Colin Eubank

Date of Award


First Advisor

Asma Abbas

Second Advisor

Kathryn Boswell


This thesis addresses the legal and ideological enclosures of the “refugee” as a key figure in contemporary global politics. These enclosures generally predetermine the refugee as embodying a bare humanity void of speech, culture, and history. The thesis reads the refugee as a product of historical, ideological, and discursive processes, and then attempts to shift the conversation to the work the refugee does in this international regime by its constant availability to perform being a “problem” for the nation-state and international institutions. To this end, I engage with the work of Giorgio Agamben, Bonnie Honig, Jacques Rancière, and Hannah Arendt to fathom what kind of political problems and anxieties endemic to liberal democracy inform, and are assuaged in, the management of the refugee as a humanitarian problem. Critical conversations with these thinkers charge the thesis with the need to further destabilize the symbiosis between the hegemonic figure of the refugee and fantasies of liberal humanitarianism. I turn, then, to Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s The Cyclist (1987) in search of a negotiability, a politics, found in the labors of the refugee that are in excess of and even challenge the dominant framing, and the meaningful spaces they constitute to counter the ways we think about global politics. At least, we are pushed to imagining the boundaries and demands of statelessness differently, in order to recognize the structural ambivalences of stateless refuge as mapped, performed, and resisted through a politics which will not let us forget (again) the bodies that constitute these disputes.

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