Tag Archives: KIHC

Larsen’s theorization of the of the Kingston Immigration Holding Center vs Agamben’s theory of the camp.

Larsen’s theorization of the of the Kingston Immigration Holding Center  and Agamben ‘s theory of the camp have similar and different view of the effects that a state can do when an emergency occurs. Firstly, Agamben’s theorization of the camp is a theory of normalized exceptionality. For Agamben the camp is the place that is created when the state of exception begins to become the rule. Moreover the state, can achieve all this through sovereign power. Additionally, the concept of the camp can explicate the legal space created by normalized exceptionality. The theorization of KIHC presented by Larsen and Piche in their Canadian Journal of Law and Society article states that the KIHC can be understood as spaces of normalized exceptionality. In addition, the main difference between the theorization of KIHC presented Larsen and Piche are the zones and the spaces of the prisons. Exceptional practices and organizational mandates are discussed by Larsen and Piche because sovereign power and counter law allow extraordinary actions. Both authors mentioned that legal exception harm individuals and violate their rights. These individuals are not treated as they are supposed to be treated because of the power giving to these organizations by the government. In addition, Larsen uses the theory to assimilated to modern times and to explicate the legal exceptions and the power that the State has during emergencies. On the other hand, Agamben demonstrated that people live in a society where the state is constantly on emergency and utilizes the law as an instrument to manipulate individuals (Pavlich, 2011). Additionally, Larsen explicates that exception happen because when the state is under danger, exceptions arise.  However, Agamben argued that the government always had the power to control individuals through different ways.

Both Larsen and Piche, were not in favour of the security certificates for their purpose to punish individuals. The government of Canada authorized the Ministers of Public Safety and Citizenship and Immigration to sign a document that allows detaining an individual without Canadian citizenship status. That person would be inadmissible to Canada; the person would be detained and expulsed. Moreover, the state exception takes the form of counter-law – laws against law or rules about exception to rules. The key tenet is that precautionary logic demands acts intended to ward off imagined source of harm (Pavlich, 2011). However, when individuals are detained harm is performed to them. These organizations are distorted by states of exception. The author mentioned “what begins as an exercise in (in) security problem solving can, overtime, evolve into a set of “best practices, stable partnerships and even new institutions” (Larsen, 2013). Certainly, I agree with his views that sometimes certain legislations arise due to certain emergencies. Some violate individual’s rights but at the same time it is necessary to have new legislation; new crimes are emerging into society and it is necessary to have people decide what type of measures should be taken because the state cannot detain individuals for no reason and have them incarcerated to a long time and at the same time violating their rights.

References :

CRIM 3305-Law and Society Handout-Mike Larsen

Lecture CRIM 3305-Law and Society October 23th 2012- Mike Larsen

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Larsen, M. and Justin Piché. Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre.


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The State of Exception: just or unjust?

The theorization of KIHC presented by Larsen and Piché in their Canadian Journal of Law and Society differs from Agamben’s theorization of the camp in a following manner: while Agamben notes the state of exception to be normalized, Larsen and Piché believe the state of exception to be institutionalized. That is, for Agamben, the individuals detained have the status of a bare life. In brief, the subjects are classified as bandits. Bandits are explained as “…subjects deposited (banned) in a netherworld that is neither ‘animal’ nor ‘man’…[t]hese subjects are both banned and abandoned by law as excluded entities” (Pavlich, 2011, p.158). For example, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions” (Hersh, 2004). Conversely, Larsen and Piché contend that there is “…blurring of mandates [and] the blending of authority…”(Larsen, 2012).

In addition, other theorists such as Butler and Ericson view state of exception in a different manner. On one hand, Butler views the state of exception to be governmentalized; on the other hand, Ericson perceives the state of exception to be legalized. For example, Butler notes that there is not one dictator but different government officials (also referred to as petty sovereigns) who make the decision of whom to detain. However, Ericson brings forward the concept of ‘counter law’ which gives the government the ability to use one type of law to circumvent another law. For instance, there is extensive security at the airport to prevent any unlawful activities from occurring.

Also, in the article, “Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention” by Larsen and Piché, the authors make a normative argument in opposition to the KIHC and to security certificates more generally. The nature of their normative argument is as follows: the authors view security certificate to be problematic for it produces unlawful results. That is, security certificate deals with the concept of indefinite detention. Provided that the detainees are neither charged nor have the right to be brought to trial, it can be said without doubt that using the security certificate in the context of indefinite sentence is indeed problematic. For instance, in Criminology 3305 lecture, it was explained that security certificate allows the arrest to take place basis on the material that the detainee will never see the proof against him or herself. This once again clearly explains how the detainee’s rights get infringed. The question I would like to raise at this point is as such: is it correct to believe that Canadian government protects its residents once we become familiar of the cases discussed under ‘the secret trial five’ which mirrors the negative view of the government. For instance, Hassan Almrei “had been in custody since October 2001, after CSIS accused him of links to al-Qaeda. He was freed to a strict house arrest in January 2009” (CBC, 2009). From becoming familiar with the above mentioned information, I am compelled to believe that society is living in a mere illusion that government protects its resident. As a matter of fact, the truth is that “[o]rganizations are distorted by states of exception carried out under the politics of security” (Larsen, Handout). In addition, I would like to note that I agree with Larsen and Piché’s argument as they are successfully able to prove that security certificate is indeed unlawful. As noted, “[d]etention without trial in Canada is a serious matter, and KIHC warrants explanation-and problematization-on its own terms”(Larsen and Piché, 2009, p.204) .


