‘Working in this place turns you racist’: Staff, race, and power in detention

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Drawing on fieldwork in two British immigration removal centres (IRCs), this chapter discusses staff accounts of race and racism in detention. Designed as places to expel unwanted foreign citizens, IRCs are highly racialized institutions as nearly all residents within them are members of an ethnic minority. What is it like to work in such places? How, if at all, do staff members internalize or promote ideas about race and racialization? What happens when the staff members themselves are migrants or second-generation British citizens? How do they view and interpret ideas of race? What is their status within the workforce? By focusing on staff accounts rather than detainees, this chapter seeks to widen our understanding of the ways in which these institutions of confinement maintain, reinforce, and maybe sometimes disrupt ideas of race and belonging in British society.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRace, Criminal Justice, and Migration Control
Subtitle of host publicationEnforcing the Boundaries of Belonging
EditorsMary Bosworth, Alpa Parmar, Yolanda Vázquez
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780198814887
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Affect
  • Ambivalence
  • Colonialism
  • Diversity
  • Ethnography
  • Expertise
  • Immigration detention
  • Nationality
  • Racism
  • Staff

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