Forced Migration and the Humanities https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/22683/all cached version 08/02/2019 22:06:17 en Art and the refugee ‘crisis’: Mediterranean blues https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/iain-chambers/art-and-refugee-crisis-mediterranean-blues <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Artists are mapping new itineraries of the Mediterranean, throwing into relief an incurable colonial wound that continues to bleed into the present.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_02-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Saidou: Mali to Italy. &quot;I came to Europe because of the war. I went to Algeria and from there I took a boat without knowing "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_02-2.jpg" alt="" title="Saidou: Mali to Italy. &quot;I came to Europe because of the war. I went to Algeria and from there I took a boat without knowing " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Saidou: Mali to Italy. "I came to Europe because of the war. I went to Algeria and from there I took a boat without knowing where I was going. It happened this way, that’s destiny." Photo ©Kate Stanworth.</span></span></span>The so-called contemporary migrant ‘emergency’ in the Mediterranean is the deliberate political and juridical construction of Europe. Refusing Article 13 of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a> (1948), all European states have decided that not everyone has the right to move and migrate. This violent exercise of European and First World power reopens a profound colonial wound. Migrants rendered objects of <em>our</em> legislation and laws signal once again the asymmetrical relations of power that produced the colonial world and its ongoing fashioning of the present.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Today, the evocation of&nbsp; ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35703467">emergency</a>’ and ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34131911">crisis</a>’ in the Mediterranean, signalled in the brutal <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necropolitics">necropolitics</a> of leaving some to drown, others to be turned back, and all to be forced to suffer horrendous journeys over desert, sea and increasingly fortified barriers, clearly draws on altogether deeper geographies of regulation and possession.</p> <p class="Body">European colonial power was established, affirmed and secured by control of the seas. Just as in 1800, when Napoleon and Nelson were fighting for global hegemony around its shores and on its waters, the Mediterranean remains an exclusively European matter (with Israel and Turkey as subcontractors). It is part and parcel of the geometry of the colonial present, where our security invariably secures someone’s else’s death. There is a beautiful <a href="https://vimeo.com/114849871">short film</a> by the Ethiopian activist and film make Dagmawi Yimer (<em>Asmat/Names</em>) that seeks to rescue from the anonymity of the depths those who have drowned by restoring their names to memory, transforming the sea into a vital archive for us condemned ‘to listen to these screams’. Yimer was himself an ‘illegal’ migrant who made it across the sea.</p> <p class="Body">In this situation, although consistently sidestepped and avoided for embarrassing the hollow claims of European humanism, a number of contemporary visual artists insist that we return to the scene of the crime. Here we explore the terrible gap between the arbitrary violence of the law and the insistence of social and historical justice.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">On April 12 this year, in the context of an AHRC financed programme ‘<a href="https://respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com/">Responding to Crisis: Forced Migration and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century</a>’, involving Keele and Royal Holloway universities and the University of Naples, ‘Orientale’, a workshop entitled <em>Sea Crossings: The Mediterranean and its Others’</em> was held in Naples in a former squat ‘L’Asilo’. This structure is among the several occupied buildings in the city recognised by the town council as cultural centres. An intensive day of debate and discussion was punctured by three artistic instances involving Zineb Sedira, Kate Stanworth and Giacomo Sferlazzo. In different ways, the photographic work exhibited by Kate Stanworth, the discussion of her own work by Zineb Sedira and the performance by Giacomo Sferlazzo, proposed a radical realignment of the usual coordinates for registering and discussing migration in today’s Mediterranean.</p> <p class="Body">Kate Stanworth’s <a href="http://www.katestanworth.com/where-we-are-now">photographic exhibition</a> of diverse migrants dislocated in European cities – ‘Where we are now’ – rightly played on the ambivalence of ‘we’. If, most obviously, the collective noun refers to relocated migrants in unfamiliar lands and cities, forced to re-negotiate their way in the world robbed of domestic referents, the insidious undertow is that the ‘we’ is also us and our responsibility for such situations. In the translation of transit we discover not simply that migrants, often under dramatic duress, are forced to transform themselves continually in order to engage with unplanned situations, but also that the very contexts of European culture and home are being translated. It is this mutual process, no matter how sharply asymmetrical the powers involved, that unleashes the slow but profound remaking of home, citizenship, culture and belonging… for all; not, and most obviously, only for the unexpected stranger. The narratives sustained in Stanworth’s photographs and the brief captions provided by the migrants cut up ready explanations and the flat maps of our understanding with rougher, often difficult to assimilate, interrogations. The latter leave no one really feeling at home.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_05.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=": Salma: Syria to Germany. &quot;I still have this dream to come back to Syria. If I complete my studies I can make radical change th"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_05.jpg" alt="" title=": Salma: Syria to Germany. &quot;I still have this dream to come back to Syria. If I complete my studies I can make radical change th" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Salma: Syria to Germany. "I still have this dream to come back to Syria. If I complete my studies I can make radical change there, I can give benefit for the people and the country." Photo ©Kate Stanworth.</span></span></span>In her <a href="http://zinebsedira.com/">visual and mixed media work</a>, the Franco-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira draws us into the slippage and the translation that accompanies the transit of contemporary ‘<a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/136001547/Traveling-cultures">traveling cultures</a>’: women in white veils who oscillate in the interval of Islam and Christianity: perhaps Muslim or the Madonna (<em>Self Portrait or the Virgin Mary</em>, 2000). Elsewhere, between rusting hulks of ships bobbing in the sea waters of Mauritania (<em>Shipwreck series</em>, 2008), derelict colonial buildings on the Algerian coast (<em>Haunted </em>House, 2006) and the glances northwards from the African shore, maritime horizons promotes desire and dreams of a better life.</p> <p class="Body">Here the sea, as a troubled archive, constructed as a site of multiple crossings, is transformed from a presumably dumb accessory to the political life and histories occurring on land to become a historical interrogation. If occidental modernity depended on its marine mastery to realise a colonial appropriation of the globe, a maritime reasoning (<em>Floating Coffins</em>, 2009) today insists on the transit of other narrations on and over its waters. The ambivalence of the sea as both bridge and barrier reveals the deeper political economy of migration and its long term centrality to the making of the modern world. The ruins of a European colonial past here haunt the configurations of the present.</p> <p class="Body">Giacomo Sferlazzo <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1aFhJC9R28">recounts in song and storytelling</a> a history of Lampedusa. Once again, this is an oblique narrative. It refuses to tow the line. It transforms this tiny island of desert scrub (once covered in woods and full of wild life until charcoal burning brought about an ecological disaster) that lies 200 km south of Tunis and Algiers into another tale. As an outreach of Europe in Africa, at least geographically speaking, the island has in recent decades notoriously become a ‘hot spot’ for ‘illegal’ migration. A lost out island far to the south of Sicily, once home to Muslim, Christians, pirates, sponge divers and fishermen, Lampedusa has been transformed into a border outpost and militarised zone, a juridical fortress with a detention centre.</p> <p class="Body">Sferlazzo’s words and music unpack the arbitrary rigidity of this existing situation. The sedimented histories, resistance and refusals of a homogenous and static representation, stamped by the authority of Italy and Europe, falls apart. Crossed by multiple bodies and histories, the island escapes reduction to a frontier settlement and becomes the laboratory for questions and processes that neither Italy nor Europe seem capable of answering. Contrary to unilateral definitions of the Mediterranean and of Lampedusa’s role in policing and protecting its borders, Sferlazzo’s songs and stories rescue from the archives sustained by this island and the surrounding sea a humanism that exceeds the limits of European and Occidental sovereignty.</p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_08.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Bourak: Syria to Germany. &quot;I wanted to make the journey like an adventure, discovering new places and cities. We called it an ad"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_08.jpg" alt="" title="Bourak: Syria to Germany. &quot;I wanted to make the journey like an adventure, discovering new places and cities. We called it an ad" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bourak: Syria to Germany. "I wanted to make the journey like an adventure, discovering new places and cities. We called it an adventure and something to remember. It was only when we saw families and children on our journey that we thought about the suffering." Photo ©Kate Stanworth. </span></span></span>Tracing itineraries that commence from the south – from south of the Sahara, from the south of the Mediterranean, of Italy, of Europe – the work of all three artists disorientate and reorientate our mapping of the modern world. Here we confront the journeys induced by music and the visual arts: their invitation to look, and to look and listen again, that is always accompanied by the grit in the eye, the dissonance in the ear, that scratches the conventional framing and figuration of the world. This produces a slash in our habitual tempo-spatial coordinates. As such it leaves a potential trace, the after-life of a disturbance, an interrogation.</p> <p class="Body">In an important sense, art in its concentrated attention and affects is always about matter out of place. The figuration of the migrant in the contemporary field of vision deepens and disseminates this unhomely quality. For the modern migrant is not only the reminder of a colonial past that powerfully and unilaterally made the world over in a certain fashion. She also shadows present artistic practices with what the prevailing sense of modernity structurally seeks to avoid or negate, precisely in order to secure its particular sense of home and belonging. </p> <p class="Body">On the other side of the canvas, in the margins of the frame, throwing a constant shadow across the visual field and disturbing our ears, those other histories fester as an incurable wound that continues to bleed into the present. Reopening the archive of a modernity whose art seemingly revolves around itself, the critical pace here quickens, threatening to spin out of the regulated order of its institutional reception in order to dirty the whiteness of its walls and the rationality of its knowledge with the dirt, death, despair, destitution and desires of an other worldly order.</p><p class="Body"><em>This article is part of the series</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/forced-migration-and-humanities">Forced Migration&nbsp;and the Humanities</a>. This dialogue is an editorial partnership with openDemocracy 50.50 led by Mariangela Palladino (Keele University) and Agnes Woolley (Royal Holloway University of London).&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/refugee-crisis-art-weiwei">Why is so much art about the ‘refugee crisis’ so bad? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karolina-follis/reflections-on-post-humanitarianism-in-dark-times">Reflections on post-humanitarianism in dark times</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement"> The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/migrationsreconstructing-britishness-in-art">Migrations:reconstructing &#039;Britishness&#039; in art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-freedman-vasiliki-touhouliotis/fleeing-europe"> Fleeing Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay-loubani/from-border-to-harbour-greek-tragedy-goes-on">From the border to the harbour: the Greek tragedy goes on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? EU Culture Ideas International politics People Flow Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Iain Chambers Mon, 10 Jul 2017 08:44:37 +0000 Iain Chambers 112037 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What could a multi-million euro arts festival offer struggling communities in Greece? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zoe-holman/documenta-art-Greece-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The world-class €37 million Documenta arts festival comes to Athens <span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">–</span> and brings challenging questions about art’s relevance amid economic and humanitarian crises.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/D14 PA-30886277.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Documenta 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/D14 PA-30886277.jpg" alt="Documenta 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens." title="Documenta 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Documenta 14 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. Photo: Aristidis Vafeiadakis/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On a sunny afternoon in May, a group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees assembled in the grounds of Athens Polytechnic University, dressed in drag. They shook their booties and then stole a piece of art from one of the world’s premiere festivals – a two-metre large <a href="http://www.documenta14.de/en/calendar/21544/the-place-of-the-thing">replica of the so-called ‘Oath Stone’</a> at which the trial of Socrates took place more than two millennia ago.</p><p dir="ltr">The replica had been commissioned for the equally epic European arts exhibition <a href="http://www.documenta14.de/en/">Documenta 14</a> (D14), which is in Athens until 16 July. Under the direction of Spanish artist Roger Bernat, the stone toured the city over the preceding fortnight, being ‘blessed’ by various groups. It was then supposed to be flown to Documenta headquarters in Kassel, Germany, and buried. </p><p dir="ltr">Among the groups invited to ‘interact’ with the sculpture was an Athens-based <a href="https://www.facebook.com/lgbtqirefugeesingreece/?pnref=story">support group for LGBTQI+ refugees</a>. They were asked to stage a mock funeral ceremony involving the replica, receive €500 for their participation, and then return artwork so that it could continue on its voyage – supposed to signify the ease with which objects, unlike people, can cross European borders. </p><p dir="ltr">Yet the stone’s travels were short lived. Members of the LGBTQI+ refugee support group absconded with it, releasing a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/lgbtqirefugeesingreece/videos/263576050783139/?pnref=story">sassy online video message</a> instead. Under the counter-title ‘#rockumenta’, it disparaged the ‘fetishisation’ of refugees and the lavish expenditure on the festival while thousands of migrants languished invisibly across Greece and the continent.</p><p dir="ltr"><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Flgbtqirefugeesingreece%2Fvideos%2F263576050783139%2F&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=560" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" allowtransparency="true" allowfullscreen="true" width="448" height="252" frameborder="0"></iframe>Within 24 hours, it had received over 25,000 views. Bernat responded with a <a href="http://rogerbernat.info/general/lets-put-things-in-its-place/">hurried press release</a>, claiming that the group had not technically “stolen” the work and stating that they were “no heroes”. He said they should “check their political agenda or their artistic parameters” and “as an artist and as a refugee, you are doomed to be a victim if victimism is your only political weapon”.</p><p dir="ltr">A week later, views of the stunt had crept to 50,000. It received international<a href="https://www.trouw.nl/home/37-miljoen-voor-documenta-expo-is-te-veel-vinden-vluchtelingen-~a425b8b1/"> media coverage</a> and sent a ripple of controversy through the D14 and activist communities. Bernat returned to Germany where he proudly proclaimed that he had two more replica stones ready to be buried in Kassel. The support group returned as well, to their core work advocating for basic material, social and political rights of LGBTQI+ refugees.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“I refuse to exoticise myself to increase your cultural capital”. </p><p dir="ltr">The unusual episode encapsulated <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/14/documenta-14-athens-german-art-extravaganza">ongoing and acrimonious debates</a> that began with the decision to stage the exhibition in crisis-wrought Greece in the first place, under the banner “Learning from Athens”. Founded after the Second World War, Documenta's original purpose was to bring modern art to a German public who had been deprived such culture under the Third Reich. It has since evolved into a world-class multi-million euro extravaganza. (Documenta said it prefers to describe itself as an 'quincennial exhibition').</p><p dir="ltr">This year, for the first time, it’s being held in a ‘guest’ city – Athens, as well as in Kassel. Greece has the highest <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics">unemployment rate</a> in the European Union, some of the continent’s <a href="http://greece.greekreporter.com/2017/03/31/eurostat-three-greek-regions-rank-among-the-20-poorest-in-eu/">poorest regions</a> and it is struggling to accommodate more than 50,000 refugees. Staging the €37 million Documenta festival here has prompted questions about the relevance of art amid social, economic and humanitarian crises. What can something like this offer struggling communities?</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/D14 2 PA-31640498.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Documenta 14 exhibition in Kassel."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/D14 2 PA-31640498.jpg" alt="Documenta 14 exhibition in Kassel." title="Documenta 14 exhibition in Kassel." width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Documenta 14 exhibition in Kassel. Photo: Boris Roessler/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the festival opened in April, Athens' streets flooded with an under-sunned, over-styled tide of aesthetes from Northern Europe and beyond. Meanwhile, graffiti slogans began to appear around the city: “crapumenta14” and “I refuse to exoticise myself to increase your cultural capital”. Counter events and critique, including <a href="http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/we-come-bearing-gifts%E2%80%94iliana-fokianaki-and-yanis-varoufakis-on-documenta-14-athens/">from Greece’s former finance minister Yianis Varoufakis</a>, accused the festival of economic exploitation, crisis tourism, cultural essentialism and neo-colonialism. There were complaints that Greece’s meagre arts funding had been diverted from local grassroots artists, curators and cultural producers – who said they were simultaneously <a href="http://theartnewspaper.com/reports/documenta-munster-2017/documenta-opens-in-athens-with-emphasis-on-performance-politics-and-little-known-artists/">excluded</a> from the festival as well. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Others have condemned it for failing to engage in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/14/documenta-14-athens-german-art-extravaganza">the social realities</a> it claimed to want to “mirror” and “witness”. A <a href="https://conversations.e-flux.com/t/open-letter-to-the-viewers-participants-and-cultural-workers-of-documenta-14/6393">widely-circulated</a> open letter by local activists supporting refugee squats in Athens challenged the festival’s curators and artists: “By staying silent [you assist] in the eradication of spaces for the thousands of bodies who inhabit this city in autonomous units. In these buildings, artists and activists coexist together with thousands of refugees, who have come here from war-torn countries to seek new lives with dignity and freedom. The silence of Documenta is not acceptable and only goes further to accommodate… the State, the Church and NGOs who stand against us and force thousands into segregated concentration camps, ready for the very bodies your director says he’s trying to protect”.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/D14 3 PA-31193163.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Installation entitled &quot;The disasters of war&quot; at documenta 14 in Athens."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/D14 3 PA-31193163.jpg" alt="Installation entitled "The disasters of war" at documenta 14 in Athens." title="Installation entitled &quot;The disasters of war&quot; at documenta 14 in Athens." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Installation entitled "The disasters of war" at documenta 14 in Athens. Photo: PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On the surface, the Documenta 14 programme did not shy away from issues of conflict, exile and marginalisation. One of its most celebrated artworks was a marble-sculpted refugee tent nestled alongside antiquities on a slope overlooking the Acropolis. Other works by artists from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere explored themes of exile, war, migration and poverty, as did a series of open seminars in the festival’s public programme. </p><p dir="ltr">But, however earnest the content or intention of these costly works, the reality is that most of those who have suffered as a result of Greece’s current economic upheaval – not to mention conflict and displacement – will never see or hear them, let alone influence them. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“art at our expense—art which has nothing to do with refugees”</p><p dir="ltr">The festival's seemingly unguarded elitism angered members of the LGBTQI+ refugee support group. “[Bernat] talked down to us from the beginning,” Lawrence Alatash, a 23 year-old gay Syrian who has been in Greece for over a year, told me shortly after the Athens stunt. </p><p dir="ltr">“He thought we were not smart enough to understand what his project was about or not artistic enough to do something like this. We showed him that he should think twice before talking like that to anyone. But his response was totally racist – if he was a real artist, he would think what we did was amazing: dancing, singing, humour. This is art”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Zoe1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="LGBTQI+ refugee support group with the &#039;Oath Stone&#039;. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Zoe1.jpg" alt="LGBTQI+ refugee support group with the 'Oath Stone'. " title="LGBTQI+ refugee support group with the &#039;Oath Stone&#039;. " width="460" height="264" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>LGBTQI+ refugee support group with the 'Oath Stone'. Photo: LGBTQI+ Refugees in Greece</span></span></span>Alatash said D14 was “art at our expense – art which has nothing to do with refugees”. He said: “They do not really care about our situation...If they really wanted to help, they could do something to actually involve us – not simply to make money. Instead, they want to take a stone to Germany and bury it, like Europe is burying the knowledge of us as refugees”.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Nonetheless, the festival’s proponents argued that its political content helped open debates, and minds, in what they presented as a socially and artistically conventional country. “I saw many things from different voices that I have not seen before in the&nbsp;existing conservative art scene,” said <a href="http://www.angeloplessas.com/">Angelo Plessas</a>, a Greek artist who took part in Documenta 14.</p><p dir="ltr">He told me: “We need to see new brave methodologies and open new discussions... We are fed up with the existing art world energy that is repetitive, self-serving and speculative. Greece is very conservative country even in its so called "radicality". There is so much nationalism and individualism in some of the criticisms [of D14]”.</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">“It is utopian and even naïve to expect an art festival will represent everybody.”</span></p><p dir="ltr">Plessas also suggested: “It is utopian and even naïve to expect an art festival will represent everybody or act as a charity festival”. He said: “I would have loved to have seen these activists first: to have the freedom or even courage to show their faces too in a deeper conversation and I would make a proposal&nbsp;to the group to think to return the stone as a symbolic goodwill gesture".&nbsp;<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />Such a proposal reflects the wider disconnect of the arts world from the precarious lives of struggling and marginalised communities. It may be unrealistic or unfair to demand radical engagement from individuals and institutions whose primary goals are cultural. But it may be equally naïve for these artists to expect to be taken seriously or considered relevant by all.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of thousands of people exist invisibly on the margins of Greek and European society – not in stone or artwork, but in flesh and bone. At the very least, it seems important that arts producers acknowledge that they will forever be surrounded by experiences that outdo, transcend or undermine their own authoritative claims to cosmopolitanism and worldliness – whether or not they choose to learn from them. &nbsp; <br class="kix-line-break" /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/refugee-crisis-art-weiwei">Why is so much art about the ‘refugee crisis’ so bad? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Greece Culture Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move gendered migration gender 50.50 newsletter Zoe Holman Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:52:55 +0000 Zoe Holman 111796 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why is so much art about the ‘refugee crisis’ so bad? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jerome-phelps/refugee-crisis-art-weiwei <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Even at a celebrity art gala you can don an emergency blanket and feel good about yourself. Hard political questions, not required.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-24136557.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ai Weiwei"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-24136557.jpg" alt="Artist Ai Weiwei" title="Ai Weiwei" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Artist Ai Weiwei (centre-left) carrying a blanket symbolising refugee needs, in London 2015. PA Images/Frantzesco Kangaris. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/feb/01/ai-weiwei-poses-as-drowned-syrian-infant-refugee-in-haunting-photo">famous artist</a> lies face-down on a Lesvos beach.&nbsp; <strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p> <p>The beach, the pose, seem familiar from the initially shocking, now iconic image of the drowned boy Alan Kurdi. But the dead Syrian toddler is nowhere to be seen. Instead – look! – it’s Ai Weiwei!</p> <p>Ai’s undoubtedly sincere gesture has been much mocked: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2016/may/03/ai-weiwei-feature-film-refugee-crisis">Jonathan Jones</a> called it a "crass, unthinking selfie". Once again, a celebrity sees a humanitarian crisis and realises that what the world needs is an image of himself. </p><p>Ai’s own corporate supporters inadvertently skewer the grandiloquence of the whole misguided enterprise. According to Sandy Angus, co-owner of the India Art Fair: “It is an iconic image because it is very political, human and involves an incredibly important artist like Ai Weiwei. The image is haunting and represents the whole immigration crisis and the hopelessness of the people who have tried to escape their pasts for a better future.”</p> <p>But what does this unfortunate collision of "an incredibly important artist" and the "hopelessness of the people" tell us about the difficulties of looking at refugees? If Ai is less than successful in representing "the whole immigration crisis", where does his failure leave the possibility of such a project?</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Powerful: <a href="https://twitter.com/aiww">@aiww</a> recreates scene of dead Syrian toddler. <a href="https://t.co/2pWf5cKs3G">https://t.co/2pWf5cKs3G</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SyrianRefugees?src=hash">#SyrianRefugees</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/IOM_news">@IOM_news</a> <a href="https://t.co/lEAiu5B5wo">pic.twitter.com/lEAiu5B5wo</a></p>— David Beard (@dabeard) <a href="https://twitter.com/dabeard/status/693708916396560385">31 January 2016</a><br /></blockquote><h2>The performance of empathy</h2> <p>"There is no refugee crisis," Ai <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidalm/2017/02/27/ai-weiwei-to-release-epic-film-that-humanizes-global-refugee-crisis/#26e2708b3c1e">has said</a>, "but only a human crisis".&nbsp; His <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jan/01/ai-weiwei-sets-up-studio-on-greek-island-of-lesbos-to-highlight-plight-of-refugees">artistic project</a> is "to relate to humanity’s struggles", his Lesvos image a straightforward attempt to embody this suffering humanity.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ai has faith in the gesture of empathy as antidote to the inhumanity of politics. Unfortunately, the gesture of the empathiser has a tendency to occlude the object of empathy. The performance of empathy has become something of a cultural trope, from students sleeping out in support of the homeless to campaigners undertaking the challenge of living on the financial resources of destitute asylum-seekers. In each case, the position in all this of the hypothetical recipient of empathy is rather unclear. By displacing the victim from the visual field, Ai’s image has the virtue of literalising this problematic.