Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fear of the other in Dracula

When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU (I believe it was in 2007), the UK & Ireland placed restrictions upon would-be immigrants so as to limit the the numbers of bold, go-getter types that would want to try their luck in a more affluent environment. It's hard to know where responsible immigration control ended and racism began under that scheme, and some would argue that the latter was disguised as the former.

Up till a few weeks ago I thought this was a fairly recent phenomenon, due to unprecedented proximity to the Eastern 'other'. However, after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, it seems that anti-foreigner anxiety was just as pronounced in the 19th century, all the more so for having limited contact with the outsiders in question. It is not only a Transylvanian count that is demonised in the Irishman's story, but also a minor Jewish character (his nose is compared to that of a sheep) and China itself (the character Jonathan Harker assumes that, China being even more East than Romania, it must be all the more backward, as represented by trains with a lack of punctuality).

Some critics classify Dracula as an 'invasion story', and the idea of vampires as racially different predators still lurks around today, with films like Sweden's Let The Right One In heavily alluding to the Roma.

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