Je Suis Refugee: An Analysis of the Discourses of Refugees and the Coming

Simon Johan Markussen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis is a critical analysis of the dominant discourse of the refugee. With a point of departure in Giorgio Agamben’s understanding of the refugee as a central figure, the crisis of the nation-state, and about form-of-life as a human condition, this thesis seeks an alternative community, where the refugee is included and not excluded. By stating that the story of Moses is also a story of a refugee, this thesis does not see refugees as a new perspective in politics. By starting with a genealogical analysis, which shows that the refugee can be compared to historical figures like Homo Sacer and the outlaw, this thesis strives to explain that important differences have lost their powers over the years. As a consequence the general understanding of the refugee today is, that there is something criminal about the refugee, but as this analysis shows, the refugee is in fact the exact opposite, according to the 1951 refugee convention. Because of that this analysis states that the refugee is a convicted non-criminal. This means that the refugee is in fact not a criminal, but also implies that the refugee nonetheless is referred to as a refugee – not as a human being. By mentioning this, the study tries to show that refugees are declared so by the nation-state and thus the citizen (at least potentially) share the destiny of the refugee. A point made by both Agamben and Hannah Arendt. Therefore this thesis can be read as a critique of the discourse of the refugee, as well as a more general critique of the sovereign nation-state’s exclusion of zoé – naked life. We are all refugees, as the analysis states. With this in mind, the analysis uses Agambens form-of-life as a discourse, which criticizes the dominant discourse of the refugee, which in this thesis is called the discourse of rights. As Agamben’s form-of-life is a theoretical concept, the study suggests that the conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim practices a kind of form-of-life discourse. By doing so he shows that music has the ability to undermine the differences and predicates constructed by the nation- states’, and instead creates an alternative community in music. As it shows, music has the power to create an alternative community, which includes both the musician and the audience, although as he states: ”Music can not bring peace.” (Snow 2015).

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages79