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Abstract

The lives and labour of migrants are increasingly shaped by political precarity and rightlessness in an unevenly globalized world. We argue that 'undesirableness' rather than mobility is constitutive of the 'migrant' position. Besides underscoring the asymmetrical power relations that define the position of the 'migrant' vis-à-vis the receiving state and society, an optic of 'undesirableness' also foregrounds the governmental techniques deployed to produce the figure of the 'migrant'. We suggest that the framing of migrants as 'unwanted' is pivotal to the European non-entrée regime, which parallels cultural exclusion through an Orientalization of the discourse on migration. The immutable cultural alterity of the (Muslim) 'migrant' is thus presumed to pose a perennial threat to Western 'liberal' values. Two assumptions undergird this narrative of the 'undesirable' migrant as the quintessential 'Other' of the European Self: cultural determination of behaviour in migrant communities, and incompatibility of 'migrant cultures' with those of 'host' societies.

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