This article reads Stephen Frears's film Dirty Pretty Things (2002) to consider the questions of subjectivation and commodification motivating postcolonial critiques of power. The authors suggest that in the film, the assertion of sovereignty is articulated through the politicization of death and a reckoning of the dying body, through what Achille Mbembe refers to as “necropolitics.” Drawing on the work of Mbembe, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and others, the authors contend that the limit of the human posed by the articulation of colonial frames within transnational ones conjoins modes of cultural subjection to an absolute devaluation of life itself. This reading of the film foregrounds the arena of the mass commodification of material bodies, resituating the foundations of capitalism within the slave trade, in contexts ranging from the sale of human organs to prostitution to trafficking in migrant laborers. The article posits a model of salability, based on disposable life and recycled humanity, where entry into the market as either subject or object is the condition of survival in the modern security regime. Against a terrain of precariously asserted and suspended subjectivity within the realm of state sanctions, readers are invited to consider the possibility the film presents of realizing a collective politics that subverts and seizes the management of life on the verge of death.

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