An Excess of Othered Limbs

Bryan Finoki’s latest entry at Subtopia, Of Steel and Bone, commenting on a New York Times Picture of the Day for 30 May. The NYT’s caption identifies it like so:  "In Bangalore, India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members watch through a fence as their leader B.S. Yeddyurappa, not shown, is sworn in as the chief minister of the southern state of Karnataka. The party won the largest share of government seats in the recent state elections." Bryan, because he’s like that, looks a little more deeply into the meaning of it.

"Intriguing to me is this anonymous chain of arms and hands seeping through the fence", he writes, "a fence equally anonymous, and a scene that perhaps could be found dispatched at so many different coordinates around the world."

It may not be intentional, but the way the photo reduces humanity to a random assembly of arms and hands detached from any bodies casts an effective portrayal of how refugees and migrants are perceived and treated by national governments in the current geopolitical climate. As if the detained, or even those just enclosed – more so, those who have been disenfranchised – aren’t even seen as full bodied human beings, but as an excess of ‘othered’ limbs seeking to worm their way past the wrought iron gates, resting their tired elbows and emptied hands before recocking them towards some sort of handout.

He wonders "if this image of bare-knuckled laborers provides an accurate critique of how the media distorts representations of the world’s excluded populations, or whether it is merely another dehumanizing consequence of the media".

Either way, I find something subtly revolutionary in this photo – a suggestion that fences alone wont stop the power of unwanteds or completely shun them out from finding their spaces in or through the gaps. There is a solidarity in these arms lurking below the depiction of the fence as being able to hold back a mob, that symbolizes how – not only is the border fence itself forged equally of bone and steel – but the human connections interwoven in the border are far more powerful than any bolted or welded barricade. To not see this human side is to accept then that the humanity in this photo is simply just another piece of the fence itself, as if body parts are an acceptable supplemental materiality in the composition of the barrier.

There’s more. Go read it.

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