Reading without Guarantees? Affect in Asylum Seeker Narratives

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Abstract

The following discussion of asylum narratives is prompted by Judith Butler’s provocative question, ‘what kind of state [i.e. condition of mind] do we find ourselves in when we start to think about the state?’ – particularly the state which continues to detain children for immigration purposes, nearly two years after promising to end the practice. What affective relations come into play when confronted with actions of national shame? I consider how the report, ‘State Sponsored Cruelty’: Children in Immigration Detention (2010), by the charity Medical Justice, is framed in order to generate a particular affective response in the reader who is also a citizen. My main concern is the relationship between reading and response in the affective economy in which asylum narratives circulate; coeval with this is the broader concern for what postcolonial reading can do. Rather than replicating the ‘institutional entextualisation’ of asylum adjudication proceedings, in which asylum accounts are processed to accord with the demands and expectations of the legal setting, I propose that ‘State Sponsored Cruelty’ provides an opportunity for what Spivak calls teleopoiesis, ‘imagining yourself, really letting yourself be imagined (experiencing that impossibility) without guarantees’. To this end, then, I will suggest, this sensibility of postcolonial reading without guarantees can facilitate a glimpse of an ethical engagement with the narratives of those asylum claimants who, in a far more fundamental sense, offer themselves to be read without any sort of guarantee.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMoving Worlds
Volume12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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