Border Violence

Björk: Earth Intruders

‘We are the earth intruders’  – Björk (2007)

 Music has the power to inspire and emancipate marginalized groups by criticizing the status quo. An example of such music is the song Earth Intruders (2017) by the Icelandic singer Björk, where she uses the pejorative term of ‘intruder’ and turns into a tool for agency and emancipation.

Björk stated in an interview that this is the most chaotic song she has ever written; she tried to adjust her written lyrics in a logical way, but she said ‘it’s just like chaos.’ (Barton 2007). Combined with alien-like synthesizers and a foreign beat, the song gives the impression of strangers coming into an unknown land. The chorus of the song illustrates this ‘army-like’ appearance of the ‘earth intruders’:

Here come the earth intruders
We are the paratroopers
Stampede of sharp shooters
Come straight from voodoo

Björk seems to evoke the fear of the ‘earth intruders’ invading a country. As Harsha Walia writes in her book Border and Rule (2021), quoting Christina Sharpe, ‘that movements of Africans are imagined ‘’as insects, swarms, vectors of diseases’’’. But Björk also uses ‘intruders’ in an empowering way:

Here come the earth intruders
There’ll be no resistance
We are the cannoneers
Necessary voodoo.

By proudly calling themselves ‘earth intruders’, Björk gives a positive connotation to migrants, as many minority groups have done with negative terms. The song evokes the idea that human beings have a natural tendency for wanderlust. In a sense we can say that we are all earth intruders: we all belong to the earth; we all have the right to follow our natural desire to explore the world.

According to the philosopher Immanuel Kant this need – combined with a spherical and finite globe – is the reason why we have a natural right to enter every territory (Di Cesare 2020, 75 -76). For Kant, every human being has the right to hospitality. When foreigners enter another territory, they have the right not to be treated in a hostile way. Moreover, the foreigner opens a new political path to perpetual peace, by challenging the hospitality of democratic states (2020, 76). The acceptance of migrants, means the acknowledgment of a state’s sociability. Combined with Björk’s idea that we are all earth intruders, this opens up a new way to look at borders and territories. If the earth belongs to everyone, and everyone can freely travel between countries, we can imagine new border-free communities. Paradoxically enough then, there exists no earth to be ‘intruded’ at all.

Communities without borders may sound Utopian, but I think we need a different view on territoriality to deal with the contemporary refugee crisis. We should not love nor hate the ‘intruder’, but like Björk, simply acknowledge the natural right and human tendency to wanderlust.

Brenno Mulder


Barton, Laura. 2007. ‘I had a little bit of cabin fever.’ The Guardian, 27 April 2007.

Di Cesare, Donatella. 2020. ‘Migrants and the State.’ In Resident Foreigners: A Philosophy of  Migration, translated by David Broder, 5–77. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Walia, Harsha. 2021. ‘Fortress Europe.’ In Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

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