March 17, 2011

Theory out of Bounds


Within his article entitled “Notes on politics”, Giorgio Agamben presents the argument that it is in fact a necessity to question the idea that an individual is bound to the state within which they are born, and also that rather than a refugee being in a state of exception, this very state of exception has in fact become the rule. Repatriation or naturalization are not the only possibilities for a displaced people, but rather, it should be considered that states or territories should be thought of as “aterritorial or extraterritorial space… within this new space, European cities would rediscover their ancient vocation of cities of the world by entering into a relation of reciprocal extraterritoriality”. Agamben writes that this model would allow two groups of citizens who were previously a part of separate nation-states to live within the same territory, not as two nation states, but as two political communities within a single region.

“Only in a world in which the spaces of states have been thus perforated and topologically deformed and in which the citizen has been able to recognise the refugee that he of she is- only in such a world is the political survival of humankind today thinkable”

Agamben suggests it is necessary to examine and re-think the nature of the world in which we live, we must re-think the connection between ‘nativity and nationality’, between the ‘human and the citizen’, and that refugees, rather than being a displaced people who are in crisis, are actually the ‘vanguard of their peoples’.

The extent to which I agree with Agamben is limited by the fact that he writes within this same piece, “…human beings…are the only being for whom happiness is at stake in their living, the only being who’s life is irremediably and painfully assigned to happiness”. and within ‘we refugees’, Arendt writes “Man is a social animal and life is not easy for him when social ties are cut off… very few individuals have the strength to conserve their own integrity if their social, political, and legal status is completely confused”. It seems that if Agamben’s theory were to be actualized it may very well create this same type of confusion, redefining many aspects of our lives as we know them. This prompts the question of what type of life will we be living if we are in a state of refuge but still have our life assigned to the pursuit of happiness, but have also had our social, political and legal status confused?

Luke Flanagan



One Response to “”

  1. Is it that you are asking: how can we be perpetually displaced persons as well as happy human beings? In a way the longing for home (mythical or otherwise) is a strong one, a stirring nostalgia. Is it that Agamben’s utopian call for a an aterritorial, extraterritorial, perforated and topologically deformed state, will only maintain us in a state of estrangement. It is useful to consider how state both refers to a political, governmental entity, as well as to a state of existence, so to speak.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: