Once on the bus, a friend and I were told to “go back home,” while we conversed in Hindi. My friend is a British citizen, and had a passport to prove it. I just got off the bus.
Academia notes that in the European imaginary, “immigration” always already means “coloured immigration,” where non-white Britons continue being defined as second and third generation migrants. Racism allows differential treatment to its migrant subjects, becoming the foundation for institutional murder, of which deportation is a crucial diagnostic.
Deportation is more a technology of governmentality than a spectacular one-time occurrence. It also draws attention beyond (or before) deportation to the idea of “deportability.” Equally racialized, deport-ability can be understood as the inherent potential to be deported. Being told to “go back home” highlights this potential – if not the tongue, the body betrays the immigrant. The contents of my wallet, then, are a constant reminder of my deportability. When my Indian ID card is “suspect” because the photograph is unrecognizable, I must prove that I am “allowed here” i.e. possess a British Residence Permit. Sometimes, people want to see an “actual ID” to know where I’m really from. Oyster cards are the literal representation of mobility, and the wallet becomes an authoritative container of migration, complicating the affectivity of migranthood and belonging: I constantly want to be dissociated from India, yet this effort is limited by my skin, my tongue, and the contents of my wallet.
I still keep Indian currency inside my wallet, frictive against heavier £ coins. If race and racialization are marked on the body, to have a wallet “on one’s person” is another means to have race on oneself, while not having one, is the price to be paid.