Gendered Violence

Charlotte Adigéry, Bolis Pupul: It Hit Me

For the theme of gender violence, I intend to analyse and explore Veronica Gago’s “Violence: Is There a War on and against Women’s Bodies?” (2020) through a live performance by Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul. I will be speculating about the musicians’ experiences, but I neither have the lived experience of their pasts, nor the lived experience of making and performing their songs. Hence, the following will be speculative and explorative. It is not about them but about an interpretation of their performance that makes possible an engagement with Gago, specifically her reflections on war and traversing fear.

The song I have chosen is Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul’s ’It Hit Me’ (2022) played live. Hence, this contribution constitutes part of a mixtape, but at the same time I ask the reader to use their imagination and hear the song as a live performance. To aid the reader in this, I will provide some context. The themes of the song, roughly, revolve around (trans)gendered violence. The live setting of the specific performance I am referring to is the OFF Festival (2022) in Katowice, Poland. Poland is currently a place of regressive politics, with anti-women’s and anti-LGBTQ legislation being rolled in many parts of the country. This to the extent that some have even created an Atlas of Hate to map out the policies of hate that are being enacted throughout Poland (“Atlas Nienawiści (Atlas of Hate)” n.d.). It is not hard to imagine one feeling fear, when going on stage in Poland to perform a live set about the themes mentioned earlier. Fortunately, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul were met with an attentive, listening audience, full of movement and responsiveness.

The song has two verses that each tell stories of intimately detailed pasts. These pasts are made manifest to the audience in the chorus with a pounding kick drum and them singing ‘It hit me’, a powerful, performative version of realizing that they have been violated. In the moment of the chorus, Gago’s notion of war is declared, understood as a move that makes violence visible (Gago 2020, 80). Furthermore, Gago states that this way of declaring war means ”taking on an array of forces […] finding another way of living in our bodies.” (Gago 2020, 80). Their performance could be seen as a vital instantiation of this ‘taking on’. To name a few examples, ‘forces’ could here be both the audience, the context that the audience experiences the performance in, the performers’ own lived experience and various recombinations of these. Hence, the declaration of war is clearly not only something that happens on the personal, but in this case also on the community level. In that sense, the audience could be seen as embodying the role of compañeras (Gago 2020, 67), as those who actually help you out, as opposed to the transphobic and misogynist Polish authorities. The process of naming ‘war’ thus happens along an axis of performer-audience, situated between the stories of the verses and the intensity of the choruses. The performance calls attention to and makes violence visible through the ‘it hit me’ of the chorus, while founding itself on the familiarity of lived experience.

This emancipatory act of familiarization could help disarm the fear, as Gago might put it (Gago 2020, 83), of playing and listening to music that centres on themes being violated by the country they play out in. To Gago, one way forward is to “traverse” and “coexist with” fear (Gago 2020, 83). A live performance of a song is a traversal in a very physical (through sound waves extending themselves across distance, enveloping the ear membranes they touch) and historical way (through the multiple becomings told by the embodied lyrics). At the same time, “It Hit Me” never claims that ‘everything will be alright’. It ends with a distorted, intense beat, and a sampled catcall. It does not eliminate but rather co-exists with fear.

By shouting ‘It Hit Me’, Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul carve out a space in an Atlas of Hate. They enable multiple ways of co-existing with, moving bodies along to and traversing ‘fear’, potentially taking away the fear’s pacifying power. The live performance of ‘It Hit Me’ also asks us as listeners how we might approach and engage with live concerts as a type of social practice that makes violence visible.

Lukas Hjulmann Seidler

Gendered Violence

Nicole Willis & UMO Jazz Orchestra: Still Got A Way To Fall

The song “Still Got a Way to Fall” by Nicole Willis and the UMO Jazz Orchestra contains some striking parallels with the chapter “Neoliberal Violence” in Françoise Vergès’ book A Feminist Theory of Violence. Especially Vergès extensiveness in addressing and describing problems brought about by neoliberal societies reminded me of Willis’ song. Both works address implications and consequences of living in a neoliberal or neocapitalist society, and both Willis and Vergès formulate a critique on the neoliberal society, but in different ways.

