This article examines infrastructures as a tool for managing populations, specifically migrants and refugees, and more broadly, infrastructure as a communicative trope for social belonging and citizenship. Infrastructure emerges as a key site of ideological contestation. Refugees and their advocates argue that infrastructural breakdowns require greater investment of resources and social care. Opponents point to infrastructural breakdowns as evidence that refugees and migrants do not belong and are a drain on national resources.
Through a comparative case study analysis of the refugee camp in Calais, France, and at the U.S.–Mexico border, this article argues that infrastructure and infrastructural breakdowns mediate and communicate claims to territory, political recognition, and legitimacy.