‘The language is the border’
in Bad English
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Chapter six reflects on the relationship of language to regimes of border security, beginning by considering the asylum seeker as the preeminent multilingual figure of our times, endangered not least by the monolingualist ideology of the nation state and its enactment in asylum law. This chapter discusses a range of literary texts – the Refugee Tales project, James Kelman’s Translated Accounts: A Novel, and Brian Chikwava’s Harare North – which conjure asylum as a regime of ‘hostile language’. As this chapter argues, both Kelman’s and Chikwava’s linguistic experimentalism operates to make a self-enclosed language-world of paranoia, confusion, fear, and grief, constantly threatened with its own violent appropriation, which satirises and upends the asylum system’s demands for transparent testimony in an English that is supposedly infinitely capable of transmitting meaning without loss.

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