Wog Zombie: The De- and Re-Humanisation of Migrants, from Mad Dogs to Cyborgs

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Nikos Papastergiadis


This essay examines several contemporary articulations of the figure of the migrant, exploring both the stigmatic representations of this figure in the public imaginary, and migrants’ own personal self-identifications. I argue that as today’s increasingly complex flows of capital, people and information continue to erode both the sovereign authority of nation-states and the hitherto dominant codes of belonging, the figure of the migrant has undergone a series of reconfigurations. In its contemporary manifestations, the migrant figure has been imagined variously as a mechanical, animalistic, spectral, zombified, vampiric or cyborg entity. I contend that this series of images reveals a complex set of cultural anxieties around issues of belonging, cultural identity, citizenship and mobility. Drawing on theoretical constructs including Giorgio Agamben’s notion of the homo sacer along with representations of the figure of the migrant that have emerged recently within popular culture, literature, political discourse and media reporting, I aim to examine the forms of dehumanisation that are expressed in contemporary debate on migration.

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Author Biography

Nikos Papastergiadis, University of Melbourne

Nikos Papastergiadis has published widely across the topic areas of migration, mobility, multiculturalism, cultural theory, contemporary arts practice, new media and urban transformation. His most recent books include Spatial Aesthetics: Art, Place and the Everyday (2006), and Empires, Ruins + Networks: The Transcultural Agenda in Art, co-edited with Scott McQuire (2005).