Neill Blomkamp, Class Apartheid and Urban Insurrection



by Jason S. Polley

The suburbs, aka first-world neighborhoods, are present via their conspicuous near visual absence in 2009’s District 9, a film focusing on an increasingly disorderly assortment of itinerant “aliens” in an informal zone, aka a third-world slum. The obvious restive tension director Neill Blomkamp cinematizes concerns “urban segregation,” which Mike Davis characterizes as “not a frozen status quo, but rather a ceaseless social war in which the state intervenes regularly in the name of ‘progress,’ ‘beautification,’ and even ‘social justice for the poor’ to redraw spatial boundaries to the advantage of landowners, elite homeowners, and middle-class commuters” (Planet of Slums 98).

Blomkamp reverses the negative dialectic of presence vis-à-vis urban segregation in his ambitious follow-up to District 9. Indicatively and ironically titled Elysium (2013) — which evokes sanctified multisyllabic places like Arcadia, Avalon, Shangri-La and Valhalla, as well as the consecrated chariots that convey the privileged to these paradises — the futuristic utopian satire set in 2154 constructs a visceral dialectical opposition between earth (aka the slums) and heaven (aka the suburbs). Moon-like, the eponymous Elysium, which is the disease-free residence of the rich (the film’s title card states “Earth’s wealthiest inhabitants fled the planet to preserve their way of life”), floats in space casting an unseen global shadow over an Armageddon Earth, one ruled as much by merciless machines as it is by dreamy, and increasingly dreary, nostalgia. In the end, antihero parolee Max Da Costa, played by a muscly, tattooed Matt Damon, frees himself and his fellow leftover earthlings from two utopian prisons: a romanticized past (think of Ghost filtered in past tense) and the apocalyptic present (think of Mad Max in a further future). Max Da Costa accomplishes his punk overthrow by ultimately uploading sensitive data, hijacking a space vessel, invading the hermetic Elysium, and re-setting its core computer, thereby dispatching earth-bound vessels to retrieve those in need of medical attention — and, by extension, everyone who is not already living in the affluent satellite (literally!) suburb. The film ends much like Fight Club. After the jubilation of the orchestrated, then witnessed, toppling of the top-down superstructure, we are left to ponder how to proceed following the triumph of working-class insurgency. What’s next, we wonder? One way to advance is to look back without nostalgia, by which I mean a non-idyllic, and thereby uncorrupted, reconstruction of past events. An instructive way to attempt to achieve this is to revisit Blomkamp’s first film in light of what Mike Davis sees as the crucial (and un-ironical) “urbanization of insurgency” (203). The following reading of the “ceaseless social war” between slum-dwellers and suburbanites, as presented in Blomkamp’s District 9, borrows heavily from Davis’ Planet of Slums (2006), which may or may not be a spur for the “Suburban Planet” in Elysium.



District 9 begins with an office man being told how to perform for his second-take in front of the camera: “just look straight into the lens.” Named Wikus, the everyman (Sharlto Copley) and eventual antihero, clarifies that he and his fellow “Alien Affairs workers” “engage with the Prawn on behalf of MNU, and on behalf of humans.” The scene abruptly shifts to a wide-angle shot of Johannesburg from a distance: suburbs in the foreground, city in the background dwarfed by a colossal ship hovering above, its insidious shadow darkening half of the no-man’s desert- and scrub-land at screen centre. The reach of the looming ship, it appears, almost trespasses into the sanctity of the suburbs. Perhaps the safe, securitized suburbs are on the cusp of violability.

A new voice then recounts the events of the ship’s arrival two decades earlier. This speaker focuses on the communal surprise that accompanied the spacecraft’s materialization in South Africa, rather than Manhattan, DC, or Chicago. The anachronistic implication (the ship arrived 15 years before 9/11; 20 years before Obama) being that these US sites are more worthy of alien visitation, ambassadorial and/or terroristic!

