Abandoned Women and Spaces of the Exception



I consider two cases of legal abandonment in Vancouver—of murdered sex workers and live-in caregivers on temporary work visas—in light of Agamben’s claim that the generalized suspension of the law has become a dominant paradigm of government. I bring to Agamben’s theory a concern to specify both the gendering and racialisation of these processes, and the many geographies that are integral to legal abandonment and the reduction of categories of people to ‘bare life’. The case studies also allow me to explore two limit-concepts that Agamben offers as a means to re-envision political community: the refugee who refuses assimilation in the nation-state, and the human so degraded as to exist beyond conventional humanist ethics of respect, dignity and responsibility.