Aliens (2018) aims to undermine the ever-present Imperial institution forcing the reader to question and rethink about national borders, immigration, and community. In the 1903 Sir William Evan-Gordon wrote The Alien Immigrant, a book describing the immigration in the UK. Abounding with stereotypes and filters, the publication eventually resulted in the Alien Act 1905, which limited the number of foreigners allowed to reside in the country. Aliens edits and highlights the original text in an attempt to shift perspectives and offer a different take on the topic.
However, the only image used in each of the five editions of the book, evolves throughout addition of layers, emphasising the process of the construction of the other. Eventually, the image fades completely in an attempt to demolish the indexed and subjugated identity that racial and class supremacism created. Almost as a cyborgic figure, the image works as a metaphor for the combined intersection of culture, nature and gender, and uses it as a discursive device. The work engages postcolonial theories and feminist criticism to highlight how the European humanist ideology established a cultural model that still permeates and influences modern worldview.
In The Wife of a King, Jack London writes about Keesh, a native American chief who converted to the catholic church. However, Keesh’s new belief led him to fight against all the allied tribes and therefore to lose his privileges as chief. Even though the tribe exilities Keesh, the Indian Chief continues to believe in his new God whose predicaments he barely understands. The white man replaced untouched forests to military forts, nurturing from Keesh’s land and depriving the chief of his own images, appropriating symbols and customs. The end of the novel is dramatic: Keesh returns to his own religious believes and rituals; this time persuaded of having to spend the rest of his eternity in the Christian Hell rather than walking through the infinite green pastures. London lived closely to the Indian community as long as to assist to its progressive decline due to the brutally forced policies of the Christian church. On the other hand, the Indian culture was not the only one to be compromised by the ‘colonization of the image’. The ‘civilizing’ wave brought from the western world wiped out everything it clashed with, absorbing some of other cultures’ symbols as trophies. Totem, boomerang, whisky, zero and caravan are only of the few words we use today without knowing their origins. The Gods don’t live there anymore. Aliens deals with the complicate landscape of the colonization of the image in the UK, where symbols, signs and meanings blur into each other, waving a cultural resistance that each immigrant enforces in order to defend his or her own identity. The nomadic nature of our current world forces us to complete and respect a series of norms constantly layering on top of our past and traditions. We are forced to claim back our identity with the images that most closely depict us. Colours, gestures, dresses, jewels are not only fashionable, they speak about our nature, roots, aspirations. Each one of us becomes a supporter of our own culture, risking becoming a stereotype. But the stakes are too high: the defence of our own identity. Essay written by Emmanuele Johnathan Pilia