The Equivocity of the Migrant: Limits of the Political Category
Samuel Allen (Vassar College)
ABSTRACT: This essay aims to theoretically diagnose and critique the unique political status of the migrant today. Beginning with an examination of the 2009 massacre of migrants in Tamaulipas, Mexico, it argues that statelessness is central to the political status of the migrant. More specifically, following the work of Hannah Arendt and Giorgio Agamben, it posits that belonging to a nation state is the precondition for international juridical recognition, which is particularly relevant in the context of human rights protection. The stateless person is denied not only basic legal protections but political inclusion altogether. This person, termed ‘bare life, ‘ shows the limit of political intelligibility. This essay understands her status as the exclusion from a specific classificatory system, i.e. political ontology, and offers a critique of the priority of this ontology using the work of Emmanuel Levinas. The essay suggests instead the primacy of ethics and the inadequacy of such an ontology.
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