CBC (2009).  Security certificates and secret evidence. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2009/08/21/f-security-certificates.html

Hersh, S.M. (2004).  Annals of National Security: Torture at Abu Ghraib. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/05/10/040510fa_fact

Larsen, M. , & Piché, J. (2009).  Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 24 (2), pp.203-229.

Larsen, M. (2012, Fall). Larsen: Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy [CRIM 3305-Law and Society –Class Handout]. Surrey, Canada: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Ontario: Oxford University Press. Print.

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Sovereign Power and Counter-Law

Agamben’s theorization of the camp summarizes the theory of normalized exceptionality by looking at the sovereign power of juridico-political space and the Nazi Camps. He describes  those who are separated from the law and lose everything as a legal subject are no longer seen as a political subject thus, cannot commit a crime or can have crimes being committed against them. He illustrates that a state of exception is a relationship between the sovereign power, life and “the state of exception exists as a potentially underpinning all relations between individuals and the state” (Larsen, 2012). The Nazi camp, as Agamben discusses is the state of exception and people in the camps lost a since of status and are branded as an ideal type to the sovereign power in which explains how it is no longer a crime to kill these people. Those people are seen as having a bare life and Agamben describes this metaphor as the biopolitical paradigm.

Agamben’s theorization of the camp differs from the theorization presented by Larsen and Piché in that they institutionalized the state of exception and focus on the sovereign power and the law authorizing these powers. They try to answer the question of how modern sovereign power can change official mandates of authority and law and how Agamben missed the issue of governmentality. Larsen and Piché answer those questions by looking at the blurred mandates and laws created by the authority and state in which the power is disordered between the two. The Kingston Immigration holding centre (KIHC) by Larsen and Piché describes how a prison was created to hold prisoners on “security certificates” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act  and depriving innocent people from their rights (Larsen, 2012). Larsen points out 2 key points on KIHC, first how some prisoners released from the prison are still under conditional release and how the prison is seen as exceptional from of detention in Canada (Larsen, 2012).

My thoughts on the KIHC are that the conditions and purpose of the prison is very similar to Guantanamo Bay.     Both prisons violate human rights and the detained prisoners are in prison without evidence of law breaking or criminality. As discussed by Larsen, 2013, the prisons have been used to primarily detain Muslim men. Before reading this article by Larsen, I wonder why the media had not been paying attention to the KIHC and the security certificates allowing innocent people being detained.


Kingston Immigration Holding Centre Closes, Legacy Remains (Prism Magazine)

Larsen, M. (2012). Larsen: Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy. (Class handout)

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Indefinite Detention is Un-Canadian

Canada is a nation that is renowned for promoting democracy and human rights at home and around the world. As Canadians, we hold tyranny and repression by the state profoundly repugnant to the tenets of our democracy. Therefore, in the past, it has been only under the most trying circumstances, such as war, that civil liberties and freedom have been suspended under the War Measures Act. Nonetheless, the three times the act has been enforced – during the First and Second World Wars, and during the October Crisis – the actions of the Canadian government befitted a tyrant. Perhaps most notably, during World War II, the government interned thousands of Japanese Canadians under the guise of national security. Indeed, Canada and its allies had declared war on Japan, but these loyal Canadians and their families were no different from any other Canadian, except that they happened to have been born Japanese. Although used long before World War II, the internment camp became a ___ of the war. Camps (internment, concentration, and refugee), as described by Giorgio Agamben, are places of exclusion in which the inhabitants experience the bare life, an existence characterized by having no political nor moral involvement or recognition with the outside community at large (Pavlich, p. 158). In recent years, internment camps have been replaced by refugee and illegal immigrant holding facilities – such as Kingston Immigration Holding Centre – as places where inhabitants experience the bare life.

As Mike Larsen and Justin Piché explain in their article, Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, these new holding facilities, or camps, are “the product of a series of decisions designed to functionally blur the spaces of the camp and the prison while maintaining their technical distinction.”(p. 205) While Agamben’s theorization of the camp is more akin to an internment or refugee camp, Larsen and Piché’s theorization of KIHC is more akin to a prison, where immigrants with security tickets over their heads, such as the “Secret Trial Five,” are held indefinitely.

Larsen and Piché are opposed to security certificates for their punitive nature. The government, under the direction of “the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,” (p. 206) can issue a security certificate for any non-citizen deemed “to be ‘inadmissible’ to Canada ‘on security grounds.’” (p. 207) Those who are issued a security certificate can be detained indefinitely. Surely, indefinite detention in Canada is wrong, whether for national security concerns or not. If someone, including a non-citizen, is detained, then they should have the right to be charged and brought to trial. But to hold someone without charge and punish them like a criminal when an offence has not been committed is against their human rights and is un-Canadian.


– Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

– Larsen, M. and Justin Piché. Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy, and Indefinite Detention: The Case of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre.

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