Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The paper examines how Kurdish asylum seekers in Japan, whose applications for refugee status are pending, receive care while surviving the prolonged waiting. Through ethnographic interviews with asylum seekers who are being detained by the Immigration Control Bureau (ICB), those who are being provisionally released by ICB with the pending asylum application, and Japanese non-governmental organization and Kurdish community group members who help the asylum-seeking Kurds, more than 3,000 of whom living near Tokyo, this paper argues that the very survival while waiting for obtaining the legal status itself is an act of resistance against the Japanese government, which has been steadfastly restrictive toward asylum seekers. The study contributes to the existing scholarships in human geography and anthropology on what philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls “spaces of exception,” wherein regular legal norms are suspended and people are subjected to summary violence, and on what cultural geographer Deidre Conlon calls protracted waiting, the situation which is subjugating those forced to wait and simultaneously pregnant with the possibility of political struggle. The paper attempts to extend the conceptual scope of “spaces of exception” by understanding the state power’s influence beyond the confinement of migrant detention center and by ethnographically portraying the “political struggle of waiting” by those who endure the process.