In August 2015, John Erni gave a public lecture titled “The Included-outs: Theorizing Refuge in the New Sovereignties of Human Rights”, organized by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Melbourne.
This lecture examines contemporary politics of migration, semi-integration, and resettlement in the context of the liberal state regime of citizenship control and management. Erni grounds this kind of consideration on the general observation that for some time now, citizenship control and management has been practised through what I call a state of being “included-out,” which is something augmented by nebulous, but rights-based, doctrines of citizenship as well as by legalised and informal forms of cultural racialism. This transformation, well-evident today, represents a move away from the multiverse of restricted citizenship and border control to a general social economy generating an instability of “belonging” as a structure of felt, lived, and often feared reality. The case of postcolonial Hong Kong, suggests the work of deciphering questions of belonging is still ongoing, and has in fact intensified in recent times. Increasingly, who qualifies as a citizen and where their sense of home is have become vital questions for two visible groups: the Chinese Mainlanders whose personal and cultural fortunes have been transformed by opportunities presented by the permeability of the city-border, and the foreign domestic helpers whose right of belonging has been caught in the discrimination of immigration laws. Erni argues that their fates are conjoined by the state of being “included-out.” Through an analysis of the landscape of human rights struggles concerning the right of abode for people caught in half-sovereignty, this lecture outlines the biopolitical continuum of the “included-out” in citizenship management regime, in Hong Kong and beyond.