In the first paragraph of the chapter, Vergès addresses the rise of neoliberalism and some of its implications, such as the privatisation of public goods and services, the deregulation of finance, high short-term profit margins for shareholders, and applications of technical solutions to social problems.[1] This corresponds with Willis singing “Who’s to gain, Nobody gonna save you” in the first verse of her song. “Who’s to gain” then, would be owners and investors of these privatised services and the shareholders who generally benefit from high short-term profit margins. The ones who are not gaining are the “Avalanche of the men and women; Buried beneath the frozen sea of pain”, since this line is more likely a reference to the ones who are, for example, suffering the technical solutions to social problems.[2]

Also, Willis’ line, “And indulging in the popular dreams that the supersized lives will make us believe” has a striking parallel with Vergès paragraph on the violence of the market and precarity.[3] In this paragraph Vergès describes how neocapitalism and neoliberalism sustain themselves. The supposed freedom that neoliberalism gives to the individual implies that many things in life can be made, because there are many possibilities for the individual to shape their life the way they want. However, this also means that if the individual fails, it’s their own fault or they did not have the sincere will to achieve their goal.[4] This is also what makes neoliberalism profitable: many people hope they can ‘make it’, many people work hard, and in the end only a few people have to be paid for this in large numbers. Neoliberalism makes us ‘indulge in the popular dreams’, because there are a few people who do thrive in the neoliberalist system, and they are who Willis’ refers to as ‘supersized lives’.  

Both Vergès and Willis address major problems put forward by neoliberal societies, and both try to appeal and include all people or groups of people. However, Willis does not name people or point out groups in society people identify with. Vergès, on the other hand, addresses many groups of people in society and the wide variety of problems they experience in a neoliberal society. So, both texts are very inclusive to suppressed groups in society, but Willis seems to appeal more to any individual listener by not being as explicit as Vergès. Vergès explains how neoliberalism sustains especially sexism and racism, whereas Willis does not highlight any specific form of suppression. Willis does, however, make a brief reference to how black people often get the worst of it in these struggles. This is made clear in the lines “Defencelessness; We figh’, you figh’; you die brother”, and “it’s really enough brother, believe me”.[5] The word ‘brother’ in these lines is probably a reference to black people, as it is fairly common for black people in the United States to address another black person with ‘brother’, especially with men.[6]  Also, the line “Defencelessness; We figh’, you figh’; you die brother” can be regarded as a reference to black people, because the number of black people that get shot and killed every year in the US exceeds that of any other group of people.  

Throughout the song Willis describes dynamics and implications caused by our neoliberalist system that resonate with the article, but the refrain of her song moves beyond Vergès’ article by making a prediction for the future. The lines “We still got a way to fall, Before we are forgiven” can be interpreted as Willis predicting that the implications and consequences of our neoliberalist system are going to cause more inequity before a more equitable way of living together becomes possible. Vergès describes how the neoliberal system sustains itself, but what Willis adds is how this is going to affect our future: if we do not regulate our neoliberal way of living, the climate crisis will put an end to it. Vergès does shortly address the climate crisis, but only what it has caused up until now.

Doortje Kok


[1] Françoise Vergès, “Neoliberal Violence”, A Feminist Theory of Violence (London, 2022; Pluto), pp. 10-34, pp. 10-13.
[2]  Nicole Willis & UMO Jazz Orchestra, “Still Got a Way to Fall”, album: My Name is Nicole Willis (Ronet Records, 2017), first verse/chorus.
[3] Willis, “Still Got a Way to Fall”, second verse/chorus.
[4] Vergès, “Neoliberal Violence”, pp. 19-20.
[5] Willis, “Still Got a Way to Fall”, second verse/chorus.
[6] For example, The Urban Dictionary assigns, among others, the following meanings to the word “brother”: “Comrade. Companion. Friend. Typically used by and to individuals of African American heritage.”; “black guy”; “black male, does not matter if he is related, as long as he is black”. Westley Morris, “’Bro’-liferation”, The New York Times Magazine (March 15th, 2016).

Gendered Violence

No Doubt: Just a Girl

For this week’s entry, I’ve chosen I’m Just a Girl by No Doubt. This song centers an aspect of patriarchal violence frequently levied against woman, their infantilization. This portrayal of women as weak and in need of protection and guidance not only denies them their agency but makes them a target of the greater neoliberal project that generally detests weakness.

