Undocumented: Architecture of Migrant Detention

Tings Chak questions the role of architecture in migrant detention across North America

In the past six years, over 80,000 people have been jailed, without charge or trial, with no end in sight. This includes children, who are detained or are separated indefinitely from their caregivers. This is the reality of immigration detention in Canada - a reality that is violently invisibilized. Migrants are detained primarily because they are undocumented. Likewise, these sites of detention bare little trace —drawings and photos are classified; access is extremely limited. The detention centres, too, are undocumented.

Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention documents the banality and violence of the architecture in contrast to the stories of daily resistance among immigration detainees. This book explores migrant detention centres in Canada, the fastest growing incarceration sector in North America's prison industrial complex, and questions the role of architectural design in the control and management of migrant bodies in such spaces. Using the conventional architectural tools of representation, we situate, spatialize, and confront the silenced voices of those who are detained and the anonymous individuals who design spaces of confinement.

This slim book does not only contain more detail of the architecture of detention centres than some scholarly works on the architecture of incarceration, but it begins to outline the invisible experience of hidden-away people in hidden-away places.' --Raphael Sperry, President of Architects/Planners/Designers for Social Responsibility (ADPSR-USA)

Tings Chak has produced an essential resource for migrant justice and prison abolition movements. The architecture of incarceration - the maze of cameras, locks, guards, fluorescent lights, crammed cells - shatters the government myth of migrant detention as a hotel. By being attune to the simple details, this graphic novel brilliantly subverts what is supposed to remain invisible and locked away." --- Harsha Walia, Co-founder of No One Is Illegal and author of Undoing Border Imperialism

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Photo Credit: Deane Madsen, Tings Chak