Aliens: The Anthropology of Science Fiction

By George E. Slusser; Eric S. Rabkin | Go to book overview
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Border Patrols

Michael Beehler

What Is the Story of the Alien?

An essay on the alien and its anthropology recalls to us the critical fact that the story of the alien is always the story of borders and of the institutional forces that try to neutralize and control those borders in the name of a certain political economy. Those forces manifest themselves in various ways, but their power can be localized in the figures of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and of its most physical representative, the Border Patrol. These two political entities most clearly express the institution's -- in this case, the state's -- desire to articulate and control its borders by directing the story of the alien along one of two narrative lines. For the state to have secure borders, the alien must be either legally internalized or legally externalized, brought inside the border with the express permission of the state or kept outside the border through the state's denial of that permission, a denial that can sometimes be spoken through physical force. Internalization is the job of an immigration and naturalization service and a reflection of the myth of the melting pot because internalized aliens pose no problem to the institution. Ideally, they lose their alienness and become just like everyone else: a repetition of the same. Externalization is the job of border patrols: externalized aliens also pose no problem because they can, presumably, be made to stay on the other side of the institution's border. Here, the alien is simply the other. Internalization and externalization, the same and the other -- these are the only two narratives of the alien allowed by an institution in control of its borders.

But, of course, the story of aliens and borders is never this tidy, for the mastery of the institution over its borders is never quite


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Aliens: The Anthropology of Science Fiction


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