Spliced with shaky vérité shots of urban congestion, smoky fire, helicopter surveillance, and the hull of the Starship Enterprise-like alien vessel, Gray Bradnam (UKNR Chief Correspondent) informs us that the craft silently hovered for three months until, “after much deliberation,” MNU personnel “physically cut their way in.” From behind yet more shaky shots (each beset by a sponsor logo and/or time indicator), the voice of Sarah Livingstone (Sociologist, Kempton Park University) explains, “We were on the verge of first contact. The whole world was watching.”

Mylar-suited human resources, their white boots toeing slimy torch-lighted darkness, then monopolize the reportorial screen. Then another voice, echo-y, aghast, and lunar, exclaims “Oh my God” as what can only be described as a horde of nonhumans recoils from the new light, circling tighter around their very human bin fires.

Gray:   The creatures were extremely malnourished. They were very unhealthy.

They seemed to be aimless. There was a lot of international [pause] pressure on us at the time. The entire world was looking at Johannesburg. And so we had to do the right thing. The government then established an aid group that started to ferry the aliens to a temporary camp that was set up just beneath the ship.

Sarah: We didn’t have a plan. [Pause] There was [sic] a million of them. So, what was a temporary holding zone soon became fenced, it became militarized, and before we knew it, it was a slum.

As alternate cameras capture omnipresent Foucauldian helicopters, surveillance towers, crude fences, and UIO aid workers, not to mention the apparently infighting Prawns, one of whom claws meat from a cow skull, Francis Moraneau (CIV Engineer Team) offers the last words of the film’s ominous opening: “Well, the truth is, nobody knew what this place was. There’s [sic] a lot of secrets in District 9.” As the camera pans out, we see what we’ve all seen before, if only onscreen or through the TV-like tinted windows of hopefully-never-stopping SUVs: a giant heap of unplanned, informal, shantytown shelters. “Kurtzian horror,” to appropriate Mike Davis (198), promptly follows when MNU begins the purportedly legal banishment of the now 1.8 million Prawns to the John Wyndhamesque fringes, a euphemistic “camp” 200 kilometres outside Johannesburg.


Though prima facie a sci-fi thriller pitting the human against the alien, at the heart of the possible-world that Blomkamp cinematizes in District 9 is an all-too-modern, all-too-human war: the one between the endangered urban middle-classes and the eruption of urban poor. Nigerian fiction writer Fidelis Balogun, whom Davis champions, details this social war when he describes the literal results of the flare-up of urban poverty in Lagos, Nigeria: “The middle class rapidly disappeared and the garbage heaps of the increasingly rich became the food table of the multiplied population of abjectly poor” (80). But the squatter is not only “condemned to forced anexoria” (Esposito and Campbell 58). Nor is he simply forced to abide the “excremental surplus” that characterizes the “poor cities on every continent [that] are little more than clogged, overflowing sewers” (Davis 137). The squatter is controlled in terms of his forced itinerancy. The urban poor, in other words, are rovers, “transients in a perpetual state of relocation,” as urban planner Tunde Agbola depicts their predicament in his home-city of Lagos (in Davis 98).

But enforced transience is not only a global third world phenomenon. Official dispossession of the urban poor also occurs in the first world. This from “The Harper’s Index,” October 2009: “Amount New York City spends each year on air, bus, and train tickets to send homeless people out of town: $500,000” (13). Blomkamp’s illegal aliens, or Prawns, as MNU calls them, therefore translate into more than what Davis would call the Calibans of apartheid Africa. Moreover, their demarcation as dark others has not changed much. Instead, this differentiation has spread globally — and often beyond race. The clash of classes, the rich stealing from the poor, the poor feeding off the remnants of the rich’s excess, is materialized physically in the slum and polito-culturally in the fear of contamination.