Both Verónica Gago and Françoise Vergès directly attribute a primary aspect of the war on women’s bodies on said greater neoliberal project, but Vergès directly implicates Ayn Rand’s “objectivist” philosophy as the bedrock of neoliberal ideology and its relationship with perceived weakness.[1] [2] He says:

“The psychic life of neoliberalism is based on the notion that success is strictly one’s own making, that egotism is the motor of excellence and wealth. Ayn Rand provided this ideology its philosophy: any vulnerability or sign of weakness is to be eradicated as an obstacle on the path of talented and motivated people—exclusively white men”[3]

In Just a Girl, front woman Gwen Stefani sings about this infantilization of women and the consequential repression that entails.

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed, and it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand?
This world is forcing me to hold your hand

Cause I’m just a girl, oh, little old me
Well, don’t let me out of your sight
Oh, I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

The lyrics are clearly describing the correlation between the infantilization of woman and their systematized violence through the repression of their agency. This can be correlated with the neoliberal eradication of weakness and the subsequent paternal management of women’s bodies. Vergès states:

“The weak hereby (unsurprisingly) become part of the new civilizing mission, the target of a paternalistic philanthropy determined to prevent any emergence of a new conception of inhabiting, of being human in the world.” [4]

Women are hence relegated to a form of sub-class paternal oversight, removing agency over their own bodies. It is a simultaneous presupposition of their weakness and an accusatory imposition of women’s necessity to take charge of their own weakness.[5]

Daniel Lazcano


[1] Verónica Gago, Feminist International: How to Change Everything, p. 23

[2] Françoise Vergès, A Feminist Theory of Violence: A Decolonial Perspective, p. 13

[3] Ibid, p. 13

[4] Ibid, p. 13

[5] Ibid, p. 13

Gendered Violence

FKA Twigs: Glass & Patron

Dark misty woods, an echoing shrieking voice and an ominous abandoned van. The first 15 seconds of FKA twigs’ Glass & Patron music video depicts the classic horror narrative of a woman captured in the back of a van, awaiting horrible crimes and violence. A narrative of often sexualized violence against in this case a black, female, and pregnant body. However, under the sound of a frightening distortion, this woman pulls a multi-coloured, powerful, magic cloth out of her body. In this story, she is not pregnant with a baby and victimized by male violence, rather she is the strong authoritative hero. Under dreamy and spiritual sounds, the scarf turns the ominous woods into a magical forest; with its queer vogueing inhabitants and feminine power. I believe that through its magical character this song gives voice to female revolt.

Both the music and visuals of Glass & Patron are inspired by the musical genre Witch House: supernatural and mystical themes, dreamy melodies, and distorted noises. To analyse the power of this music it is interesting to elaborate on the Witch and the symbolism this music carries with it. Historically, women accused of witchcraft were wise women. They possessed a broad knowledge of nature providing them with control and power over their own bodies (Federici 2004, 172/183). However, threatened by this female power-knowledge, the state hunted and persecuted these women. This as an instrument to reconstruct a patriarchal control over female bodies, their labour, and their sexual and reproductive powers (2004, 170). Men were taught to fear the wise woman and her power (165).

Within the music video of Glass & Patron, FKA twigs can be seen as a contemporary representation of the witch. She is portrayed as pregnant without the presence of a male figure, which symbolizes the authority of her own body and reproductive power. This power is taken further when she decides to give birth to a magic scarf by pulling it out of her vagina: she dominates this natural process. The control and authority over nature traditionally connected to the witch now come forward through the control FKA twigs has over her own pregnant body. The scarf changes the forest and places the female out of the white van and on a silver thrown: from vulnerable to powerful. It is especially interesting that the pregnant body is black since black motherhood is often negatively associated with irresponsible mothers. However, in this video, the black pregnant body is portrayed positively and associated with knowledge and power. A black pregnant woman creates a place where all bodies are liberated: we see bodies dancing, posing, and dressing freely like nobody is watching.  

Simultaneously, the feeling of fear is just as present within the music itself. Especially, at the beginning of the song, FKA twigs sings with a brilliant tensive voice while the music itself is full of distant creepy tones and big sudden distorted noises. In the first 15 seconds, this is a fear of male violence. We see a female alone in a white van in an abandoned forest and unfortunately, it is present in our consciousness that female nomadism is often the occasion of sexual violence (Gago 2020, 73). However, as the video continues, we see that this song is not a portrayal of sexual violence; the witch is not hunted down but overthrowing the system. I believe that the still present fearful sounds throughout the song can now be read as the male anxiety towards the knowledge-powerful black female.

