An everyday evasion is at work in the socio-cultural geography and imaginary of the Australian Community. This evasion circulates about the figure of the refugee, or, more specifically, the asylum seeker. The setting for this everyday evasion (which is frequently mistaken for an invasion) incorporates the leaky boat, the displaced and denationalised body, the smooth space of the sea, and ‘our’ antipodean shores. In chapter 14, ‘1440: The Smooth and the Striated’ of A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari invent two concepts concerning space, which they name the smooth and the striated. Of the several models they develop to extrapolate their conceptual investigation, the maritime model tells us the most about difficult journeys undertaken. Not only is the sea given as a smooth space par excellence, alongside the desert and the steppes, but, simultaneously, the space most easily subjugated to striation. Consider, for instance, the lines of longitude and latitude, so crucial to navigation and the colonisation of such territories as Australia. Importantly, it is in the midst of this maritime milieu that we discover a site of contest between smooth and striated space, as we also discover this contest taking place in the Australian desert. A contest cannot be figured as a straightforward and symmetrical opposition, but an agonistic to and fro in which power relations become more or less coagulated and bare life comes to be manipulated. What interests Deleuze and Guattari in operations of striation and smoothing “are precisely the passages or combinations: how the forces at work within space continually striate it, and how in the course of this striation it develops other forces and emits new smooth spaces”. In addition to the concepts of the smooth and the striated, Deleuze and Guattari add a further concept, which they name, holey space. With this paper I will ask how the scarcely formulated notion of holey space might offer a way of welcoming, and not evading, what Deleuze calls a life, and the Italian theorist, Giorgio Agamben, bare life, through the figure of the refugee, or asylum seeker.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 500.
Giorgio Agamben, Bare life, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, refugee, Australian asylum seeker
The 2004 Annual conference of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia, Murdoch University, Perth.