Urban studies and biopolitics focus on the appropriations and divisions of space and the interactions of human populations within increasingly interpellated or policed zones. Davis offers a sobering image of the contemporary cityscape: “Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement and decay” (19). Davis qualifies this dystopian depiction with statistics: “Residents of slums, while only six percent of the city population of the developed countries, constitute a staggering 78.2 percent of urbanites in the least-developed countries; this equals fully a third of the global urban population” (23). Building on Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics and racism in 1975 and 76, the little-translated work of Roberto Esposito clarifies the essential social connections between community and immunity. Timothy Campbell explains: “Esposito will argue that the idea of the modern subject who enjoys civil and political rights is itself an attempt to attain immunity from the contagion of the possibility of community. Such an attempt to immunize the individual from what is common ends up putting the community at risk as immunity turns upon itself and its constituent element” (3-4). In Esposito’s own words, “what safeguards the individual and political body is also what impedes its development, and beyond a certain point risks destroying it” (Esposito and Campbell 51).

The immunitary paradigm — the dread of the always-already alien other, the fear of contamination à la Contagion (2011), and the ensuing fragmentation of modern (urban) life — sits at the heart of the heart of the city in District 9. District 9 thus masterfully contextualizes the apocalyptic — and thanatopolitical — tenor of our most pressing of contemporary metropolitan predicaments. Blomkamp’s faux documentary narrativizes (as I will show while unpacking a series of questions that I’ve embedded into this claustrophobic section) what Davis would call “the true ‘clash of civilizations’” (205).


Johannesburg? Given South Africa’s notorious legacy of forceful eviction, not too mention the apartheid in effect until 1994, as featured in Anthony Fabian’s Sandra Laing-biopic Skin (2009), this setting should be anything but extraordinary. South Africa’s still-existing racial segregation accentuates the neediness and otherness of the uninvited-yet-extant Prawns. “They’re spending so much money to keep them here when they could be spending it on other things. But [pause] at least, at least their keeping them separate from us,” reasons one of the black “interviewees” in District 9. “They must just go. I don’t know where, they must just go” agonizes another black speaker. And another (and this un-ironically): “if they were from another country we might understand, but they are not even from this planet.”

Even if one manages somehow to ignore Blomkamp’s thinly disguised allegory of institutionalized racialism, which Anthony Kwame Appiah would qualify as bona fide racism, Blomkamp’s critique of social and class segregation in the South African context should be clear. In fact, the film’s location might even appear as perversely nostalgic since the city’s centre is now “a mixture of slum-tenements and middle-class apartment complexes” (Davis 33). No longer “the financial capital of the entire continent,” Johannesburg’s business district “has become a center of informal trading and African micro-enterprises” (33). A dystopian future no longer waits in the wings to supersede Johannesburg’s past. The dystopic is happening now. Blomkamp’s Prawn slum population in Tembiza has basically doubled. Tembiza is therefore a megaslum, is now the equally unruly (and bigger) twin of Soweto, in Johannesburg’s township Gauteng, which currently houses over 1.2 million squatters.

And if these South African conjunctions are not enough — coincidences that reach to capital Cape Town, which also holds the dubious distinction of hosting one of the world’s most populated megaslums (Cape Flats: 1.2 million) — we may consider Johannesburg in light of the fear of the Prawns. Whereas the withdrawing cloistered bourgeois fear contact with the massifying bottom feeders, the informal scavengers (that somehow manage to subsist and produce under ever-deteriorating conditions) fear the global stage. Davis explains that in “the urban Third World, poor people dread high-profile international events — conferences, dignitary visits, sporting events, beauty contests, and international festivals — that prompt authorities to launch crusades to clean up the city: slum-dwellers know that they are the ‘dirt’ or the ‘blight’ that their governments prefer the world not to see” (104). We might therefore easily read District 9 in light of and as harbinger to World Cup 2010, hosted by South Africa. Let us not disremember the notorious “Red Ants” who razed “migrant shacks” throughout South Africa, with pickaxes as their passports, under cover of dawn in spring 2010. These “state-sponsored mercenaries” had but one aesthetic goal: spring cleaning in the name of urban “beautification” for FIFA, and for the world (“Slum clearance, South-Africa style”). The resistance and rioting early in District 9, on the part of alien and human alike, might not only be about control and contagion, but also be about appearances and performances. Each social sector attempts to appropriate and protect its own (institutionally) threatened space.


