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The human waste disposal industry or immigrant protest in neoliberal times

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Publication date11/2014
Host publicationImmigrant protest: politics, aesthetics, and everyday dissent
EditorsKatarzyna Marciniak, Imogen Tyler
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSUNY Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (print)9781438453118
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NamePraxis: Theory in Action


The short black comic film Asylum (2011, Directed by Joern Utkilen) depicts the lives of two migrants Alfred Islami (Mihai Arsene) and Wan Yun Ji (Andy Cheung) living through the interminable time of an immigration detention centre in Scotland. Immigration detention, Asylum reveals, is characterised by an excess of time. In the absurdist tradition of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953) the detainees ‘can only kill time, as they are slowly killed by it’ (Bauman 1998: p. 88). Alfred Islami dreams of running a biodynamic farm, he spends time reading about bio-dynamic farming methods, acting out his farming fantasies with the few props, chairs, pot-plants, rubber gloves, at his disposal and attempting to procure potatoes and cows from detention officials. Alfred shares a shabby room in the detention centre with Wan Yun Ji (Andy Cheung). While Alfred spends his time playing farmer in order to ‘kill time’, Wan Yun Ji engages in repeated acts of self-harm, including cutting his wrists in a failed suicide attempt and throwing himself through the glass window of his detention centre room. These different strategies of survival represent attempts not only to pass time but to sustain some semblance of agency and self-determination. These are activities which stave off (the seemingly inevitable) psychological deterioration into zombie-like “dead but undead” states of being, which overwhelm detainees around them