Performing Noncitizenship
129 pages
English

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129 pages
English

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Description

The first book-length study of its kind to examine Australia’s fraught asylum politics through the lens of artistic performance.


This exacting study makes the case that a diverse range of theatre, film and activism engaged in the portrayal or participation of asylum seekers and refugees since 2001 has been informed by and contributed to the consolidation of ‘irregular’ noncitizenship as a cornerstone idea in contemporary Australian political and social life. This idea has been reified as a direct consequence of the asylum seeker–related public discourse that has been prominent in twenty-first century Australia, to the extent that it has become impossible to imagine what Australia means without it. ‘Performing Noncitizenship’ is the first book-length study of its kind to focus on Australia’s urgent and fraught asylum politics, and its implications extend beyond one country’s problems. To date, there has been little attention paid to theatre and performance’s implicatedness in how irregular noncitizenship has been taken up in Western neoliberal democracies as a core diagnosis for the ills of a precarious social and economic status quo. This study is unique among studies of asylum seeker and refugee representation in theatre, film and activism in its interest in the ways representations of asylum seekers are informed by and inform identity politics among citizens. The book’s purpose is to identify and illuminate the increasing leverage of noncitizenship as a marker of twenty-first century human illegitimacy.


Introduction: Framing Noncitizenship; 1. The Politics of Innocence in Theatres of Reality; 2. Domestic Comedy and Theatrical Heterotopias; 3. Territories of Contact in Documentary Film; 4. The Pain of Others: Performance, Protest and Instrumental Self-Injury; 5. Welcome to Country? Aboriginal Activism and Ontologies of Sovereignty; Conclusion: A Global Politics of Noncitizenship; Notes; Bibliography; Index

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Date de parution 01 mai 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781783084340
Langue English