MNU? UKNR? UIO? CIV? Acronyms implode meaning. They lend legitimacy to the oft unexplained. Viewers confront a number of these impenetrable ellipses in District 9. Newly promoted to head the serving of 24-hour eviction notices to the Prawns — a deportation authorized via MNU’s bill I-27 — Wikus has recourse to several of these impenetrable statutes when he and his militarized task force confront the aliens. And apart from the acronym MNU, which translates into the half redundant, half satirical Multi-National United, none of these is unpacked. This, however, appears to be the point: the aliens do not deserve explanation.

Nevertheless, this doublethink extends beyond the domain of the Prawns. Neither do we the viewers, the audience of the multi-camera, multi-cut news documentary, receive any acronym clarification. These foreign terms only appear to be readable by MNU. As witnesses, we too are controlled by MNU. Wikus makes this plain when he shoves the camera away in the midst of situations beyond his control. Following his clumsy contamination by an unidentified black spray, for instance, “live” filming resumes with Wikus’ discomfited interrogative imperative “You’re gonna cut that part? You cut that!” A version of Big Brother, MNU remanufactures the news.


Secrets? Thanatopolitics? “Off-camera lives,” a TV talk-show host in Don DeLillo’s play Valparaiso attests, “are unverifiable” (83). The Orwellian adage applies to both District 9 and MNU. Despite the cameras and towers monitoring the peripheries of the militarized compound, clandestine activity abounds within. Like any slum, District 9 is “off-world.” Davis explains: “Since the 1970s it has become commonplace for governments everywhere to justify slum clearance as an indispensable means of fighting crime. Slums, moreover, are frequently seen as threats simply because they are invisible to state surveillance and, effectively, ‘off-Panopticon’” (111). Whereas upper-classes inhabit increasingly policed Disneyfied safeworlds, complete with gates, passports, CCTV, curfews, and helicopter surveillance, slumdwellers lurk within informal spaces that escape the camera monitors synonymous to the modern (sub)urban experience.

Blomkamp, however, multiplies this hyper-reconnaissance in Elysium. On the one hand, the now-off-Earth suburban satellite is monitored by a Big Brother, or in this case a Big Sister, played by a CPU-cold Jodie Foster, who’s in the midst of a corporate, which is synonymous with Presidential, coup d’état. In her role as Big Sister cum Defense Secretary cum Postulant President cum Usurping CEO, Secretary Delacourt’s official mandate is to protect Elysium from alien invasion — in this case contagious earthlings. So, on the other hand, the depleted earth, peopled by unhealthy, because unwealthy, shackdwellers, is also under the scrutiny of Secretary Delacourt, who commandeers the motley corporate-punk hybrid Kruger (an at once kept and unkempt Sharlto Copley) to track the terroristic/mutinous undertakings of Max De Luca. On- or off-world, in third world fringes and in first world colony alike, Blomkamp’s characters are doomed to, and by, very real bell jars. It’s hard not to think of Dave Eggers’ latest novel, The Circle (2013), wherein the logical extension of public figures going “transparent,” as in wearing a camera that documents your every waking move, is the Facebook-like “location” fiat that everyone goes transparent. Thus Egger’s equally Orwellian mottoes: “Sharing is caring;” “Privacy is theft;” “Secrets are lies.”


