(In)coherent subjects? The politics of conceptualising resistance in the UK asylum system

Sarah Hughes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Many accounts of resistance within systems of migration control pivot upon a coherent migrant subject, one that is imbued with political agency and posited as oppositional to particular forms of sovereign power. Drawing upon ethnographic research into the role of creativity within the UK asylum system, I argue that grounding resistance with a stable, coherent and agentic subject, aligns with oppositional narratives (of power vs resistance), and thereby risks negating the entangled politics of the (in)coherence of subject formation, and how this can contain the potential to disrupt, disturb or interrupt the practices and premise of the UK asylum system. I suggest that charity groups and subjects should not be written out of narratives of resistance apriori because they engage with ‘the state’: firstly, because to argue that there is a particular form that resistance should take is to place limits around what counts as the political; and secondly, because to ‘remain oppositional’ is at odds with an (in)coherent subject. I show how accounts which highlight a messy and ambiguous subjectivity, could be bought into understandings of resistance. This is important because as academics, we too participate in the delineation of the political and what counts as resistance. In predetermining what subjects, and forms of political action count as resistance we risk denying recognition to those within this system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-560
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


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