Subverting the spectacle of sanctuary




Bagelman, Jennifer

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This thesis critiques the dominant theorization of Canadian sanctuary as expressed by Randy Lippert. Particularly, I contend that Lippert’s Foucaudian analysis offers an impoverished understanding of sanctuary recipients by insisting they are political only insofar as they embrace bare life and become a silent spectacle. To re-conceptualize the political role of recipients, I evoke Hannah Arendt and Jacques Rancière’s notion that politics is constitutive of an interruption. I suggest that, living in a borderland between citizenship/non-citizenship, sanctuary recipients draw critical attention to their own exclusions and thus enact the political interruption par excellence. However, Arendt and Rancière’s stipulation that this interruption must be visible also limits political efficacy for recipients for it necessitates that they must expose themselves as helpless spectacles. I argue that this uncontested commitment to visibility is also dominantly expressed by theorists, such as Jenny Edkins, who are concerned with agency for other abject subjectivities. Troubling, this dedication to visibility results in the same apolitical formulation of sanctuary recipients that Lippert offers. As an alternative, I conclude that a type of (in)visible interruption offers a more a fruitful way to understand political agency for sanctuary recipients, and indeed for other seemingly abject figures.



citizenship, sanctuary