Yet secrets (which we accepted in the JFK era and stopped tolerating in Nixon’s) of course penetrate into the dogged and not-so-dogged doings of our watchers, whom we necessarily watch. Blomkamp’s opaque MNU naturally proves to be no-less-clandestine than the proles or Prawns with whom it engages. MNU’s unaccountability emerges when Wikus too is forced to squat off-Panopticon. No longer looming above his social inferiors, he finds some refuge amongst the urban squatters once his post-exposure metamorphosis lands him in MNU’s underworld corridors and affiliated hospital of horrors. Here, Orwell meets Kafka — and meets Kafka again. Though Wikus arrives home to celebration after his day delivering I-27’s to disaffected Prawns — a day that finds him inhaling an unknown substance, resulting in black bile nose seepage and being flung ten-metres in the air by an unruly alien, leading to a badly lacerated arm — he leaves unconscious after leaking blackness and then collapsing onto his promotion-baked meats. He awakes in hospital. His unwrapped arm reveals Prawn “tentacles.” Alarums sound within, and he’s rushed away. He regains full consciousness with a Prawn weapon in his altered limb. And without human precedent, he’s physically able to fire this foreign technology, thus signaling his septicity and unprecedented solidarity — viz, his very belonging in the alien community. Even his non-Prawn hand somehow depresses previously untouchable triggers. Contact with the Prawn has infected Wikus to the point that he’s contracted their genetic coding. Doubly emphasizing his exposure and contamination is the fact that when Wikus is forced, by cattle prod, to shoot a Prawn, the victim’s bloody entrails explode all over him. An abject figure, to use the language of Julia Kristeva, Wikus fails to shelter his own bodily borders. Wikus leaks. He’s leaked upon. He’s therefore not entirely a subject, not fully human. By analogy, he transforms into an erstwhile member of capitalism’s formal economy: he’s a squatter.

Recalling Kafka’s Gregor Samsa from “The Metamorphosis,” Wikus is at once not human and not not human. Substantially, he remains Wikus. Yet, The Fly-like, he’s swiftly acquiring the physical characteristics of the Prawn. As a result, MNU’s head surgeon makes his final opinion plain: Wikus is in “a key stage of the metamorphosis.” MNU’s chain of command thus deliberates over the “harvest” of his organs, beginning with his heart, in hopes of obtaining what is the corporation’s Philosopher’s Stone: the means to operate the aliens’ arsenal of DNA-sensitive weapons. With this cinematic move, Blomkamp references what Davis has called “The most ghoulish part of the informal economy, even more than childhood prostitution”: “the surging world demand for human organs, a market created in the 1980s by breakthroughs in kidney transplant surgeries” (190). And MNU’s decision to operate directly — Wikus watching as open-eyed as us, the privileged viewers of the un-filmed, of the unverifiable — leads us to yet another acronym. The man who finally sanctions the organ harvesting operation with a nonchalant “OK, I say let’s go” is nothing if not CIA, a cameo’d foul Langley Brother to Fleming’s fair Felix Leiter.

Wikus responds by harnessing his novel interstitial strength. An everyman turned alien turned antihero, he escapes through MNU’s Kafkaesque corridors to the relative safety of District 9, thereby reclaiming his sense of subjectivity. He thereby evades what we might label a contemporary form of “Nazi thanatopolitical” doom. “The Nazi immunitary apparatus” Esposito theorizes, “is characterized by the absolute normativization of life, the double enclosure of the body, and the anticipatory suppression of life” (Campbell 14). Campbell clarifies that what is integral “to Esposito’s reading of the biological tonality of the Nazi dictatorship is the recognition of the therapeutic goal the Nazis assigned the concentration camp: only by exterminating the Jews did the Nazis believe that the German genos could be strengthened and protected. And so for Esposito, the specificity of the Nazi experience for modernity resides in the actualization of biology, when ‘the transcendental of Nazism’ becomes life [;] its subject, race, and its lexicon, biological” (15).

