The biopolitics of belonging : Europe in post-Cold War Arabic literature of migration

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2013-08

Authors

Sellman, Johanna Barbro

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Abstract

Since the 1990s, a corpus of Arabic literary narratives has appeared that stage Europe from the perspective of forced migrants. This literature on refugees, asylum seekers, and clandestine migrants articulates central problems of migration to Europe in a period of migration policy reform in response to globalization. In this dissertation, I analyze a selection of Arabic and francophone North African literary narratives, including Mahmoud al-Bayaty's 2006 "Dancing on Water", Iqbal Qazwini's 2006 "Zubaida’s Window", Farouq Yousef's 2007 "Nothing and Nobody", Hamid Skif's 2006 "The Geography of Danger", Youssef Fadel's 2000 "Hashish", and Mahi Binebine's 1999 "Welcome to Paradise". This study is situated at the intersection of forced migration studies and Arabic literary studies. As the effort to standardize European migration policy and manage migration has increased states' power to filter and exclude, the human rights framework of migration policy has weakened (Fekete 2009; Menz 2008). Such shifts represent an intensification of what Michel Foucault calls "biopolitics," modern states' propensity to manage populations by producing belonging and exclusion (Foucault 2003). Literature of migration has become an important vehicle for reflecting on the ways that migration policies produce belonging and exclusion in contemporary Europe. Literature of forced migration requires modes of analysis that differ from the more modernist notions of exile that have dominated literary studies (Malkki 1995; McLeod 2000; Parvati 2010). In this study, I draw attention to the ways that literary narratives of migration re-figure Europe as a wilderness. The works that I analyze explore precarious migrant subjectivities through forests, urban jungles, and cannibalism, spaces onto which fantasies (and often nightmares) of the outside of political community can be projected Furthermore, I argue that wilderness provides sites of negotiation between the biopolitical and ideals of rights-based citizenship. While the biopolitical does not serve as a foundation of belonging in these narratives as suggested by some theorists (Agamben 2008), the literature posits new modes of belonging through the very exclusions produced by forced migration.

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