</p> <p>The other thing that is displaced in the performance of empathy is politics. Ai’s focus on that great abstraction "humanity" lifts his gaze far above the humdrum political decision-making that actually cost Alan Kurdi his life. The crisis becomes the existential one of death, the great sea that awaits us all.&nbsp; </p> <p>But this is not at all the nature of the 'refugee crisis'. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement">As has been observed</a>, it is in fact a crisis of values and politics. Crudely, refugees only get to be a 'crisis' when they start coming 'here', to our world of privilege. The moment of crisis is a political decision, in this case to refuse to organise Europe’s ample resources to respond in a coherent and responsible way to the perfectly manageable flows of refugees and migrants.&nbsp; </p> <p>Empathy with humanity can be a way to avoid this attribution of political responsibility – even European leaders have wept crocodile tears over the dead, whilst seeking ways to save them by preventing them from setting out for Europe in the first place.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ai purveys an empathy that is accessible and democratic, neutralising political crisis into a (passing) crisis of feeling: even at a celebrity art gala you can <a href="https://news.artnet.com/art-world/ai-weiwei-cinema-for-peace-berlin-427484">don an emergency blanket</a> and feel good about yourself. Hard political questions, of your country’s leaders or yourself, not required.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Looking at refugees</h2> <p>Part of the difficulty of representing the 'refugee crisis' may lie in the very ubiquity of its representations. This may be the most photographed humanitarian crisis in history: the tragedies playing out on Lesvos beaches can be recorded by anyone with a smartphone and a cheap flight ticket. The very endlessness of images of disaster can numb. The only limitations on the flood of images are the media taboos on what degree of horror can be shown. The power of the Alan Kurdi images derive partly from the decision of Western newspaper editors to allow through these particular images of a dead child.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This may be the most photographed humanitarian crisis in history...</p> <p>Ai seems to be grappling with these difficulties of representation. He sees the inadequacy of the passive contemplation of yet more images of refugees. Instead, he goes there, he sets up camp in Lesvos, he enacts Alan Kurdi’s death. His willingness to engage is praiseworthy. But the result is bad art, in that we just end up with another glossy image to contemplate, the helplessness of the refugee victim doubled in the helplessness of the artist.</p> <p>In its very failures, Ai’s work points obliquely to the key political content of the 'crisis': the collapsing of distinctions between the 'here' of comfortable Western lives and the 'there' of humanitarian catastrophe and war. This disruption of our beaches and Eurostar journeys is immensely unsettling, and goes to the heart of the political construction of Europe itself. Apparently hardened war correspondents found working on the Greek islands <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jun/12/refugee-crisis-news-organisations">unexpectedly traumatic</a>, as being 'here' in Europe prevented them from putting in place the usual psychological defence mechanisms.&nbsp; </p> <p>This struggle over the shifting space of globalisation is key to the politics of the 'refugee crisis', just as it is to Trump’s projected wall. The European 'here' must be protected from the alien 'there', if necessary by militarising the Aegean and turning Greece into a vast borderland of camps.</p> <p>Images cannot capture this respatialisation of our political geography, as they are always already locationless and floating. They can register disjunctures (tourists sunning themselves as boats arrive), but they cannot move past this shock reaction to articulate where we are when 'here' and 'there' collide.</p> <p>One of the places we end up is nowhere – the non-places of the refugee camps documented by <a href="https://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?ID=19949">Richard Mosse</a> in the sublime black-and-white of his heat-seeking military cameras. Mosse’s extraordinarily beautiful panoramic hells have undeniable power, and relish the uncomfortable irony of redeploying cutting edge military gadgetry to aesthetic ends. But they arguably do not go beyond registering this nowhere as military-industrial sublime to the more difficult questions of our relationship to these non-places.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Representing here, there and nowhere</h2> <p>If our predicament is to be lost in these disjunctures and nowheres, contemporary art is in general poorly equipped for any project of spatial reorientation. The art world is itself a globalised nowhere, with the same elite artists exhibiting in similar galleries around the world. Indeed, the Ai beach photo was produced for a feature in an Indian art magazine. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">The art world is itself a globalised nowhere...</p> <p>By contrast, the most powerful and exciting document of the 'crisis' that I have seen is not the work of an artist. It is a simple sketch map, posted on Facebook by an anonymous Iraqi and disseminated by journalist <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n19/ghaith-abdul-ahad/some-tips-for-the-long-distance-traveller">Ghaith Abdul-Ahad</a>. In a few sweeping arrows, prices in various currencies and cartoonish boats and buses, it describes how you get from the Turkish coast to destination Germany (signified by flag-waving stick man). Its exuberance conveys that extraordinary period in 2015 when migrants themselves were actively refiguring Europe’s political geography, on foot, communally, in great numbers. Critically, it sees ‘here’ from ‘there’, it is a tool for action rather than an object of contemplation – and the migrant is doing the seeing.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Picture1_11.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Drawing by Iraqi migrant. Disseminated by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Picture1_11.png" alt="Drawing by Iraqi migrant. Disseminated by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad." title="Drawing by Iraqi migrant. Disseminated by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad." width="366" height="513" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Drawing by Iraqi migrant. Disseminated by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad.</span></span></span>I don’t mean to claim that only refugees themselves can represent this crisis, and that artists can have no role (which would be particularly unfair on Ai, given his own experience of political persecution). But this map may be a clue to the kinds of approaches that could be productive in grappling with our current disorientations. If the old hierarchical spatial configurations are no longer sustainable, or are only sustainable with the violence of walls and razor wire, then there is a role for art to set out alternative ways of mapping our predicament.</p><p>Last week, I was sitting in a conference room at a workshop for experienced NGO leaders by the <a href="http://www.detentionaction.org.uk/freed-voices">Freed Voices</a> group of experts-by-experience of immigration detention. The format should have been familiar: stories of personal experiences of detention that will inform our work as we return to ‘our’ space of advocacy. Instead, within seconds I have my eyes shut and am instructed to think of an experience of trusting someone. Then, we are writing our questions on the walls – and the migrants have barely spoken yet, beyond a sparse few instructions. Later, they are staging media interviews between themselves, no (white European) interviewer in sight.</p><p>The Freed Voices (who are campaigners rather than artists) specialise in these disruptive spatial interventions. They have previously produced <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/freed-voices-mapping-detention">maps</a> of the UK’s detention centres, non-places devoid of maps for security reasons, according to the experiences and emotional associations of the different rooms and wings. The Freed Voices are resolutely here, not images in someone’s art project but living amongst us with (mostly) irregular immigration status, liable to be redetained at any time. Telling us to shut our eyes and think of our childhoods.</p> <p><em>This article is part of the series</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/forced-migration-and-humanities">Forced Migration&nbsp;and the Humanities</a>. This dialogue is an editorial partnership with openDemocracy 50.50 led by Mariangela Palladino (Keele University) and Agnes Woolley (Royal Holloway University of London).&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karolina-follis/reflections-on-post-humanitarianism-in-dark-times">Reflections on post-humanitarianism in dark times</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement"> The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/arresting-mass-detention-of-migrants-build-trust-not-walls">Arresting the mass detention of migrants: ‘Build trust, not walls’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/guardians-of-culture-tradition-and-stability-of-home">The depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago: guardians of culture, tradition and the stability of the home</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jerome-phelps/eu-must-not-leave-greece-to-solve-migration-crisis">The EU must not leave Greece to solve the migration crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kate-alexander/like-chicken-surrounded-by-dogs">Like a chicken surrounded by dogs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 EU Conflict Ideas Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Jerome Phelps Thu, 11 May 2017 08:15:04 +0000 Jerome Phelps 110756 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reflections on post-humanitarianism in dark times https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karolina-follis/reflections-on-post-humanitarianism-in-dark-times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> <o:PixelsPerInch>96</o:PixelsPerInch> 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SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="table of authorities" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="macro" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="toa heading" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" QFormat="true" Name="Title" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Closing" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Signature" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Default Paragraph Font" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Message Header" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Salutation" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Date" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text First Indent" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text First Indent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Heading" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Block Text" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Hyperlink" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="FollowedHyperlink" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" QFormat="true" Name="Strong" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Document Map" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Plain Text" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="E-mail Signature" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Top of Form" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Bottom of Form" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Normal (Web)" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Acronym" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Address" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Cite" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Code" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Definition" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Keyboard" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Preformatted" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Sample" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Typewriter" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Variable" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Normal Table" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="annotation subject" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="No List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 7" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 8" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 7" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 8" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Contemporary" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Elegant" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Professional" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Subtle 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Subtle 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Balloon Text" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="Table Grid" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Theme" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 7" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 8" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Level 9" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" Name="Placeholder Text" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" Name="Revision" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" QFormat="true" Name="Quote" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException 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mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} --> <!--[endif] --> <!--StartFragment--> <!--EndFragment--></p><p>British opposition to search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean and Polish pseudo-theological justifications not to help refugees exploit the insecurities of the humanitarian movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/flight-of-the-swallows-1913-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&#039;Flight of the Swallows&#039; by Giacomo Ball (1913). Photo: Wikipedia. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/flight-of-the-swallows-1913-2.jpg" alt="'Flight of the Swallows' by Giacomo Ball (1913). Photo: Wikipedia. Some rights reserved." title="&#039;Flight of the Swallows&#039; by Giacomo Ball (1913). Photo: Wikipedia. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Flight of the Swallows' by Giacomo Ball (1913). Photo: Wikipedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the Mediterranean <a href="http://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean">death toll</a> shows no signs of abating, humanitarians involved in addressing the crisis are having a difficult time. <a href="http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102313-030403">Recent academic critiques</a> have pointed out the flaws of contemporary international humanitarianism, noting humanitarians’ white saviour complex, their complicity with the forces of militarism and capitalism, the ways in which they deprive the people they are ostensibly helping of agency, and the ways they trap them in a condition of perpetual depoliticised victimhood. Equally recently humanitarian activities of various kinds have been the target of political undermining and outright assault coming from the political right. <span>One striking example is the official British position to oppose search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean because, as the subsequent Tory governments have claimed, such activities act as a “</span><span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruben-andersson/mare-nostrum-and-migrantdeaths-%20humanitarian-paradox-at-europe%E2%80%99s-frontiers-0" target="_blank">pull factor</a></span><span>” that simply tempts more migrants into risking their lives.</span>&nbsp;This claim has circulated also elsewhere in Europe. Meanwhile in the United States the concern of the new administration has been not so much with repelling refugees as with outright banning their arrival.</p> <p>Humanitarianism may be defined at its most basic as “concern for human welfare as a primary or pre-eminent moral good; action, or the disposition to act, on the basis of this concern rather than for pragmatic or strategic reasons” (OED online). This broadest definition applies to anyone acting on the grounds of a moral commitment to the alleviation of suffering. This includes members of the humanitarian establishment in well-funded international organizations as well as activists in start-up NGOs who would likely bristle at being called ‘humanitarians’ precisely because they are so keenly aware of the dubious track record of some of the biggest humanitarian players.</p> <p>If the field is so full of tensions, why lump very different actors together? After all they enter the scene with differential power, resources and political commitments. But to consider them together in this context makes strategic sense. The other side, the anti-humanitarian right, is not making distinctions in attacking humanitarians. It bashes UN envoys for being naïve just as it ridicules the “leftists” and “anarchists” who protest border fences and migrant detention. Such attacks (which are not linked here so as not to raise traffic to the sites that host them) afford us a moment of clarity, to ask what humanitarianism means at its most basic. Still, in recognition of tensions that animate the field, I am inclined to join <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1057%2F9781137395894">others</a> who argue that today it might be better to speak of <em>post</em>-humanitarianism. This would not be to distance ourselves from the original moral claim but to capture its specific temporality. Wendy Brown has <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/walled-states-waning-sovereignty">written</a> that the “prefix ‘post’ signifies a formation that is <em>temporally after but not over</em> that to which it is affixed. ‘Post’ signifies a very particular condition of afterness in which what is past is not left behind, but, on the contrary, relentlessly conditions, even dominates a present that nevertheless also breaks in some way with this past.”</p> <p>This brings me to the other concept in the title. Hannah Arendt borrowed the phrase “dark times”, from Brecht’s 1939 poem “<a href="http://harpers.org/blog/2008/01/brecht-to-those-who-follow-in-our-wake/">To Posterity</a>” (linked here in a different translation). She <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Men_in_Dark_Times.html?id=_Bt9OWQlke8C&amp;redir_esc=y">wrote</a> of the 1930s that “the disorder and the hunger, the massacres and the slaughterers and the outrage over injustice … All this was real enough as it took place in public … and still, it was by no means visible to all … for until the very moment when catastrophe overtook everything and everybody, it was covered up not by realities but by the <em>highly efficient talk and double-talk of nearly all official representatives who, without interruption and in many ingenuous variations explained away unpleasant facts and justified concerns</em>” (emphasis added). &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Our contemporary version of Arendt’s “efficient talk” is the discourse of border control that relies on the rationalities of security, economic interest and military technology to hide from view violence perpetrated against hundreds of thousands of people. And so we hear persistently of the need for a “crackdown on human smuggling” as <a href="http://heindehaas.blogspot.it/2015/04/let-their-people-drown-how-eu.html">politicians scapegoat the smugglers</a> to conceal their own responsibility for the unending deaths at sea. The pinnacle of Arendtian double-talk here has to be decision to name the EU naval mission to tackle human smuggling out of Libya “Operation Sophia” <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36283316">after a baby</a> born to a Somali mother on a German ship that rescued her mother off the coast of Libya in August 2015.