In conclusion, FKA twigs uses the figure of the witch in both the visuals and the music to symbolize female knowledge, power, and revolt. The wise black female might frighten the patriarchy, but can create a new liberated world instead of awake sexual violence. In this way, FKA twigs’ song is a piece of art that in Federici’s words stands as proof of other possibilities: no sexual violence, but female empowerment. (Austin 2018, 138).

Vera de Wit

Reference List

Austin, Arlen. 2018. “Times of dispossession and (Re)possession: An Interview with Silvia Federici”. In The Drama Review 62, no 1: 131-142.  Project Muse.

Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the Witch. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.

FKA twigs. “Glass & Patron.” Directed by FKA twigs. 23/03/2014. Music video, 4:51.

Gago, Veronica. 2020. “Violence: Is There a War on and against Women’s Bodies?” In Feminist International: How to Change Everything, 56–84. Verso Books.

Border Violence

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma: Were I End and You Begin; Body Within Body; Where You End and I Begin


Of the many binary correspondences which we may readily consider, one, inside/outside quite visually and literally contains an object which mediates its dualisms. The forward slash, a membrane, is the very border which keeps its terms apart, the side which orients in from out. The slash-border makes it easy to differentiate the terms as two separate entities as opposed to one insideoutside. Is this violence yet? At the scale of nation-states and their sovereignty, both law-positing and law-preserving violences accompany protocols of border control and protection. An electrified fence at the borderline of some property evokes the police’s/policing’s spectral ability to create legal situations where “no clear situation exists.”[1] Yet unlike the more static territorial borders upon which electric fences are built, nation-states alter the territoriality of their boundaries to inflict violence beyond their limits. As Laleh Khalili writes, “the US assumed Guantanamo Bay was exempt from the writ of habeas corpus because of its ambiguous territorial status: at once a perpetual holding of the US under an indefinite lease, and not included within the boundaries of the US between it is non-annexed colonial space.”[2] . Ambiguity between territory and legal sovereignty has permitted the US regime to inflict acts of atrocity against the people detained at Guantanamo Bay. Violence need not be inflicted only through legal loopholes though—in an example of imperialist territory externalization, “the EU is training a new counterterrorism and anti-migration force, called the G5 Sahel Cross-Border Joint Force, with Burkina Faso, Chad Mali, Mauritania, and Niger… UK soldiers are training Tunisian armed forces; Italy has redeployed troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to Niger, Libya, and Tunisia; France has forces in Tunisia and Niger; Germany is training border guards in Libya; and French and German militaries are training agents in Mali.”[3] In these cases of “Europe’s new border guards”, the border as a legal, carceral entity is extended, expedited to punish migrants before they even reach the de facto limits of their destinations.[4] From within the nation-state, recycled myths of the outsider as a pathogenic threat prevail to justify criminalizing immigration.[5] Di Cesare powerfully recalls Hobbes’ Leviathan as a symbol of the savage and lawless wilderness, the perpetual virtual war raging beyond the borders.[6] But perversely, it is not desperate migrants who embody the Leviathan when inhospitable states relegate them to be held in asylum aboard floating cruise ships.[7]


In Migrants and the State, Donna Di Cesare makes a philosophical move towards rejecting the boundary-as-cudgel seen above, starting with the the intersubjective: “[w]hat must be put into question is the metaphysical dichotomy between the internal and the external – the foundation of political separation… A philosophy of the migrant requires a spectator capable of moving from the internal to the external, and vice versa; able not only to recount and redeem the shipwreck, but also to pass judgment on it.”[8]

The motion outlined in her description evokes three consecutive tracks on Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s album Love Is A Stream: Where I End & You Begin, Body Within Body, and Where You End & I Begin. Together, the pieces precisely call into question the self/other boundary, representing a movement from the internal to external and vice versa. In the first movement, a tangle of ambient reflections intensifies, perhaps joined by the timbre of a human voice before breaking open, erupting in a rumble while a delicately sustained melody soars overhead before the elements dissipate, ending abruptly The boundary is cracked apart, its contents ooze into the second piece, which drifts along to suggest an undifferentiated flow, a pure blending of subjectivity: insideoutside. A nagging harshness at the start of the third piece is soon smoothed away, assuaged by the presence of another. Balanced, the elements have returned to their respective bodies, but they fade out together. The pieces trace an affective outline of spectatorship toward a philosophy of migration, a solidarity beyond boundaries where no one subjectivity takes primacy over another. The sound pieces’ experiential traverse approximates Di Cesare’s alliance between the migrant and the spectator. But at what point in this “journey to the Other and back” does the citizen spectator gain more than just understanding of the other? How might such alliances between migrants and citizens, beginning in the abstract as metaphysical relations, convert into substantive actions?

