To read

May 2017, #2 



Continuing with the Deleuzian Nomadology and Braidotti’s notion of the “other” and “becoming minor”, we are moving forward with a text from Shahram Khosravi, based on his book “The ‘illegal’ traveller”. In the last sessions, we have moved passed Thomas Nail’s Kinopolitics, theory of boarder and the notion of movement; “The history of the migrant is the history of social movement”. Thomas Nail draws from Marx’s concept of “Primitive Accumulation” and concludes that one of the two ways that social expulsion is possible, is territorial expansion that was possible on the condition that part of the population be expelled in form of migratory nomads, forced in surrounding mountains and deserts.

The ‘illegal’ traveller: an auto-ethnography of borders focuses on the rituals and performances of border crossing. This is a narrative of the late 20th century through the eyes of an ‘illegal’ migrant. Shahram Khosravi interjects his personal experiences into ethnographic writing. It is “a form of self-narrative that places the self within a social context”. Khosravi is the Professor of Anthropology at Stockholm University, and author of Precarious Lives: Waiting and Hope in Iran.

According to Khosravi, The vulnerability of border transgressors is best demonstrated by their animalisation. The terminology used in this field is full of names of animals to designate human smugglers and their clients; coyote for the human smuggler and pollos (chickens) for Mexican border crossers, shetou (snakehead) for Chinese human smugglers and renshe (human snakes) for smuggled Chinese. Iranians usually use the terms gosfand (sheep) or dar poste gosfand (in the skin of sheep) to refer to ‘illegal’ border crossers. Represented in terms of chicken and sheep – two animals traditionally sacrificed in rituals – the border transgressors are sacrificial creatures for the border ritual.…A zone of betwixt and between, a predicament of liminality is per se, in anthropological sense, a ritual. The border ritual reproduces the meaning and order of the state system. The border ritual is a secular and modern sort of divine sanctity with its own rite of sacrifice.

The border-regime exercises its power not only through ‘the right to live or die’, but pre-eminently through ‘the right to expose to death’. The border-regime exposes transgressive refugees/travellers to death through consigning them to ‘the zones of exemption where the sovereign power cease to function’.

The legal traveller passes the border gloriously and enhances his or her social status, whereas the border transgressor is seen as anti-aesthetic and anti-ethical (they are called ‘illegal’ and are criminalised). We live in an era of ‘world apartheid’, according to which the border differentiates between individuals.


  1. Shahram Khosravi, The ‘illegal’ traveller: an auto-ethnography of borders (essay)


Supplementary Reading:
DAS KAPITAL, Vol. 1, Chapter 1 + 2 

Link to Download

Next meeting: June 2nd Friday, 19:00 – 21:00
Address: Ex-club (Merimiehenkatu 36, 00150 Helsinki, Finland) NOTE: Call 0417537605 to get in
If you would like to join, just come in, (free and open to all)
The Reading Group always meets on the 3rd Friday of 
every month.

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We are open to collaboration and joint projects. The reading conversations are usually carried on collectively. The topic of each month’s reading varies based on the collective interest. We are reading books, essays and materials in topics regarding contemporary art studies, politics, philosophy, criticism, etc.

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