Performing Noncitizenship: Asylum Seekers in Australian Theatre, Film and Activism by Emma Cox (Book review)

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Balfour, Michael
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2017
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Emma Cox’s new study is an insightful and incisive investigation into the concept of noncitizenship. Unlike other recent volumes,1 this is not concerned with the broad categories of refugee performance but rather focuses on undocumented or unlawful asylum seekers and migrants. While this category of migrant might occupy a quasi-life in other territories, Australia’s so-called ‘illegal’ noncitizens are largely held in detention either in on-shore facilities or offshore in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. As Cox points out, this absence from civic life fuels how Australian borders have ‘taken on a near-totemic power as a site of inoculation from outside’ (p. 3). Until a few years ago, Australia’s harsh policies (adopted by both conservative and labor governments) towards asylum seekers, and in particular boat people, seemed shockingly out of line with progressive democratic legislation and normative values of human rights. With the increasingly hostile antiimmigration stance in the USA and Europe and the estimated death toll among migrants in the Mediterranean reaching a record 5,000 in 2016, the kinds of politics that Australia has uniquely pursued now seem to be gaining traction in the rise of alt-right politics internationally.

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Contemporary Theatre Review

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27

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3

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Cultural studies

Arts & Humanities

Theater

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Balfour, M, Performing Noncitizenship: Asylum Seekers in Australian Theatre, Film and Activism by Emma Cox (Book review), Contemporary Theatre Review, 2017, 27 (3), pp. 418-420

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