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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor


Second Advisor


Third Advisor


Subject Categories

Ancient Philosophy | Classical Literature and Philology | Comparative Literature | Continental Philosophy | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Feminist Philosophy | Law and Philosophy | Law and Politics | Legal Theory | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Performance Studies | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Theory, Knowledge and Science | Visual Studies


My dissertation offers a new framework through which to theorize contemporary democratic practices by attending to the political agency of unauthorized immigrants. I argue that unauthorized immigrants themselves, by claiming their own ambiguous legal condition as a legitimate basis for public speech, are able to open up the boundaries of political membership and to render the foundations of democracy contingent, that is to say, they are able to reopen the question about who counts as a member of the demos. I develop this argument by way of a close reading of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone[1], which allows me to dramatize democracy’s vexed relation to the question of foreignness and to challenge traditional concepts of democracy, political membership and agency.

My turn to the classical Greek tragedy of Antigone is doubly motivated. First, it allows me to translate the political agon (conflict) staged by unauthorized immigrants today in order to read its rival narratives of membership. It provides me with a frame by which to link the politics of burial at the borders with the public protests performed by unauthorized immigrants in the streets of Tucson and Paris. Secondly, it allows me to decenter the frame, to facilitate a new trajectory for this classical tradition against the dominant reception of Antigone as civically circumscribed to one polis. Exploring Antigone’s alternative subtext of metoikia helps me to contest the idealized construction of Athenian culture that has influenced Western European ideals. Filling the gaps in our accounts of democratic theory, this research will contribute to our understanding of the phenomenon of alienage and provide a deliberative platform through which to articulate questions surfacing from this other form of political membership. My research also provides future scholarship with a theoretical basis for a broader interrogation of political agency and opens up a different trajectory for the reception of the classical tradition and for different inter-disciplinary ways of doing political theory.

[1] I use Antigone when referring to the play and Antigone when referring to the character in the play.