'The other is the neighbour': The limits of dignity in Caryl Philips’s A Distant Shore

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This article examines Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore (2003) in light of his claim that, in ‘the new world order’ consideration must be afforded to ‘the dignity which informs the limited participation of the migrant, the asylum seeker, or the refugee’. Dignity here relates to the ambivalence that surrounds the question of belonging, and, after Emmanuel Levinas, of accepting responsibility for the Other; both in terms of the resistance to otherness implied by maintaining a dignified appearance, or saving face, and the dignity conferred by the acceptance of ‘the Other as the neighbour’. After Giorgio Agamben, I take ‘the camp’ as a motif in Phillips’s novel, both of a space where dignity is utterly denied, and of Europe’s racially-formulated practices of exclusion. I read the actual and deterritorialized presence of the camp as signifying a limit, commensurate with Phillips’s sense of the limitations on the refugee’s participation in the new world order, and Agamben’s assertion that the refugee is a limit on the concept of citizenship, in order to examine what limits dignity, and places dignity at the limits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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