</p> <p>The UK is of course parting ways with the EU and its government <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-38918317">no longer even pretends</a> to care for migrant children. The former Home Secretary and now Prime Minister Theresa May has disavowed search and rescue, whether it be state-sponsored as in the case of Mare Nostrum, or carried out by NGOs or other independent actors. Statements by border control “experts” asserting that trafficking gangs conspire with the Coast Guard to smuggle migrants into the EU under the pretext of humanitarian rescue operations enjoy broad credibility in the UK, printed in broadsheets and tabloids and circulated on the Internet. One such expert took aim at UNHCR in <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/11540547/Trafficking-gangs-tip-off-Italian-officials-so-that-rescue-services-can-pick-up-people-smuggling-boats.html">his comments</a> for the Telegraph, when he opined that “The UN’s idea that one is obliged morally to take in people coming across in boats is a dangerous one … Some of these people are desperate, but a good proportion are economic migrants, and either way, you shouldn’t be encouraging people to risk their lives in a boat.” The insidious effects of the phrase “economic migrants” are <a href="https://weblog.iom.int/false-dichotomy-between-%E2%80%98economic-migrants%E2%80%99-and-refugees">well known</a>, so there is no need to rehash them here. Instead it merits noting how the “moral obligation to take in people coming across on boats” becomes a fanciful “idea of the UN” rather than a description of a fairly uncontroversial moral principle that constitutes a response to the inherent dangers of maritime escapes. People may of course <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-ethics-of-immigration-9780199933839?cc=it&amp;lang=en&amp;">legitimately disagree</a> on the extent of hospitality owed to those who arrive, but those questions cannot be meaningfully resolved through democratic deliberation if the passengers of the boats are consistently and deliberately dehumanized. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A different example of how humanitarian responses to the Mediterranean crossings can be effectively discredited comes from Poland. In 2015, at the time when the number of people arriving in Europe reached its highest level, Poland’s centre-right government reluctantly agreed to take part in the European Union’s solidarity mechanism for resettling refugees arriving in Italy and Greece. Based on that mechanism Poland would have accepted up to 12,000 refugees by 2017, but the new right wing government, which came into power following the October 2015 election, rescinded the deal. Jarosław Kaczynski, Poland’s <em>de facto</em> leader who holds no elected office but rules from behind scenes as the head of the Law and Justice party made headlines in late 2015 when he claimed that migrants must be stopped at the border because they <a href="http://www.politico.eu/article/migrants-asylum-poland-kaczynski-election/">carry parasites and disease</a> into Europe. Less well known is the fact that he grounds his refusal to accept to refugees in the principle of <em>ordo caritatis</em>, which he translates as the “order of mercy,” and which he claims derives from Aquinas. According to this principle, as rendered by Kaczynski, the faithful are obliged to first show mercy to those closest to them, that is the family, then to their compatriots and only in the last instance to foreign strangers. I will set aside here the quarrels that theologians <a href="http://press.georgetown.edu/book/georgetown/ethics-aquinas">might raise</a> with Kaczynski’s interpretations of Aquinas. The important point is that the phrase <em>ordo caritatis </em>entered popular discourse in this predominantly Catholic country. It now serves as a rebuttal as much to the so-called “leftist radicals” who support welcoming refugees as to those Catholics who interpret the Christian duty to help the needy more in the spirit of Pope Francis than Kaczynski.</p> <p>I propose that the hard-headed British embrace of anti-humanitarian rationales and the Polish pseudo-theological justifications of the refusal to help not only represent extreme cynicism but also exploit the insecurities of the humanitarian movement which has been scarred by its past failures and overreach. Disappointed humanitarians may retreat or further compromise their principles by letting themselves be co-opted for the agendas of border securitarians. Nonetheless an opportunity lurks within the post-humanitarian landscape to re-embrace the most basic commitment to human welfare and the alleviation of suffering and to insist on its status as the moral horizon in our dark times.</p><p><em>This article is part of the series <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/forced-migration-and-humanities">Forced Migration&nbsp;and the Humanities</a>. This dialogue is an editorial partnership with openDemocracy 50.50 led by Mariangela Palladino (Keele University) and Agnes Woolley (Royal Holloway University of London).&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/very-british-tug-of-war-over-europe-s-child-refugees">A very British tug of war over Europe’s child refugees</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/vicki-squire/humanitarian-corridors-beyond-political-gesture">Humanitarian Corridors: beyond political gesture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement"> The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/emmanuel-blanchard/eu-forcing-politics-of-inhospitality-on-its-neighbours"> The EU and its neighbours: enforcing the politics of inhospitality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nina-perkowski/more-frontex-is-not-answer-to-refugee-crisis">More Frontex is not the answer to the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alexandra-embiricos/our-island-mentality">Our island mentality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 EU Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Karolina Follis Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:05:52 +0000 Karolina Follis 110204 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago: guardians of culture, tradition and the stability of the home https://www.opendemocracy.net/guardians-of-culture-tradition-and-stability-of-home <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The islands were&nbsp;<em>‘swept and&nbsp;sanitised’</em>. An albatross/ was spared, and the order given: ‘…<em>a few man fridays...must go</em>’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/photo.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Chagossian protesters outside 10 Downing Street (Photo: Saradha Soobrayen)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/photo.JPG" alt="Chagossian protesters outside 10 Downing Street (Photo: Saradha Soobrayen)" title="Chagossian protesters outside 10 Downing Street (Photo: Saradha Soobrayen)" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chagossian protesters outside 10 Downing Street (Photo: Saradha Soobrayen)</span></span></span></p><p>Extract from <em>‘</em><em>Sounds Like Root Shock’</em>: a poetic inquiry into the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Guardians of culture, tradition and the stability of the home</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>'</strong><em>Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby</em>.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her deepest sleep, Madam Lisette Talate returns to Chagos,</p> <p>leaving the Mauritian slums, where so many continue to follow</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>her example, standing in protest against the lies and chaos&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>orchestrated by the officials, who claimed there were no</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>indigenous people on Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos,</p> <p>none on the sibling islands of Salomon, Egmont, and so</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>the islands were&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>‘swept and&nbsp;sanitised’</em>. An albatross</p> <p>was spared, and the order given: ‘…<em>a few man fridays...must go</em>’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The slave ancestors who fished, loved and prayed across</p> <p>the centuries, the generations who dried the copra,&nbsp;<em>coco</em>,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>extracting oil from the kernel of the nut, even the boss</p> <p>of the copra plantation struggled to see over the rainbow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the main island of Diego Garcia, the US base,<em>&nbsp;Camp Justice</em></p> <p>squats.<em>&nbsp;</em>The Chagossians are still chanting, ‘<em>Rann nu Diego’</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>thirty, forty years later, fighting for the right to return. Their loss</p> <p>is unimaginable, these guardians of the Chagos Archipelago</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Their homecoming is not yet out of reach, not yet out of sight</strong></p> <p><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home, a long way from home ’</em></p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>The Archipelago is not where one man lived but is where</p> <p>they all remember living. Remembering is like that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Memory—a sliding door between adjoining rooms,</p> <p>old and young Chagos hearts, co-habiting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What were the last things you remember?</p> <p>The man appears wide-eyed. Only 4 or 5 years old.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every time he slides out a memory, a child slips back,</p> <p>and boards the boat. The man considers what the child</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>knew then—the forced removal—the longing to return.</p> <p>The Archipelago remembers him as a boy and each generation</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>is charged to remember the Archipelago. The past is tidal</p> <p>in their minds or shall I say in their souls while the land waits</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>to recover the older selves,&nbsp;<em>tonton, tantinn, gran-per, gran-mer,</em></p> <p>a dying community, separated by unseen things,&nbsp;spirit from sea,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>hope from land and yet united by wishful thinking, mouth</p> <p>by mouth, their communal truths told in one continuous breath.