Future Frontiers and the State of Exception: An Agambenian Reading of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians
Kaspars Reinis is a research master student in Comparative Literary studies at Utrecht University, in autumn 2017 he will start a second master in programme Arts and Society at Utrecht University. He was born in Riga, Latvia in 1993. In 2015 he obtained BA of Arts from Maastricht University in programme Arts and Culture in 2015. He has been an exchange student at the University of British Columbia (2014) and at the University of Toronto (2016). Kaspars has succesfully finished his master thesis titled „J.M. Coetzee’s Inoperative Gestures: An Agambenian reading of ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, ‘Elizabeth Costello’ and ‘The Old Woman and the Cats.’”
This paper discusses future frontiers and their relationship to the state of exception, where the sovereign suspends the normal rule of law in the name of security, which leads to the paradox that the “the sovereign is, at the same time, outside and inside the juridical order” (Agamben 1998, 15). By doing a comparative reading of Giorgio Agamben’s theory on the state of exception and J. M. Coetzee’s 1980 novel Waiting for the Barbarians, a parallel between the novel and the current discourse on fear and security, the refugee crisis and the global threat of terrorism is drawn. Sovereignty becomes a state of exception that emerges from within a suspended political and juridical order, and has a direct implication for the future. The author argues that the state of exception of the current political discourse is organised around the structure of “in the name of”. Today’s sovereign is waiting for the terrorists, who are a kind of solution, a way of prolonging the exceptional, exclusive nature of the western politics. In conclusion, for a future community to come, it is necessary to abolish this structure of exclusion that operates through the sovereign exception. The future frontier, if there is to be any, cannot be a state of exception. Therefore it is necessary to render the sovereign apparatus inoperative by persisting upon the notion of “not in our name”, thus not allowing the sovereign to define itself and against what lies behind its reach.
How to Cite:
Reinis, K., 2017. Future Frontiers and the State of Exception: An Agambenian Reading of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 2(2), pp.73–90.