illuminate our understanding on the significance of disgust in border policing. Disgust is uniquely connected to the body: it is intrinsically linked to ‘tactile’ senses (touch, smell, taste), and its primary objects (semen, blood, sweat, feces, urine) signal a visceral revulsion to our embodied, animal self. It attempts to insulate us from these objects through magical thought of contagion, and creates disgust-based social subordination by attributing polluting features to certain human beings considered emblematic of the animal. Disgust is said to pervade certain occupations considered ‘dirty’ or ‘tainted’: physically, socially and morally. Border policing fits squarely within such category given its morally contentious nature, because of the conditions involved, which expose officers to various ‘pollutants’ -including diseases-, and because their clientele features one of the most publicly despised populations in countries around the world. Cleansing rituals, such as hygiene practices and the use of protective gear, these officers practice daily seek to control pollution, while revealing the stigma attached to their profession. The chapter explores disgust in and of border work as one of its critical features asking: what does it mean to embody the state under these conditions? and what are the social and political implications of it?     


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