Borders, statelessness, and agency : rethinking political space.




Vermilyea, Jennifer Rose

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The modern state system has a specific answer to the question of where and how political action can occur: in the state and through citizenship. State sovereignty underpins the basic discourse of who belongs and who speaks in political communities, which is said to have important implications for those without claim to citizenship, namely the refugee. Giorgio Agamben‘s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life is an important discussion of how the logic of sovereignty produces the refugee in the contemporary international state system. However, I will argue in this paper that this narrative, like many others, eclipses moments of refugee agency and reproduces the refugee in apolitical terms by binging a particular conception of the political to bear. This paper critically engages with the writings of Immanuel Kant and Giorgio Agamben to explore how this discourse of political community (state) and political identity (citizenship) has emerged historically and is continually reinforced. I argue that these narratives fail to see the politicality of so called spaces of abjection which are continually reshaping and reforming perceived understandings of the political.



State, sovereignty, citizenship, refugees