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When you spend every day up to your chin in the quagmire of post-national social structures, its easy to lose sight of how much power – and violence – is still exercised by states. This may in some sense be true in no area more than it is in questions of immigration and residency.

For example, it turns out that, if you’re in a coma in the United States because you got hit by a car and that means, say, that you’re no longer attending classes in the program for which you got your visa, that means your visa is no longer valid. So now you are in the country without authorisation, right? So the state is within its rights to deport you, right? Sigh…yes. It’s not like you can stop them!

Sleep-walking through the ethical dimensions of these questions might allow this response to be cast as “reasonable”. Yet people working on the question, like the EUI’s Rutger Birnie, for example, might ask whether getting into a country legally, and then spending time in that country, and then getting hit by a car in that country might – might! – be the kind of thing that entangles you in the state’s ethical universe, questions of international law aside.

For some, situations like this are best resolved by thinking about the proper content state power. Yet they inevitably lead others to welcome post-national social structures with open arms, and to wish for state power that wasn’t sleepwalking, but already in a coma.