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In a different voice: ‘a letter from Manus Island’ as poetic manifesto

Surma, A. (2018) In a different voice: ‘a letter from Manus Island’ as poetic manifesto. Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media and Culture, 32 (4). pp. 518-526.

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On 9 December 2017, The Saturday Paper published ‘A Letter from Manus Island’, an essay and manifesto written by Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and refugee being held on Manus Island with hundreds of other men. Boochani writes in a radical, ‘poetic’ voice that makes the ordinary strange again, as he talks of love, the interdependence of human beings, and the strength to be derived from acts of solidarity. He challenges not only the prevailing vituperative tenor of contemporary public rhetoric, but also the dehumanising discourses within which humanitarian practices in Australia, and in the west more broadly, operate. This paper is written as a letter, in direct reply to Boochani’s own. It is inspired by Lilie Chouliaraki’s critique of contemporary practices of humanitarianism and the ways in which politics, the market and technology have transformed ‘the moral dispositions of our public life’. It explores the unsettling effects and provocative insights presented by Boochani’s poetic voice – the refugee as human subject and agent rather than victim or object of pity (or hate). The paper thus reflects on our conventional responses to the ethical call to solidarity from vulnerable subjects and imagines how we might respond otherwise.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
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