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Performing Noncitizenship
Performing Noncitizenship
Asylum Seekers in Australian Theatre, Film and Activism
Emma Cox
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2015 by ANTHEM PRESS 75–76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Emma Cox 2015 The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Cox, Emma. Performing noncitizenship : asylum seekers in Australian theatre, film and activism / Emma Cox. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-78308-400-5 (hardback : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-1-78308-401-2 (paperback : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-1-78308-402-9 (pdf ebook) 1. Marginality, Social–Australia. 2. Culture conflict–Australia. 3. Political refugees–Australia. 4. Refugees–Australia. I. Title. HN843.5.C69 2015 303.60994–dc23 2015003284
ISBN-13: 978 1 78308 400 5 (Hbk) ISBN-10: 1 78308 400 6 (Hbk)
ISBN-13: 978 1 78308 401 2 (Pbk) ISBN-10: 1 78308 401 4 (Pbk)
This title is also available as an ebook.
CONTENTS
Acknowledgements
Introduction: Framing Noncitizenship
1. The Politics of Innocence in Theatres of Reality
2. Domestic Comedy and Theatrical Heterotopias
3. Territories of Contact in Documentary Film
4. The Pain of Others: Performance, Protest and Instrumental Self-Injury
5. Welcome to Country? Aboriginal Activism and Ontologies of Sovereignty
Conclusion: A Global Politics of Noncitizenship
Notes
Bibliography
Index
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
A number of people generously provided information, texts and other research materials, or critical insight during the period that this project has been in development and I extend my gratitude to each of them: Mohsen Soltany Zand; Victoria Carless; Ben Eltham; Linda Jaivin; Rosie Scott; Catherine Simmonds; Leah Mercer; Rand Hazou; David Williams; Paul Dwyer; Alison Jeffers; David Farrier; Jacqueline Lo; Helen Gilbert; Katharine Ellis; Christine Bacon; Linda Anchell; Susan Metcalfe; Helen Leeder; Don Reid; Sam Watson; Robbie Thorpe (Djuran Bunjileenee). The book could not have been completed without the library and archive resources of the Refugee Council Archive, University of East London; the Refugee Claimants Support Centre, Brisbane; the Australian National University; the National Library of Australia; the University of Cambridge; and especially Royal Holloway, University of London. I am grateful for funding support provided by the Australian National University and Royal Holloway.
Warm thanks to Andrew Sofer and my peer respondents at the Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research, Harvard University, for their incisive and constructive feedback on the work-in-progress. I also acknowledge the three anonymous peer reviewers of this book, whose thoughtful reports prompted new dimensions in my analysis.
Particular acknowledgement is due to Shahin Shafaei, Towfiq Al-Qady, Majid Shokor and Ardeshir Gholipour for sharing their time, knowledge and good humour, and for their willingness to remember the difficult past.
Earlier versions of material in chapters three and five have appeared in Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings (2012) and Australian Studies (2011), respectively, and I thank the editors and anonymous reviewers of both journals. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of the images in this book.
Boundless thanks, as ever, to Anne and Graham Cox and above all to Jaya Savige.
INTRODUCTION: FRAMING NONCITIZENSHIP
The decisive activity of biopower in our time consists in the production not of life or death, but rather of a mutable and virtually infinite survival.
—Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz
In the early morning of 16 April 2009, a small Indonesian fishing vessel that had been intercepted the previous day by an Australian Navy patrol exploded, causing the drowning of five of the forty-seven asylum seekers on board and injuring dozens more. A coronial inquest in 2010 found that ‘a passenger or passengers deliberately ignited petrol’ in an attempt to ensure that the boat, designated SIEV 36, 1 would not be returned to Indonesia (Cavanagh 5). The explosion occurred near Ashmore Reef in the Indian Ocean; thirteen seriously injured people were evacuated directly to the city of Darwin for urgent burns treatment, while twenty-nine were transported to AED Oil’s Front Puffin rig in the Timor Sea before being taken to detention centres. While the injured thirteen were entitled access to Australia’s refugee determination and appeals procedures, the remaining twenty-nine were not, having first arrived at an excised offshore place. 2 The oil rig stands outside Australia’s migration zone under the terms of legislation devised in response to the Tampa scandal of August 2001, when the Australian government refused to permit the Norwegian container ship MV Tampa and its human cargo of 438 rescued asylum seekers entry into Australian waters. That escalation point in policy and mood on unauthorized asylum seekers, concurrent with the tightening of security measures worldwide amid the shockwaves of 9/11, continues to inflect Australia’s combative engagement with ‘irregular’ noncitizens. The control by disavowal over the bodies of the asylum seekers taken to the oil rig can be traced to the instrumentalization of lives at sea that prevailed during the Tampa incident eight years earlier.
It is just such lines of articulation that map the territory of this book. With reference to theatre, film and activism that has been engaged in the portrayal or participation of asylum seekers and refugees post- Tampa , I make the case that this work has been informed by and indeed contributed to the consolidation of noncitizenship as a cornerstone idea in contemporary Australian political and social organisation. That is not to say that practitioners or activists privilege the interests of citizens—certainly, as far as aims and intentions are concerned, they do nothing of the sort—but rather, that in the foregrounding of unauthorized asylum seekers as subjects and unauthorized arrival as an engagement against which Australians may be pitted as political and ethical actors, noncitizenship emerges as a concept with a peculiar, contradictory purchase. In a climate where asylum is heavily overdetermined (that is, readily conscripted for divergent ends by political leaders and mainstream media outlets, as well as a proliferation of cultural commentators), it seems less helpful to assume that performance, film or activism that advocates asylum seekers’ rights to hospitality and political community will enact (or even aim to enact) interventions, much less emancipatory ends. In some moments, capacities or environments such work may do so, but its implications in terms of power and participation are complex and often contradictory. For one thing, by foregrounding stakes in asylum debates, creative and activist work can reiterate a politics of delineation, further entrenching distinctions artists and activists might hope to breach. As Judith Butler notes in Bodies That Matter in the context of gender, ‘naming is at once the setting of a boundary, and also the repeated inculcation of a norm’ (8). Similarly, the identification of asylum as a category subject to artistic and political representation, regardless of the emancipatory ideals of that representation, does not merely describe but is also generative of the category.
To a certain extent, this is always already the predicament or compact of artistic and cultural work that is targeted to a cause or condition, and it need not mean that politically counter-discursive or inclusive goals for theatre, film or activism are attenuated. Insightful and important work has been written on theatre and citizenship in the context of public participation (Wiles) and on how far performance may function as radical intervention (Kershaw) or intersect with and energize practices of social inclusion (Nicholson). But there has been little attention paid to theatre and performance’s implicatedness in how irregular noncitizenship has been taken up in Western neoliberal democracies as a diagnosis for the ills of a precarious social and economic status quo. A core purpose of this book is to identify and illuminate the increasing power and leverage of irregular noncitizenship as an idea. In its interest in the ways representations of asylum seekers in Australia are informed by and inform identity politics amongst those who make up the majority of audiences and spectators for this work—that is: citizens, or those who already belong— Performing Noncitizenship differs in its primary orientation from recent cognate studies of asylum seeker and refugee representation in theatre, film and literature, which are broadly concerned with transformations at the nexus between refugee and host or with how the imaginative bonds of membership within national communities may be extended

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