Bare life: Border-crossing deaths and spaces of moral alibi

Roxanne Doty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


This paper examines the US border control strategy of 'prevention through deterrence' as an instance of biopolitics that has resulted in an alarming increase in migrant deaths over the past sixteen years. I argue that this policy renders unauthorized migrants as 'bare life', individuals whose deaths are deemed of little consequence. Geographic space has been an essential aspect of this policy, both for its presumed (though not realized) deterrent power and in the fact that it provides a moral alibi that enables policy makers to deny responsibility for the deaths. This study contributes to recent conversations on biopower and bare life by (1) highlighting the fact that biopower as it pertains to the constitution of 'the population' is far from being solely a local or national phenomenon, but rather is inherently connected to drawing distinctions between the national and the international and by (2) arguing for the significance of race in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-612
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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