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Expanding the theoretical framework for understanding EU migration management: Foucault, governmentality and domopolitics

Rachael Dickson Hillyard

Contributing to a growing literature on how the EU responds to crisis, this paper shows the utility of critical theory for expanding understanding of the EU’s crisis governance. Studies of EU migration management are largely focused on functionality and seek to provide explanation as to why the EU cannot establish a community-response to the challenges of migration. Further the paper address calls from within the discipline which asks for a re-thinking of how we ‘do’ European Studies and an elaboration of theoretical approaches.By re-conceiving the migrant crisis as what Foucault terms a ‘problem of government’, the paper will outline new tools which help further our understanding of the EU’s rights governance. Firstly, I will detail how the EU adopts a domopolitical rights narrative to shield an underlying, paralysing solidarity deficiency. Secondly, drawing on theories of resilience and wellbeing, I will show how this domopolitics operates a (re)conceptualisation of the migrant subject as a knowable phenomenon whose conduct can be treated by EU governance. Lastly, I will present the argument that these narratives unsettle the EU’s identity as an international human rights actor, and advocate for the expansion of understandings of ethics within the rights project.

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