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Politics of (In)visibility: Governance-Resistance and the Constitution of Refugee Subjectivities in Malaysia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)876-894
Number of pages19
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number5
Early online date31 May 2016
Accepted/In press31 Mar 2016
E-pub ahead of print31 May 2016
Published1 Dec 2016


King's Authors


This article explores the relationality of governance and resistance in the context of the constitution of refugee subjectivities in Malaysia. Whilst recognising their precarity, the article moves away from conceiving of refugees merely as victims subjected to violence and control, and to contribute to an emerging body of literature on migrant resistance. Its contribution lies in examining practices of resistance, and the specific context in which they emerge, without conceptualising power-resistance as a binary, and without conceiving of refugees as pre-constituted subjects. Rather, drawing on the thought of Michel Foucault, the article examines how refugee subjectivities come into being through a play of governance-resistance, of practices and strategies that may be simultaneously affirmative, subversive, exclusionary and oppressive. The relationality and mobility of this play is illustrated through an examination of practices surrounding UNHCR identity cards, community organisations and education. Secondly, governance-resistance is conceptualised as a play of visibility and invisibility, understood both visually and in terms of knowledge production. What I refer to as the politics of (in)visibility indicates that refugee subjectivities are both constituted and become other than “the refugee” through a continuous play of coming into being, becoming governable, claiming a presence, blending in and remaining invisible.

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