Heteronormative Necropolitics

In Necropolitics Achille Mbembe (2019), speaks about a world always already invaded by inequality, precarity, and militarisation in a climate of ever-increasing resurgence of racist, homophobic, nationalists, and fascists discourses.  He outlines an alarming picture for Europe as a continent eaten up by the desire of ‘apartheid’ and always in the search of an enemy, whether external or internal. For Mbembe, this is how democracy embraces its dark side, what he terms as the ‘nocturnal body’, which erodes rights, values, and freedoms that were previously constituted. At a nutshell, the notion of necropolitics refers to the use of social and political power that dictates how some people may live and how some others must die. If we apply Mbembe’s thought on how certain people should live and others must die in the case of the 2015 European refugee crisis, we realise that we are talking about the heteronormalisation of necropolitics. By this, I mean that the ideal figure of the refugee has been constructed as the Syrian family. Even in the solidarity movement of ‘Refugees Welcome’ the image underneath the sing portrays a man, holding a woman who holds a female child. These very problematic representations in a way dictate whose sexuality and reproductive abilities dictate survival.

I juxtapose these thoughts with the story of Suma, a trans refugee fro Cairo travelling in a boat from Turkey to Greece in 2016:

We arrived in Chios by boat having each paid 700 euro. All four of us LGBT people who had boarded the boat were for the entirety of the journey very discreet; in fact, I had covered myself almost completely in a niqab – it seems funny but I was afraid to meet the same fate as another trans refugee; once her travelling companions realised she was trans, they threw her in the sea. Hours later the Turkish coastguard collected her, but this whole torment, I learned later, made her go mad.

Myrto Tsilimpounidi
December 2019


Mbembe, Achille (2019) Necropolitics. Durham: Duke University Press.

Souma, trans woman refugee from Cairo, 2016 (Source: Interview with Theodoris Antonopoulos,

The image is part of the Facing Crisis photography workshop held in Athens (Greece) in July 2017 by Myrto Tsilimpounidi & Anna Carastathis in collaboration with LGBTQI+ refugees.
Photo by Myrto Tsilimpounidi, 2017