Pat LeGates


[1]     Walter Benjamin, Peter D. Fenves, and Julia Ng, Toward the Critique of Violence: A Critical Edition (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2021), 48.
[2]     Laleh Khalili, “Carceral Seas,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 49, no. 3 (June 2021): 462–471, accessed October 30, 2022,, 464.
[3]     Harsha Walia, Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism and the Rise of Racist Nationalism (Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing, 2021), 12.
[4]     Walia, 12.
[5]     Not a direct quote, but thanks to Khalili’s “Carceral Seas” for this thought.
[6]     Donatella Di Cesare, Resident Foreigners: A Philosophy of Migration, English edition. (Medford, MA: Polity, 2019), 14.
[7]     Daniel Boffey, “Dutch Plans to House Refugees on Cruise Ships Described as ‘Absurd’ and Illegal,” The Guardian, July 22, 2022, sec. World news, accessed October 31, 2022,
[8]     Di Cesare, 22. Italics mine.

Border Violence

Alexiane: Blue Hearts

A passionate exclamation in a foreign language immediately grabs the attention, but soon fades away to give way to a sweet-toned feminine voice. Accompanied by soft, mournful music, this voice sings that she has been woken up by a bird telling her stories about ‘children with blue hearts’. Children who are unheard, children who cry. The listener is informed that the time of looking away is over, as voice and music jointly climb the dramatic ladder. During this climb, in which the voice becomes more emphatic and the music swells, the artist asserts to sing for ‘life’, for ‘rights’, and for the ‘children with no voice’. Everything indicates that an issue of great importance is being raised here. No effort is spared to get the audience emotionally involved. But what children exactly is this all about? This is revealed in the chorus, when the top of the dramatic ladder is reached. The line ‘flows of us lost at sea’, quickly followed by ‘protection for the smuggled hearts’, leaves no room for doubt: it’s about the miserable fate of the youthful victims of human trafficking. The ‘blue hearts’ must stand for these innocent unfortunates.

But the blue hearts Alexiane (2022) sings of in her identically titled song stand for something else as well, as becomes apparent from the website of the UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime). This organization runs the campaign ‘blue hearts’, of which the song is a part. They state that these blue hearts are supposed to symbolize not only the ‘sadness of those who are trafficked’, but also the ‘cold-heartedness of traffickers’.[1] In this way, victim and culprit are lucidly and seamlessly linked.

The solutions envisaged by the UNODC naturally follow from this simple problem analysis. On the one hand, they try to raise funds for the victims, and, on the other, further cases are sought to be prevented by helping governments to make effective migration policies and supporting their efforts to prosecute traffickers.[2] By doing this, the UNODC claims to contribute to one of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely to: ‘facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people’.[3] Thus, the UNODC offers a crystal-clear picture of victim, perpetrator, tactics, and goal regarding human trafficking which is airtight. Right? Well, no. Anything but. While it is clear that migrants are indeed victims, the UNODC’s assertions about the causes, the proper strategies, and the disered goals are not only dubious, but harmful as well.

Starting with the cause. So, who is actually to blame? The focus on human traffickers of the UNODC should be seen as a ‘comfortable alibi for evading or denying any responsibility’, as Di Cesare (2020, 69) claims. ‘A clutch of unscrupulous ‘smugglers’, ‘slavedrivers’ and ‘traffickers’’ is thus designated as completely guilty and the only real cause of migration (Di Cesear 2020, 69).[4] Looking at it more critically, however, it should be seen that the foundational causes are not trafficking practices, but state practices. Firstly, it should be recognised that states by erecting restrictive borders are the more fundamental factor, simply because, as Walia (2021, 149) writes, ‘the economy for extorting traffickers would collapse if there were no border controls’. Secondly, that people despite the deadlyness of the borders make the life-threatening decision to defy them is in large parts a result of the colonialist and capitalist exploitation by the very same states that are now fighting ruthlessly against these self-inflicted migrations (Walia 2021, 155).

