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Westphalian sovereignty as a zombie category in Australia

Authors
  • Everuss, Louis1
  • 1 University of South Australia, Adelaide
Type
Published Article
Journal
Borderlands
Publisher
Exeley Inc.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
Volume
19
Issue
1
Pages
115–146
Identifiers
DOI: 10.21307/borderlands-2020-006
Source
Exeley
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

State sovereignty is customarily connected to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which it is argued established the ideal of political authority being tied to static geographical containers. While academic scholarship has demonstrated that this ideal fails to account for performative and fluid modes of political power, Westphalian sovereignty remains an influential feature of political discourse. This article argues that Westphalian sovereignty consequently fits Ulrich Beck’s description of a ‘zombie category’, a dead social institution kept alive in political and public discussion. This is demonstrated in the context of the Australian State’s exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as asylum seekers arriving by boat. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s theories of sovereignty, I contend that these populations are excluded from the Australian polity because of how they move, while other subjects including ‘genuine refugees’ and European settlers are included due to their ideal (im)mobilities. I argue that this underlying mobile logic of Australian sovereignty and exclusion is hidden by the zombie notion of a static Australian state, which delegitimatizes humanitarian and indigenous claims to sovereignty based on experiences of forced mobility and mobile expressions of political authority.

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