Embarking on an anthropology of removal

Nathalie Peutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article calls for an ethnographic and theoretical investigation of removal (and specifically, deportation) that would broaden our understanding of the significance of this purportedly routine state practice. Based on fieldwork conducted in Somaliland in 2002 and 2003, it takes as its text the narratives of a group of Somalis deported from the United States and Canada following the events of September 11, 2001. As "criminal aliens," the majority of these men (and one woman) had been incarcerated both as prisoners and as administrative detainees before being deported unexpectedly to stateless Somalia. Yet, the somewhat exceptional nature of this particular deportation highlights the various political and social exclusions that might be overlooked in the more regular instances of deportation (e.g., that of "illegal" immigrants and rejected asylum seekers). By following the trajectories of these Muslim deportees from incarceration in the host state to reincorporation/alienation at home, it points to the legal and financial domains that underpin present-day practices of deportation and the embodied and chronotopic experiences they effect. Further, this article outlines how future anthropological work on removal might proceed while underscoring the relevance of this field to the studies of citizenship and transnationalism, globalization, and governmentality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-241
Number of pages25
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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