Furthermore, this misindication of causes inevitably leads to the proposal of inadequate and harmful strategies as well. Chasing the traffickers, hypocritically helping the migrants, and making “better” policies concerning the borders, respectively ensure that migration goes further underground, that the racist idea of ‘white man’s burden’ is reinforced, and that exclusionary border policies become even more restrictive (Walia 2021, 149,155; Di Cesare 2022, 69).

Finally, the pursued goal. In seeking orderly migration, UNODC shows itself most clearly as an arm of the intergovernmental organisation the United Nations, by defending the interests of states. Instead of striving for a world in which migration is no longer necessary, but nevertheless possible by guaranteeing the human right to move freely, their aim is to further strengten the already predominant sovereignty of states by bolstering their deadly border policies in order to make migration ‘orderly’ (Di Cesare 2022, 14).

In conclusion, ‘Blue Hearts’ by Alexiane is an example of the legitimation of a problematic problem analysis of human trafficking, and thus of the restrictive border project. Not only the lyrics themselves, but also the emotional charge of the song, the use of a singer with roots in the targeted region (Senegal), and the incorporation of an indigenous language in the song (the ‘foreign language’ at the beginning is Wolof, a language from West Africa) all contribute to the message that Europe and Africa, and in fact the whole human race, must turn against the inhuman acts of a group of bad guys. But as shown, the suggested crystal-clear picture of the problem turns out to be a misleading and damaging mirage on closer inspection instead. It is time to counter this hypocritical marketing aimed at further restriction with a truly fundamental critical voice. It is time to replace symptom control with cause control.

Mees Wolffs


Alexiane. 2022. “Blue Hearts.” Gion Records.

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, 135-160. Chicago: Haymarket Books.



[3]  As stated on the Blue Heart campaign brochure, accessible via
[4] Ibid.

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.

Border Violence

Remi Weekes: His House

For a white European citizen, the border is merely represented by a line on a map, passport control at the airport or at most a visa requirement. However, for refugees, the border is associated with fear, violence, and even death. In this essay, I will discuss the Netflix film His House (2020) as a method of demonstrating the gravity of the European border violence.

At first glance, the film’s narrative of a haunted house might point to a classic horror film. However, it is more than that. This film’s supernatural elements are a mere symbol for the real-life horrors faced by migrants. The film follows a young Sudanese couple, Bol and Rial, who fled their country to seek asylum in England. Quite early on in the film, they are appointed a house in an unknown place in the U.K. to await the assignment of their British citizenship. However, they turn out not to be alone. In the walls of the house, they hear and see the ghost of their daughter, Nyagak, who they lost at sea during their journey towards Europe. The girl communicates through a silent humming; a humming that sounds both innocent and anxious. For me, this humming sound represents how immigrants who survived their journey are still haunted by the fear and violence they have experienced at the border. In fact, it becomes clear throughout the film that immigrants also face new instances of border violence within the UK, such as bullying, and discrimination from their new neighbours.

The drowning of Nyagak is unfortunately not mere fiction; in 2016, 4581 people died on their journey to Europe through the Mediterranean route (Walia, 2021). These deaths are caused by the rigorous and violent European border. As mentioned previously, this border violence is not visible to Europeans themselves since for them the border is a mere line on a map. The film His House nevertheless manages to convey this violence to a European audience by turning the story into a literal horror narrative. Through the use of traditional horror tropes such as ghosts, haunted houses, and jump-scares the public feels the pain, fear, and violence that immigrants experience in real life when facing the border.

In the second half of the film, we are faced with an extra level of violence. During a flashback of Rial, we learn that Nyagak was not the couple’s real daughter, but a girl they stole back in Sudan to gain a place on an already fully packed bus of refugees. They are thus not merely chased by the trauma of their refugee route, but also by the guilt they feel for failing to protect a girl that they selfishly used for their own safety. One might say that Rial and Bol themselves are also the actors of violence and therefore responsible for the death of Nyagak. However, I will demonstrate how actually Europe can be held accountable for both the abduction and death of Nyagak. Harsha Walia (2021) explains that Europe externalizes its borders to Africa to outsource its responsibility. For example, the EU has provided Sudan (the home country of Bol and Rial) with millions of euros for their border security and readmission to ensure a decrease in the refugee flux towards Europe (Walia 2021) However, the Sudanese organisation in charge has been engaged in war crimes and ethnic cleansing (Walia 2021) which worsens the living conditions of Sudanese people and so presses the urge to leave the country. Since Europe invests in the Sudanese border control, I believe that they can also be held accountable for the violence committed by them. As seen in the film, the increasing urge for fleeing Sudan is at times accompanied by unconscious violent actions by the refugees themselves. However, the Sudanese refugees find themselves in such desperate circumstances that they are driven to violence out of a need for survival. Therefore, I argue that they cannot be held accountable for these violent actions. Notice that the European border politics are consciously contributing to these desperate circumstances by investing money in unethical organisations. Therefore, I argue that Europe must also be held accountable for violent acts committed by the refugees.

