Science Fiction Film & Television

Unsettling pedagogy

Sifting the postcolonial midden heaps of Neill Blomkamp’s District 9

Science Fiction Film & Television (2020), 13, (2), 199–222.


This article explores the concept of ‘waste’ as a key authorial signature of Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. Saturating the mise-en-scène and undergirding the production process, the film’s ‘scavenger aesthetic’ is an insistent signifier of residual political imbalances in the wake of apartheid, wherein determinative relations between multinational corporations, security discourse and ‘excess’ population in postcolonial South Africa play out in an alternative history premised on lives organised around the trash heaps of Johannesburg’s townships. This figure is particularly resonant with respect to the film’s problematic representation of Nigerians, the remainders from the real world where South African society continues to grapple with xenophobic discrimination against ‘illegal aliens’. Symptomatic of the reality that stubbornly resists any attempt to marshal into allegory the paradoxes of globalisation incarnated in Nigerians’ occupancy of the setting, the waste aesthetic exposes the shortcomings of truth and reconciliation promises for social reform and the broader formulation of security issues around which neo-imperial politics continue to flourish. Originating in a postcolonial studies course, this article foregrounds waste for an inquiry in which questions of film form arise directly out of the pedagogical challenges of exposing students to the material configurations of postcoloniality documented in sf film.

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Author details

Brophy, Gregory

Malley, Shawn