Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer



Vol. 5 No. 3 (2022): The Critical Phenomenology of Borders and Migration

Border Deaths as Forced Disappearances: Frantz Fanon and the Outlines of a Critical Phenomenology

  • Ayten Gündoğdu
February 9, 2023


This article aims to examine the racialized forms of violence enacted by contemporary border regimes by rethinking border deaths as “forced disappearances." Although “forced disappearance” is often associated with military dictatorships, I extend it to border control policies that push migrants beyond the pale of the law, make it difficult to find out about their fates or whereabouts, and render their lives disposable. In thinking about border deaths as forced disappearances, I move beyond the strictly juridical meaning of this term and foreground its phenomenological resonances to inquire into the conditions of appearance and disappearance, including the social structures, normative orders, and representational frameworks that make and unmake one’s relations to the world and other living beings. To undertake such an inquiry, I engage with Frantz Fanon's works and examine how borders establish racialized partitions among both the living and the dead. The analysis highlights how certain elements of colonialism—spatial compartmentalization, racial immobilization, routinized violence, legalized lawlessness—reappear within border governance. It also points to the crucial role that law plays in legitimizing racialized state violence in border control.