</p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>‘UK ambassador lobbied senators to hide Diego Garcia role in rendition’</strong></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>What gives Diego Garcia its unique identity is not where it is situated </p> <p>geographically – south of the equator, 2200 miles east of the coast </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>of Africa and 1000 miles south-west of the southern tip of India––</p> <p>but how it is situated in the minds of the politicians who tell it slant, </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>circumnavigating the facts and the fiction: ‘embarrassed Miliband </p> <p>admits two US rendition flights refueled on British soil’––the legal minds </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>finding joy in metaphor and irony: ‘the land where human rights </p> <p>hardly ever happened’, Richard Gifford, lawyer for the Chagossians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clive Stafford Smith, human rights campaigner: ‘on Diego Garcia </p> <p>you may be arrested for violating the rights of a Warty Sea Slug…</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>but no-one will object if you land a plane with a kidnapped, shackled,</p> <p>hooded man trapped in a coffin shaped box’. Legal expert, Peter H Sands: </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘a legal black hole’—Political Scientist, Peter Harris: ‘reforming Diego Garcia</p> <p>is entirely within the grasp of those in London. It is high time that action</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>was taken to do the right thing’—his paper ‘America's Other Guantánamo: </p> <p>British Foreign Policy and the US Base on Diego Garcia’ telling it simply.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Acknowledgements:</strong></p> <p>Over the Rainbow, music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg (1939)</p> <p>Sometimes I feel like a motherless child from <em>American Negro Spirituals</em> by J. W. Johnson, J. R. Johnson, (1926)</p> <p>‘UK ambassador lobbied senators to hide Diego Garcia role in rendition’ <em>The Observer</em>, (16 August 2014)</p> <p>‘Embarrassed Miliband admits two US rendition flights refueled on British soil’ <em>Guardian</em>, (22 February 2008)</p> <p>Peter Harris. America's Other Guantánamo: British Foreign Policy and the US Base on Diego Garcia’© The Author 2015. </p> <p>The Political Quarterly © The Political Quarterly Publishing Co. Ltd. 2015 Published by John Wiley &amp; Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA</p> <p>Extract of ‘Sounds Like Root Shock’ originally published in the Long Poem Magazine Issue 14, Autumn 2015</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>See website for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chagossupport.org.uk/single-post/2016/12/10/Chagossian-struggle-marked-on-Human-Rights-Day?utm_source=Newsletter+Subscribers&amp;utm_campaign=0466a96d56-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_12_08&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_6f3f8212b4-0466a96d56-282202605">more information</a> about forthcoming Chagos Support activities including a protest at the Foreign Office in London which will take place from 10am-5pm on 16 December 2016.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement"> The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-charlotte-eagar-georgina-paget/trojan-women-in-twenty-first-century-women-in-wa">Trojan Women in the twenty first century: women in war from Euripides to Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/militarism-and-non-state-actors-%E2%80%98-other-invasion%E2%80%99">Militarism and non-state actors: ‘the other invasion’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/graham-peebles/displacement-intimidation-and-abuse-land-loyalties-in-ethiopia">Displacement, intimidation and abuse: land loyalties in Ethiopia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/where-we-must-stand-african-women-in-age-of-war">Where we must stand: African women in an age of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/clearing-ground-planting-seeds-of-our-africa">Clearing ground: planting the seeds of Our Africa</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 newsletter Saradha Soobrayen Mon, 12 Dec 2016 10:23:16 +0000 Saradha Soobrayen 107576 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Borderlands: words against walls https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Both material and figurative walls are shaping our present. Now is the time for the arts and humanities to intervene with critical reflection and compassion into spaces of ‘crisis’<em>.&nbsp;</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_6.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pebble poetry. Photo: Agnes Woolley"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1_6.png" alt="Pebble poetry. Photo: Agnes Woolley" title="Pebble poetry. Photo: Agnes Woolley" width="240" height="361" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pebble poetry. Photo: Agnes Woolley</span></span></span>The turmoil surrounding the presidential election in America has shaken the world: fear, terror, uncertainty and despair are some of the feelings generated by this new political turn, or what Cornel West has called a ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/17/american-neoliberalism-cornel-west-2016-election">catastrophe</a>’. Significantly, we are <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/09/27-years-after-the-berlin-wall-fell-europe-wakes-up-to-a-president-elect-promising-one-of-his-own/">reminded</a> that ‘27 years after the Berlin Wall fell, Europe wakes up to a U.S. president-elect promising one of his own’. </p><p>Yet, another wall has already been erected in Calais, allegedly to<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/20/work-calais-wall-refugees-lorries-uk"> ‘stop refugees trying to board lorries to UK</a>’, while the Calais jungle in France has been shut down and evacuated, leaving many destitute and numerous unaccompanied children in limbo. As we witness the triumph of populism, racism and bigotry translated into a proliferation of frontiers and divisions, Gloria Anzaldúa’s <a href="https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Borderlands/La%20Frontera:%20The%20New%20Mestiza&amp;item_type=topic">words </a>from nearly three decades ago painfully resonate with our present times, which seem deaf to the harrowing cry of history: ‘the US-Mexican border <em>es una herida abierta </em>(an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. […] Tension grips the inhabitants of the borderlands like a virus. Ambivalence and unrest reside there and death is no stranger’. The wall promised by Trump announces a curb on migration which will exponentially exacerbate already adverse and violent international migration politics and practices and, ultimately, disseminate fear. </p> <p>Nobel laurate Toni Morrison’s reflections in the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/aftermath-sixteen-writers-on-trumps-america#morrison">New Yorker</a> on this new political turn talk precisely of fear: ‘So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenceless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble’. Yet <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/no-place-self-pity-no-room-fear/">Morrison elsewhere reminds us</a> that while the ‘world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art’. In times of war and conflicts, the arts and humanities have played a vital role in enabling the healing process amongst communities, cultures and societies. As Gayatri Spivak says, the humanities <a href="https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/critical-intimacy-interview-gayatri-chakravorty-spivak/#!">‘are the healthcare system of cultures</a>’ and our work acquires an even more meaningful role in these times.</p> <p>Are we living through a period of crisis? It’s a term that has been used ubiquitously to describe current levels of migration and displacement. But what is the nature of the crisis we, in the West, are facing? Perhaps what’s going on is not so much a ‘refugee crisis’, but a crisis of values: a critical moment in our understanding of what we value as a society. This crisis of values has immobilised nation-states and intergovernmental bodies whose responses to current levels of migration in and around Europe’s borders has been increased militarisation and border controls, shady refugee exchange deals, and a reluctance to welcome refugees. <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9781509512164">Zygmunt Bauman</a> has called this a ‘crisis of humanity’ in his recent commentary <em>Strangers at Our Door.</em></p> <p>So, how can the arts and humanities help us in a crisis? Political theorist <a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8079.html">Wendy Brown</a> makes the case for the importance of criticism and critical thinking at times of crisis. She notes the tendency to divide theory from practice by dismissing theorising as unnecessary at times of crisis. People say: “now’s not the time for theorising; we need action”. But, she says, the original Greek term – <em>Krisis</em> – describes a moment when urgent deliberation is required, when critique itself is urgent, or, from the same root ‘critical’. This sense still persists in medicine, when we say someone is in a ‘critical condition’. We also talk about a time being a ‘critical moment’. This sense of critical decision-making also extends to refugees themselves and the critical, often life-threatening, decisions they are making daily. Now, is perhaps a critical moment – one where urgent deliberation about Europe’s approach to refugees is required.</p> <p><a href="https://respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/sign-up-for-our-first-workshop/">The inaugural event of the network</a> engaged with the issue of ‘crisis’ and raised a number of other important questions: How can we enable productive collaborations on the issue of forced migration?; Who are the intended audiences of the artistic practices by or about refugees?; How can we create a third space for dialogue about refugees that is not political or personal, but <em>social</em>?</p> <p>Our aim was to share knowledge, skills and experience in the area of forced migration and we heard from academics, arts practitioners, and those who work in the voluntary sector. We gained valuable context in the form of the historical legacy of colonialism from Roger Bromley, who argued that a sense of history is a vital component of our response to crisis, and Neelam Srivastava raised important questions about contemporary and historical practices of commemoration for refugees, showing a clip from Dagmawi Yimer’s 2013 film <a href="https://vimeo.com/114343040"><em>Asmat/Names</em></a>. Taking us into the mechanics of seeking asylum, Anthony Good and <a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/">Carolina Albuerne</a> spoke from their research and practice with asylum claimants, exposing the inadequacies of current systems for applying for asylum and raising crucial questions like: how can we get better at facilitating refugees to speak for themselves? What constitutes self-representation? And how can we be better advocates with a sense of our own positioning? Kristin Shirling, who has been working with <a href="http://goodchance.org.uk/">Good Chance</a> theatre in the Calais ‘Jungle’, voiced her strong support for the role of the arts in situations of crisis, arguing that when one is dehumanised, a place to ‘be a human being’ is vitally important. <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/">Detention Action’s</a> Jerome Phelps’s discussion of the spatialisation of power worked across scholarly and practice-based approaches to forced migration by grounding his comments in the campaign against the UK Government’s detention estate.