The rationalities of migration management: Control and subversion in an Indonesia-based counter-smuggling campaign

Anne McNevin, Antje Missbach, Deddy Mulyana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines an Australian-funded counter-smuggling campaign
delivered in Indonesia from 2009 to 2014 as an example of the global
regulatory regime known as Migration Management. Drawing on fieldwork
conducted in Indonesia among the fishing communities targeted
by the campaign, we problematize the campaign’s purported success.
The appearance of success, we argue, is linked to four interrelated rationalities of governance—security, humanitarianism, managerialism, and colonialism—that shape the terms of reference through which the campaign was conceived, designed, and evaluated. These rationalities “make sense” of a campaign that can otherwise be read as indicative of circular and misdirected strategies of border security. In a second move, we show how the techniques deployed in the campaign give rise to challenges to technocratic control. We argue, by extension, that Migration Management is subject to subtle disruptions and subversions that emanate from the very rationalities through which it is sustained. Our argument exposes the politics at stake in a regulatory regime that is represented as neutral and of benefit to all. It also shows what stands in the way of template reproduction of the Management agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223–240
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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