This chapter reflects on our contemporary love affair with spaces of suspension such as prisons, quarantine facilities and immigration stations. I examine how the success of Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco and Ellis Island in New York, as sites of public history and venues for the performance of contemporary citizenship, depends on their resolution of a long-running political and emotional ambivalence towards movement.1 Drawing together affective conceptions of citizenship, Deleuzian notions of productive desire and recent research within mobility studies, I demonstrate how immigration and quarantine heritage can encourage visitors to become appreciative subjects of a fixed community governed by the state. This is achieved through a seductive staging of interruption symbolised by the figure of the immigrant gazing through the bars to a destination as yet unreached. Interruption, I argue, exemplifies a desire for the state’s existence, a desire which visitors to migration heritage can experience vicariously by imagining themselves as immigrants, as proto-citizens-in-waiting. I explore our fascination with these moments of interruption where the destination (as both geographical location and subject position) is just out of reach and not quite realised. Immigration stations, prisons and quarantine facilities enjoy such popularity as tourist destinations because they capture that point before arrival – an arrival which may very well be ultimately underwhelming. How many immigrants who passed through these places remained? How many, having landed, eventually gave up and retreated home? It is not surprising that inscriptions of longing, hope and suspense are often the main attraction of such sites. They capture the moment before the regret, when there is still so much promise.
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