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Publication details for Professor Louise Amoore

Amoore, L. & Hall. A. (2013). The clown at the gates of the camp: Sovereignty, resistance and the figure of the fool. Security Dialogue 44(2): 93-110.

Author(s) from Durham


This article considers the figure of the clown-fool as a way of approaching anew contemporary practices of sovereignty and resistance. The spectre of the camp as the nomos of modern sovereign power is widely critiqued for its neglect of the thriving and teeming life that actually accompanies the declaration of exception. The clown is an errant and troublesome figure whose life haunts the sovereign decision on exception. His presence in border-camp activism invokes a rich, provocative history in which the clown’s foolish wisdom has critiqued the conceits of power. Yet, the clown’s significance exceeds his traditional associations with carnivalesque misrule and mockery. Like homo sacer, the clown occupies an ambiguous position between political inclusion and exclusion, between inside and outside. In short, the sovereign needs the clown. His relation to resistance is thus also complex. The clown does not turn to face a locus of power as though it could be countered or overturned. Rather, he is the example par excellence of the resistance always already present within the exercise of power: standing not inside or outside the gates, but looking through, he dwells within the court but is not of its making. As a singularity akin to Deleuze’s figurative children and Agamben’s tricksters, the clown troubles the division between interior and exterior on which sovereign political life rests, a division that is also frequently replicated in understandings of resistance.