The Roach's Revenge: Suicide and Survival in Rawi Hage's <i>Cockroach</i>

  • Brittany Kraus Dalhousie University
Keywords: Refugee, exile, hospitality, surveillance, citizenship


What does it mean to “exist and not to belong”? This article analyses the themes of exile and alienation in Rawi Hage’s Cockroach in relation to current discourses of global migration and state surveillance. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s idea of the refugee as “pure man,” I argue that the novel calls into question the degree to which the discourse of the human (and human rights) can exist beyond state apparatuses of citizenship and belonging, and the ways in which refugees, migrants, and sans papiers are excluded from the “realm of common humanity” via state apparatuses of security and surveillance. Examining the novel as a revenge narrative, I focus on how Cockroach’s unnamed protagonist – an impoverished, Arab migrant living in Montreal – shifts between human and insect form to indicate the ways in which the discourse of the human fails to create the political and socio-economic conditions necessary for his survival.