Corrosive places, inhuman spaces: Mental health in Australian immigration detention

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Abstract

Since their establishment in 1992, Australian Immigration Detention Centres have been the focus of increasing concern due to allegations of their serious impact on the mental health of asylum seekers. Informed by Foucault's treatise on surveillance and the phenomenological work of Casey, this paper extends the current clinical data by examining the architecture and location of detention centres, and the complex relationships between space, place and mental health. In spatialising these relationships, we argue that Immigration Detention Centres operate not only as Panopticons, but are embodied by asylum seekers as ‘anti-places’: as places that mediate and constitute thinned out and liminal experiences. In particular, it is the embodied effects of surveillance and suspended liminality that impact on mental health. An approach which locates the embodiment of place and space as central to the poor mental health of asylum seekers adds an important dimension to our understandings of (dis)placement and mental health in the lives of the exiled.

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