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Hartelius, Johanna

Fall 2013, 43:4, pages 311-334

Face-ing Immigration: Prosopopeia and the “Muslim-Arab-Middle Eastern” Other

Abstract: This essay complements and complicates research on immigration discourse by intersecting two post-humanist understandings of “face.” Analyzing post-9/11 news media’s enfacements of the “Muslim-Arab-Middle Eastern immigrant,” I employ the works of Paul de Man and Emmanuel Levinas to explicate, on one hand, the inscription of subjectivity onto alterity, and, on the other, the slippage of this inscription. I demonstrate that figurations of immigrants rely on the tandem rhetorical operations of apostrophe and prosopopeia, the giving of voice and face. Public rhetorics impose a mask, an intelligible signifier onto the unknowable Other. Inevitably, however, alterity speaks, and “face” in another sense breaks through; the mask that mediates immigrants in public culture is exceeded. The essay concludes with implications for a posthumanist immigration ethics, not motivated by a personal commitment to the Other, but discoverable in the Leviansian conversation and the “experience” of exposedness.

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