Planet Earth on the background of blurred lights of the city

Global Challenges and Social Justice

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Processes and practices of ordering

Processes and practices of ordering

Road edge which meets the grass line, bordered by a white line

By John Clarke

In her seminar, Catherine Neveu linked the processes of citizenship to the norms and patterns of social order. I think it may be productive to reframe issues in terms of processes and practices of ordering. First, this would bring these issues into closer conceptual alignment with her approach to citizenship. Second, it would draw attention to the work that is involved in imagining, institutionalising and enforcing forms of order. Third, thinking about ordering as always in process would enable us to see the incomplete or unfinished character of these projected orders.

They are always hard to project, to install, to maintain. And they often struggle to achieve their desired effects even as they cause much misery and disorder along the way. Think, for example of the long and turbulent histories of forms of patriarchal authority or the orderings of racial hierarchies. People often prove intractable in the face of such ordering visions.

One of the places where citizenship and practices of ordering meet is at the borders of the nation. Borders have become increasingly significant political focal points in the rise of angry forms of nationalism and have been the focus of governments as they seek to keep the wrong people out by building walls and fences or by intensifying forms of border control. These issues have historically focused on the physical sites of the territorial borders of nations (with their walls, fences and crossing points where the sifting of people into the desired and undesirable takes place). But borders have been both externalised and internalised.

The management of migrants has also been systematically externalised through a range of mechanisms, such as Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ in which migrants are held in detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru to be ‘processed’. Perhaps less obvious, but no less significant, has been the EU’s capacity to manipulate, move and stretch its borders, increasingly outsourcing border controls and the management of migration to countries in the ‘European Neighbourhood’, enrolling non-EU countries around the Mediterranean region into such processes. Post-Brexit, the UK government has also hunted around for places willing to conduct its people processing (including recent proposals for deportation to Rwanda).

At the same time, the policing of national borders has been internalised through a variety of practices in which proof of belonging can be demanded. Police checks are a long established way of doing such borderwork, but other agencies have increasingly been drawn into these practices: in the UK, public agencies from health services to schools and private entities such as landlords and employers have been required to perform nationality checks on those who come their way (see Yuval-Davis, Wemyss and Cassidy, 2019, on ‘everyday bordering’ practices). In such ways, ordering and bordering are intimately entwined.