The Deportation Plane: Charter Flights and Carceral Mobilities

Dec 06, 2023  | 12 - 1pm ET

Virtual Event (by invite only) | Speaker: William Walters (Carleton University); Barbara Lüthi (Leipzig University, Germany)

William Walters in conversation with the International Standing Working Group “In Global Transit” at the GHI Washington

This conversation calls for greater attention to air deportation, defined as the multiple ways in which states utilize aviation systems for the purpose of expelling unwanted people under immigration and criminal law. Civil aviation is pivotal to the expulsion of people from the countries of the global North, yet scholars of deportation have rarely addressed questions of aerial mobility. The presentation makes two moves to center aerial and carceral mobilities within the study of deportation. (1) Empirically, and taking the UK for its case material, it brings scholarly attention to one particular practice of air deportation: the phenomenon of charter flights. These are special operations on which there are no regular passengers, just deportees who are out-numbered by Detainee Custody Officers and other authorities. (2) Conceptually, the presentation develops three tools from this case to advance the study of carceral circuits and mobilities: custodial chains, affordances and encumbrances. By helping us better understand agonistic power relations, and by offering a contextualized account of change attuned to the interplay of a variety of factors, these concepts can promote a more mobilities-attuned understanding of deportation by plane. They can also help us better understand tension and transformation in carceral mobilities.

This event is by invitation only. If you would like to learn more about the network and past activities related to “In Global Transit,” please visit or the recently published interview in which GHI Director Simone Lässig explains potentials and perspectives of transit research and our motivation behind the international standing working group.

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