Borrowing from Donna Haraway and Esposito, Laura Bazzicalupo counters the Nazi zeitgeist by stressing the transformative hybridity of human agency. She maintains that “the human is not a given, but that which can be modified. We graft the other onto us inasmuch as we are capable of assimilating and metabolizing it. By virtue of this, the corporeal doesn’t dissolve into the virtual or the technological, because body and life represent an active passivity, the mnestic and selective features of that creative assimilation” (115). Whether we elect to read the Wikus metamorphosis as sci-fi hyperbole or slum allegory, what cannot be denied is how he exposes MNU’s Straussian noble lie. Prawn contact does not dehumanize Wikus. Rather, it liberates him, even if only conjecturally. After all, he escapes from the MNU compound to the alien one. Unable to publicly validate Wikus’ off-Panopticon survival, MNU disseminates headline news detailing his severe contagion due to “prolonged sexual activity with the aliens.” In light of District 9’s African setting, Blomkamp’s subtext is clear. Even without this subtext, MNU’s disinformative mandate is to perpetuate public fear of the infected off-world urban other.


Nigerians? A motley collection of Nigerians lives with, if seemingly not alongside, Blomkamp’s illegal urban aliens into the District 9 compound. These others amongst others are at once complexly involved in arms trading, interspecies prostitution, alien cannibalism, postcolonial colonization, and World Bank-like criminally-priced rations allotment. The Nigerian presence in District 9 (and District 9) consequently speaks to an array of institutionalized evils attending IMF-sponsored Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs, fittingly!) in the Third World beginning in the mid-1980s. “The weird logic of this economic programme,” Balogen marvels, “seemed to be that to restore life to the dying economy, every juice had first to be SAPed out of the under-privileged majority of the citizens” (80). “[F]inanced by offshore lenders like the World Bank and immune to local vetoes,” the mandate of SAPs in Third World cities is to “clear, build, and defend islands of cyber-modernity amidst unmet urban needs and general underdevelopment” (Davis 99).

Infamous SAPing in Lagos proved particularly telling. Speaking of the “repeated forced exoduses to clear the way for highways and luxury compounds” in urban Africa, Davis explains that one of the most

notorious and heartbreaking—rivaling Apartheid’s demolitions of Sofiatown
and Crossroads—was the destruction of Maroko in Lagos in 1990. A former
fishing village at the swampy end of Lekki Peninsula, Maroko was colonized
by poor people displaced in the late 1950s ‘so that Victoria Island and Ikoyi
could be drained and developed for Europeans and wealthy Africans.’
Although impoverished, Maroko became famous for its populist joie de vivre,
dark humor and spectacular music. By the early 1980s, the once marginal
Lekki Peninsula itself was considered a prime site for the extension of high
income residences. The 1990 bulldozing of Maroko left 300,000 homeless

Some of these exiled, of these structurally-made itinerant Nigerians, make District 9 their new home. And they initially appear to be reproducing the nationalism that itself reproduces the civilizing mission and exclusionary practices of colonialism. After all, they have their own heavily armed Prawn-free compound within the larger, unruly Prawn compound.

But the arrival of the new Wikus complicates this too-tidy reading. His position with MNU enabled him officially (and mysteriously) to overlook the presence of the Nigerian others. While circulating the I-27, he cautions a subordinate, “Don’t even look at them, man!” Now a member of the informal economy, however, he has no choice but to approach them, first for food, then for weapons. They are fascinated by his metamorphosis and attendant ability to fire alien weapons. An ironic Jesus, their daunting, deadpan leader-prophet even licks Wikus’ wounds. The Nigerians, we have already learned, have been consuming Prawn flesh in hopes of assimilating themselves. The reason why becomes clear when MNU returns en masse militaire to repossess the AWOL Wikus, who has become “the most valuable business artifact on earth.”

