The dissolution of everything that we know of as the body politic

When we began Foreign Bodies, the idea that the movement of peoples across territories was to become a defining political question, that it would motivate political movements and mobs, that it would become a mechanism through which different elites would build a political base to take power in the state, was marginal. It was not yet front page news, nor had it become the political cliché that it is now, refugee crisis, a meaningless phrase that provokes feelings of compassion or loathing without any real sense of the entities that comprise the so-called crisis, so that the crisis is never really born, never works the transformation that it ought to – the dissolution of everything we know of as the body politic at present and the creation of a new body politic, as well as new bodies and new politics. 1)There are a multitude of individuals and communities for whom the reality of this migration is experienced with all of its nuances, with all the beauty, wonder, awe, discomfort and fear that is provoked by the actual physical experience of another’s body. There are the migrants themselves, and there are those individuals and organizations who have moved themselves to the sites where help is needed, giving food and medical care, assisting people to overcome state control wherever possible. And there are those well within the confines of the nation state who provide spaces and advocacy for those whose journeys are complete (for now). I feel that these people experience what is happening not through the distancing cliché of “migration crisis”, but as a lived reality.

Where can we point the finger for this failure – surely it belongs with the management of this crisis, as if the state understands itself not as a vehicle for transporting human civilisation into something more humane and more civilised, but as a bureaucracy dedicated to the preservation of the threads of the status quo. This bureaucracy, which should be marginal and transitory, has filled the vacuum left by the aspiration in an earlier stage of the nation for a true social state, one in which labor rights and welfare were guaranteed by the state. This bureaucracy exists only to see that the institutions themselves, empty as they are of any political content beyond the continuation and, against all indications of economic reality, the necessary expansion of the capitalist project.

As is the case, always and inevitably, the bureaucratic formations which are designed for administering the periphery of the nation state, as in the case of imperialism, return to the center as well, as in the case of nazism, fascism and neoliberalism.

So Foreign Bodies is about those bodies which view the national border the same way a herd of goats view a seemingly impossible precipice, a dangerous inconvenience to be overcome by nimble feet and an act of will. It is about their experience once they cross this precipice, the violence they receive at the hands of mob, police and border security, the drudgery that their lives can descend into once they become administrative subjects. It is also about those non-migrating bodies 2)Of course, every body is a migrating body, whether actually-migrating, potentially-migrating, or historically-migrating. I am a refugee insofar as my grandfather was. I am a foreigner in Germany, though a privileged one, and yet I have “arrived” as it were in my home of Berlin, therefore I am both a migrating body and a non-migrating body. who live across the precipice, how they are shaped by their anxieties of the outside, how the administration of those other alien bodies makes invisible the work that the state performs on their own bodies, cells and molecules. Foreign Bodies is about the potential bodies that we might inhabit: physical bodies, political bodies, that are not shaped by paranoia and neuroses. – AT

Notes   [ + ]

1. There are a multitude of individuals and communities for whom the reality of this migration is experienced with all of its nuances, with all the beauty, wonder, awe, discomfort and fear that is provoked by the actual physical experience of another’s body. There are the migrants themselves, and there are those individuals and organizations who have moved themselves to the sites where help is needed, giving food and medical care, assisting people to overcome state control wherever possible. And there are those well within the confines of the nation state who provide spaces and advocacy for those whose journeys are complete (for now). I feel that these people experience what is happening not through the distancing cliché of “migration crisis”, but as a lived reality.
2. Of course, every body is a migrating body, whether actually-migrating, potentially-migrating, or historically-migrating. I am a refugee insofar as my grandfather was. I am a foreigner in Germany, though a privileged one, and yet I have “arrived” as it were in my home of Berlin, therefore I am both a migrating body and a non-migrating body.