In conclusion, the multiple layers of violence portrayed in His House show the gravity and reach of the European border violence. Through the cinematic horror tropes used, the film ensures that the audience truly feels the violence, fear, and pain caused by the European border. I believe that the film in this way motivates a critical reflection on border violence and the role Europe plays in this.

Vera de Wit

Reference List

Weekes, Remi. Dir. 2020. His House. London: Netflix.  

Walia, Harsha. 2021 “Fortress Europe”. In Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 105-130.

Border Violence

Hadestown Original Broadway Company: Why Do We Build a Wall

Why do we Build a Wall is structured as a dialogue between a figure, to whom we will refer as the Father, and his children. We will unpack the meaning of this song by reading notions from the work of Di Cesare into it.

The dialogue starts with a simple question from the Father: Why do we build a wall, my children, my children? The children answer in unison: why do we build a wall?  We build the wall to keep us free—that’s why we build a wall, we build the wall to keep us free!. Here, already, one finds an interesting opposition that is also identified by di Cesare, namely the opposition of state sovereignty — the power to rule over whatever is within the state’s borders — and human rights (Cesare 2020, p.10). The wall — and therefore also the nation-state inscribed into the wall — is needed in order to guarantee the human rights of its citizens. This perspective, however, establishes those within the walls of the border as subjects a priori worthy of freedom, and as such, establishes those beyond the borders as not worthy of human rights. (Cesare 2020, p.11).

In what follows, the workings of the wall as a guarantee of freedom are slowly unpacked through repeated questioning by the Father. This dialogue reveals that the wall keeps the children free by keeping out the enemy. The enemy, in its turn, is poverty. But then, the dynamics of the dialogue change. The Father no longer poses a question, but rather, takes the stage, and forcefully states:

Because we have, and they have not, my children, my children, Because they want what we have got!

Again in unison, the children respond by reiterating and hence affirming Father’s words. Interestingly enough, the enemy, first identified as the abstract notion of poverty, is reified in the form of a concrete “they” by Father, a threatening they, “a dangerous foreigner” (Cesare 2020, p.12). The conflation of the migrant with poverty essentialises the migrant as the source of poverty. The question of migration, thus, is completely “articulated in the grammar of the possessive”(Cesare 2020, p.13), and as such, the discourse around migration is contraposed from a question of humanity, of equality, of (the legitimacy of) statehood, to a merely economic one.

Father then poses a final question: “what do we have that they should want, my children, my children?” The answer is given starkly:

We have a wall to work upon! We have work, and they have none.

To which the Father adds: “and our work is never done!” The inverted logic of the children becomes blatantly clear: they justify the construction of the wall by posing it as a necessary response to the threat of poverty (embodied by the migrant), while the migrant, and migration as such, is the effect of statehood, of territorialisation (Cesare 2020, p.11), rather than its cause.

As Di Cesare rightfully remarks, the poverty of the migrant is never questioned, nor is their suffering ever fully considered. Yet, the nation-state as we know it today has not arisen merely out of abstract theorising, but rather, has a particular, historical construction heavily dependent on the logic of capitalism and colonialism (Cesare 2020, p.64). Historicising the position of the migrant, thus, flips the roles of victim and perpetrator: it is not the members of the state who are the victims to the threat of the migrant, but rather, it is the migrants who have fallen victim to the exploitation of the state. The Father, speaking in a sinister, authoritative manner, reveals himself not as an equal interlocutor of a dialogue, but rather, as a force of indoctrination. By identifying the enemy as residing outside the borders of the state, the idea that there could be an enemy within of the borders is pre-emptively deflected.

Stephan Loor

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.