(Ir)regular states of migration: Contested sovereignties on Europe’s margins

How do state agents who guard the Greek and the European border experience the collapse of the border? Why are people committed to performing bureaucratic procedures they consider irregular and futile? When does the UNHCR “become” the state? What does it mean to “work for Europe?” This paper is concerned with how the lived experiences of people governing irregular migration help us understand broader processes regarding sovereign power and the state. Located at a moment of rupture –the “European migration crisis” and the “Greek crisis”– the paper examines the configurations of sovereignty, and the negotiations, collaborations and overlapping authorities between state, supra-state, and non-state agents. Sovereign power is performed through irregularity, powerlessness and disorder. Such elements of governing have been explored by anthropologists especially in regard to their effects on marginal populations. Yet, this paper will interrogate how they are experienced in everyday life not by the people who receive sovereign power, but by the people who perform it.