In order to safeguard District 9, and thus their survival in the informal economy, the Nigerians have formed a guerrilla army. And with Wikus’ help, these avant-garde urban freedom fighters defend their slum sector, thus delaying, for a while at least, their deportation a world away to MNU’s “concentration camp.” The Nigerians martial moves typify what Davis finally rallies for: the “urbanization of insurgency” (203). “[T]he future of human solidarity” he strongly cautions, “depends upon the militant refusal of the new urban poor to accept their terminal marginality within global capitalism” (202). The socialist activist’s apocalyptic, because prophetic, tone should not go underappreciated. “As the Third World middle classes increasingly bunker themselves in their suburban themeparks and electrified ‘security villages,’” he accentuates, “they lose moral and cultural insight into the urban badlands they have left behind” (202). Without this human, all-to-human insight, we will only compound and therefore condone and participate in the daily violence and class apartheid of economic and communal exclusion, a segregation that is evermore sanctioned and ignored — and perilous. “One sixth of the world’s population — 1 billion people — live in slums,” writes Vickie Collins (46).

According to the UN, this fraction could double in the next decade-and-a-half. And this discomfiting estimate may be just the beginning, as a 2014 study published in The Guardian appears to project. Though the putatively trailblazing investigation problematically begins by quantifying uncertainty, it ultimately makes Elysium (set in 2154, we remember) appear less speculative, less fictional: “The world’s population is now odds-on to swell ever-higher for the rest of the century, posing grave challenges for food supplies, healthcare and social cohesion. A ground-breaking analysis released on Thursday shows there is a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will rise continuously from 7bn today to 11bn in 2100.” Doom-laden or not, and Damian Carrington’s article is nothing if not alarmist, it is eerily — Blomkampianly — fitting that the piece is headed by a photo of a jam-packed souk followed by the byline “A crowded Oshodi market in Lagos, Nigeria — the country’s population is expected to soar from 200m today to 900m by 2100.”

The sophisticated near-insurrection masterminded by District 9’s globally emblematical Nigerians presages the bottom-up triumphs of the punk overthrow in Elysium, a film wherein the disenfranchised develop the agency to re-enfranchise. Davis’ Planet of Slums, a text that increasingly reads like an informed rallying cry for the underclass, if not an actual manifesto for these growing numbers of the “terminally marginal,” ultimately calls for the active revolt that Blomkamp epitomizes in the cliffhanging climax to Elysium — a cliffhanger, naturally, given that the absolute freedom of the individual that anarchy celebrates has no ready interpellative script, no predesigned roles for actually autonomous agents to abide.

Images from District 9, TriStar Pictures, 2009 and Elysium, TriStar Pictures, 2013.

Works Cited:

(For an earlier version of this paper, please see“‘Ceaseless Social War’: District 9.” Jure Gentium: cinema e globalizzazione. Nov 2009.

Balogun, Fidelis Odun. Adjusted Lives: Stories of Structural Adjustments. Trenton: African

Writer’s Library, 1995.

Bazzicalupo, Laura. “The Ambivalences of Biopolitics.” Trans by Clarissa Clo. Diacritics 36.2 (2006): 109-116.

Campbell, Timothy. “Bios, Immunity, Life: The Thought of Roberto Esposito.” Diacritics 36.2 (2006): 2-22.

Carrington, David. “World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise: New study overturns 20 years of consensus on peak projection of 9bn and gradual decline.” The Guardian. 18 September 2014.

Collins, Vicky. “Off the Beaten Path.” Ode 7.3 (April 2009): 44-46.

Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. New York: Verso, 2006.

District 9. Dir Neill Blomkamp. Prod Peter Jackson. Perf Sharlto Copley. TriStar, 2009.

DeLillo, Don. Valparaiso. New York: Scribner, 1999.

Eggers, Dave. The Circle. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2013.

Elysium. Dir Neill Blomkamp. Perf Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley. Tristar 2013.

Esposito, Roberto, and Timothy Campbell. “Interview.” Diacritics. 36.2 (2006): 49-56.

“Harper’s Index.” Harper’s. October 2009: 13.

McDougall, Dan. “Slum clearance, South-Africa style.” The Sunday Times. 25 April 2010.

About the Author:

Jason S. Polley teaches Literary Theory, American Culture and Contemporary Fiction at Hong Kong Baptist University.

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