Necropolitics and the migrant as a political subject of disgust: the precarious everyday of Russia’s labour migrants

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has positioned itself as a modernising country (re)built on the profits of its energy boom and the efforts of, currently, over four million labour migrants, the majority from Central Asia. Far too many migrants endure an extremely precarious everyday as they are forced to live in what this article describes as a citywide state of exception, within which legal frameworks protecting migrants are ignored or misinterpreted to the benefit of the market. Many migrants who desire ‘legality’ are forced into ‘illegality’ by their employers and landlords refusing to register their documents correctly, increasing their vulnerability. Such abuses are facilitated by the state construction of migrants as diseased and criminal, which in turn becomes embedded into cultural imaginations. Employing Mbembe’s theory of necropolitics, this paper theorises how these constructions position migrants as superfluous and that they can be ‘let to die’. The research demonstrates that migrants are simultaneously visible and invisible to the state; with the latter, the legal uncertainty denies migrants access to welfare and a voice within the city, but they are visible for exploitation both in terms of their labour and the political capital gained from their presence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1034
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number7-8
Early online date25 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • criminality
  • human geography
  • 'illegal' migration
  • informality
  • necropolitics
  • Russia
  • sociology


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