Pandemic Borders: Hotels, Spaces of Detention, Quarantine and Resistance

Recent work in Critical Border Studies has explored diverse border infrastructures, from border walls, camps to databases and information systems. The role of hotels as border sites, however, has received relatively little attention. In Australia, ‘border hotels’ have come to prominence in the last year as both spaces of detention and quarantine (Loughnan 2020). This is firstly due to their role as Alternative Places of Detention (APODs) for refugees and asylum seekers (Burridge 2020; Lobo 2020). Hotels such as the ‘Kangaroo Point Central Apartments’ in Brisbane and the ‘Mantra Bell City Hotel’ in Melbourne have drawn public attention, in part due to ongoing protests. At the same time, hotels have been repurposed as mandatory quarantine centres for arriving international travellers during the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. In combination with Australia’s closed international borders, and the ad-hoc approach to internal state border closures and openings, the failures of Melbourne’s the hotel quarantine system has led to renewed interest in how we restrict, detain, and re-route ‘border’ that function across private, government, and public spaces.

Some critical scholars have already explored the geopolitical relevance of hotels (see for example Enloe 2014; Fregonese 2012; Lisle 2016). In their article, ‘Hotel Geopolitics; A Research Agenda’ (2015) Sara Fregonese and Adam Ramadan outline various ways in which hotels are entangled in broader geopolitical dynamics. Nevertheless, they do not specifically consider the role of hotels as border sites. As such, and particularly considering recent developments in Australia, there is a need for further critical study of border hotels in particular. To bring such interrogations together with broader reflections on pandemic borders, the Australian Critical Border Studies working group is organising a half-day virtual symposium on the 16th of February 2021 via zoom (times TBA – will be held AEDT).

We are seeking papers exploring the ways hotels have been deployed as spaces of detention and quarantine both in Australia and internationally and on pandemic borders more broadly. Papers may respond to topics including, but not limited to:

  • Strategies to contest hotel detention and explorations of ways in which hotels have been repurposed to contest bordering practices (see for example Raimondi 2019);
  • Narratives of returning or departing international travellers negotiating hotel quarantine;
  • Growing activism and community resistance to APODs;
  • Representation, visualisations, and creative expressions of the quarantine ‘border’.
  • Bordering practices targeting regions or hotspots (such as state border closures in Australia).

If you would like to participate, please send an abstract (200 words) to Ari Jerrems ( and Kaya Barry ( by Friday 15 January 2020.

Organised by Ari Jerrems, Kaya Barry, Umut Ozguc and Andrew Burridge for the Australian Critical Border Studies working group. Image by Kaya Barry


Burridge, Andrew, 2020, “Hotels are no ‘luxury’ place to detain people seeking asylum in Australia”, The Conversation, April 14,

Loughnan, Claire, 2020, ‘Not the Hilton’, Arena, no. 3 spring,

Enloe, Cynthia, 2014, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, 2nd Edition, University of California Press, Berkeley.  

Fregonese, Sara and Ramadan, Adam, 2015, ‘Hotel Geopolitics: A Research Agenda’, Geopolitics 20(4): 793-813.

Fregonese, Sara, 2012, ‘Between a Refuge and a Battleground: Beirut’s Discrepant Cosmopolitanisms’, The Geographical Review 102(3): 316-336.

Lisle, Debbie, 2016, Holidays in the Danger Zone: Entanglements of War and Tourism, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.  

Lobo, Michele, 2020. Living on the edge: Precarity and freedom in Darwin, Australia. Journal of ethic and migration studies, Online first article

Raimondi, Valeria, 2019, “For ‘common struggles of migrants and locals’. Migrant activism and squatting in Athens”, Citizenship Studies 23(6): 559-576.

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