Border Violence

IDLES: Danny Nedelko

What’s a punk band answer to immigration? What about a philosopher’s answer? Let’s compare a song from IDLES to a book from Donatella Di Cesare.

Danny Nedelko, by IDLES, is a song about immigration, and what to do about it. Right from its first lines: «My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant». The band’s approach to this matter is simple and very straightforward. Their solution to the “immigration problem” can be summed up in a single word: connection. This idea can be found in almost every component of the song. The most noticeable example is in the lyrics: in every verse the singer states to be related to people of different nationalities, calling them their “blood brother”. At one point he even says «My best friend is an alien», as a demonstration that we can be connected to anyone, even someone that is apparently completely different from us. Another great example of this is in the music video, where Danny Nedelko (who is not a fictional character, but a very much real Ukrainian immigrant, and friend of the group) dances and interacts with people of different nationalities while wearing a t-shirt that has printed on it “No man is an island”. Again, this calls back to the idea of connecting with other human beings and coming together as a group. But maybe, the most ingenious way in which the band tries to bring people together is in the song’s chorus, where the singer Joe Talbot starts singing a sort of gibberish anthem that sound a lot like stadium chants. This musical device, thanks to its catchiness and lack of actual words, invites people from everywhere to sing along, once again, bringing the people together.

Resident foreigners: A Philosophy of Migration, by Donatella Di Cesare, makes a very similar point to IDLES’s song. In a bold move, the philosopher moves a critique to the whole political spectrum of answers to immigration. The problem, according to her, is that both people who are pro and against immigration tackle the problem from the perspective of someone who “stands on the shore and sees the migrants arriving”. Instead, she argues we should try to connect with the migrants and let them remind us that the shore we stand on is not so solid as it seems. That is to say, to recognize that concepts such as Nationality and self-determination are just myths. The migrant has a sort of subversive power, it is an unacceptable anomaly in the eyes of the state. Quoting, «The migrant’s rights, starting with her right to move, crash up against the sovereignty which the state exercises over the nation and over its territorial dominion. Here we see the conflict between universal human rights and the division of the world into nation-states.» What is being critiqued here is the contemporary paradigm concerning human rights. For Di Cesare, in today’s world one is seen as right-deserving only when protected by a national flag. According to Di Cesare, «philosophy has chosen the permanently settled», but connecting with others, especially those who are seen as outsiders, opens up the possibility for a new kind of citizenship, one that is not based upon nationality, but is instead a sort of “cosmopolitical citizenship”.

Edoardo Chen


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

IDLES. 2018. “Danny Nedelko” Track 4 on “Joy as an Act of Resistance.”. Partisan Records.

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