"The Illegal Human: Democracy In-Surgent"


Karavanta M. "The Illegal Human: Democracy In-Surgent". Journal of Contemporary Thought. Special Issue Speaking Truth to Power, Ed. R.Radhakrishnan. Forthcoming.


The history of the human as excess that cannot be eliminated and is the body of exappropriation, the body of a différance is repeated in the present. It is the history of the illegal human being written by the multiple crossings of borders by a growing number of peoples who are refugees, exiles, and economic immigrants without documents. This is an old history--as Achille Mbembe reminds us in his analysis of le nègre in Critique de la Raison Négre--but also a new one. The substantive of the nègre is now being replaced by the substantive of the illegal as the people without documents or the boat people are often called. The illegal is a substantive whose repetition registers the stark denotations of danger and threat and is used by the state authorities and the media to vindicate the European policies and practices that separate the immigrant from the human, once again repeating the fate of the stateless human without rights. By drawing on Mbembe’s analysis of   le nègre and the promise of a humanity in-surgent and Jacques Derrida’s “strange syntagma” of a democracy-to-come, this essay demonstrates how this particular story of the illegal human is another twist in the long history of the human as a subject of exappropriation who speaks truth to power while bearing the promise of a humanity that is in-surgent, which is the promise for a democracy radically different from the neoliberal model available in the present. The essay discusses how this “to come” of democracy invokes the discomfort zone of becoming human in the company of those humans whose lives are precarious and are exempted from the present democratic imaginaries as examples of bare life or, even more poignantly called, beastly life.