Subscribe to our mailing list to get updates

* indicates required

Thinking Through Tragedy and Comedy A Symposium on Performance Philosophy and the Future of Genre

Stephen Wilmer


The exiled character in need of asylum, such as Oedipus, Medea, Orestes, Philoctetes, Antigone, et al., was a recurrent theme in ancient Greek tragedy. In Aeschylus’ The Suppliants, the fifty daughters of Danaos, fleeing from the sons of Aigyptos, arrive in Argos from overseas to ask King Pelasgos for protection. Likewise, The Children of Heracles seek safety in Athens from Eurystheus who is determined to kill them. After Creon tells her that she must leave Corinth immediately, Medea, who refers to herself as “apolis”, persuades Aegeus to provide her with sanctuary in Athens before she wreaks vengeance on Jason. In Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus seeks sanctuary from Theseus, having been exiled from Thebes. In each of these plays, we see uprooted and homeless persons trying to find some solution to their enormous difficulties. Many of these plays have been updated today to comment on current social and political conditions of displaced or endangered persons, such as Elfriede Jelinek’s recent “Die Schutzbefohlenen”. In my paper I plan to use Braidotti’s notion of the "nomadic subject" and Agamben’s concept of "bare life" to focus on the problem of asylum as conveyed both in the theatre and in real life.