</p> <p>An evening of poetry and film at Keele Hall (which, incidentally, had a brief incarnation as a refugee camp during WWII) forged connections between the arts and the ideas and questions that had arisen during the day. We heard from poets <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/james-sheard/1016642/">James Sheard</a>, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/guardians-of-culture-tradition-and-stability-of-home">Saradha Soobrayen</a> and <a href="http://www.shearsman.com/browse-poetry-books-by-author-Robert-Hampson">Robert Hampson</a> and the audience were encouraged to participate through ‘Pebble Poetry’. Pebbles inscribed with words, phrases and thoughts from participants enabled mutual sharing and reflection on the meaning of welcome, arrival and displacement. Poetry was a means to collectively address the challenges of our present and to think about how our world is offering, or failing to offer, ‘refuge’. The pebbles will travel from Keele to Naples in Italy and to London – our next scheduled events – ultimately building a shore to safety and offering a welcome written in stone.</p> <p>Our project is fuelled by a renewed energy in these increasingly challenging times. As <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/no-place-self-pity-no-room-fear/">Toni Morrison</a> insists: ‘this is&nbsp;<em>precisely</em>&nbsp;the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal’.</p><p><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/guardians-of-culture-tradition-and-stability-of-home">e</a><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/guardians-of-culture-tradition-and-stability-of-home">xtract</a> from&nbsp;‘Sounds Like Root Shock’: a poetic inquiry into the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago by&nbsp;Saradha Soobrayen.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement"> The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/guardians-of-culture-tradition-and-stability-of-home">The depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago: guardians of culture, tradition and the stability of the home</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-charlotte-eagar-georgina-paget/trojan-women-in-twenty-first-century-women-in-wa">Trojan Women in the twenty first century: women in war from Euripides to Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/victoria-lupton/lebanon%27s-refugees-resisting-hegemony-through-culture">Lebanon&#039;s refugees: resisting hegemony through culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasemin-mert/dangerous-journeys-women-migrants-in-turkey">Dangerous journeys: violence against women migrants in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/gabriel/red-letter-days">Lampedusa: red letter days</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/philosophies-of-migration">Philosophies of migration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/migrationsreconstructing-britishness-in-art">Migrations:reconstructing &#039;Britishness&#039; in art</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Ideas Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Agnes Woolley Mariangela Palladino Mon, 12 Dec 2016 09:19:01 +0000 Mariangela Palladino and Agnes Woolley 107575 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we let people die rather than provide safety, we face not a ‘refugee crisis’ but a crisis of values. The arts help define those values which shape the kinds of societies we want to live in.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As historians are at pains to point out, the current ‘refugee crisis’ is not without precedent. Though we should be wary of too simplistic historical parallels, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/10/five-history-lessons-in-how-to-deal-with-a-refugee-crisis">‘lessons from history’</a> provide an important longer view on contemporary displacement. But we can also look to the history of art and literature for a politics of recognition of the refugee and asylum seeking figures that populate our smartphone and television screens. Stories of exile, migration and forced displacement are abundant in Western literature and art. As ever, Shakespeare provides an ideal starting point: <em>Twelfth Night </em>begins with a shipwreck on the coast of Ilyria (present day Adriatic coast) and with Viola’s words, ‘What country, friends, is this?’ as she comes ashore; <em>Richard II</em> begins with a scene of banishment as Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke are sent into exile on the king’s orders; and <em>King Lear</em>’s ‘unaccommodated man’ has formed the basis for many theorisations of the refugee as a figure of <a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=2003">‘bare life’</a> who exists outside the terms of citizenship and social belonging. In fact, when writing <em>King Lear</em>, Shakespeare was lodging with a Huguenot family in London’s Barbican, so these are not just aesthetic, but also social and political connections.</p> <p>We can, of course, reach even further back to the classical world. Aeschylus’ <em>The Suppliants</em>, written c. 470 BC, is remarkably relevant to today in its narrative of a group of African women who fled forced marriages in Africa to seek asylum and protection in Europe. This was <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2015/07/07/greek-tragedy-aeschylus-migrants-debt/">staged</a> in Sicily in 2015. Euripides’ <em>The Trojan Women</em> (415 BC) set in the aftermath of the Trojan war, has also resonated with many struggling to come to terms with displacement as a result of war and conflict. One project, <a href="http://www.syriatrojanwomen.org/index.html"><em>Queens of Syria</em></a>, which is both a theatre production and documentary, has been especially effective.&nbsp;</p> <p>Canonical works of visual art like J. M. Turner’s <em>Slave Ship</em>, which dramatically portrays forced migration in the form of slavery, reminds us of the temporal and spatial connections between the legacies of colonial history and its current forms. Turner’s young patron, John Ruskin, in his write up of the painting, confined to a footnote the fact that the boat in the painting is a slave ship, <em>Zong</em>, and that slaves are being thrown overboard for insurance purposes. So in his framing of the picture, Ruskin leaves out those very connections that the painting aims to evoke.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Picture1.png" alt="Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)" title="Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on (“The Slave Ship”) by J. M. W. Turner 1840 (Wikimedia Commons)</span></span></span></p><p>These kinds of omissions happen, too, with current visual imagery of migration and refugees. Images of refugees in camps and on European borders are ubiquitous and often deeply shocking. While they have worked to galvanise certain populations into acts of solidarity – in Britain, for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/17/thousands-march-in-refugees-welcome-rally-in-london">protests</a> and <a href="http://care4calais.org/">responsive organisations</a> dedicated to supporting those in Calais – there’s a longer, more complicated story not always graspable through these fleeting images. It’s a story not just about the experiences of those who have been forcibly displaced but about the kinds of societies receiving them.</p> <p>In a situation where we’re letting people die rather than providing safe passage, we are facing not so much a ‘refugee crisis’, as a crisis of values. How are our values being recalibrated by our daily confrontation with the spectacle of, and sometimes interaction with, people perishing on European shores? The arts have a vital role to play in shaping how we respond to our current age of mass migration. Cultural and creative responses need to sit alongside the work of advocacy groups, political organisations and governments. Not only can the arts offer a counter narrative able to reaffirm the political and social subjectivity of border crossers, they also explore what’s happening outside the journalistic frame; and help shape, critique and deepen our engagement with forced displacement.</p> <p>Telling stories creatively, through literature or film, was one of the principle ways that Britain’s earlier migrant communities went about reflecting, interrogating and celebrating their stories of migration: its benefits as well as its antagonisms. The same can’t be said for refugees. In order to have a legitimate voice with which to speak up, one must first have a legitimate legal status. As long as refugees are <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/frequently-asked-questions">languishing in detention centres</a> or makeshift camps outside and inside Europe, often lacking the means of self-expression and public engagement, the conversation will continue to be one-sided. This is one of the reasons we struggle to steer the direction of the conversation away from security fears and threats to resources, and towards the value of being a country that welcomes refugees and migrants of all kinds.</p> <p>Of course, refugees and migrants are adept at finding ways to voice their experiences on their own terms, often to great effect. For example, the organization <a href="http://detentionaction.org.uk/freed-voices">‘Freed Voices’</a> is a group of ‘experts by experience’ who raise awareness about immigration detention in the UK by telling their stories.&nbsp; But the combination of bad journalism and bad law-making means that refugees are often trapped by the polarising opposition between derogatory media depictions on the one hand, and a requirement to testify to authentic experience on the other; to conform to a kind of idealized notion of what it means to be a refugee. The arts can help us think through this binary and provide a more nuanced picture. Take the poetry collective, <a href="http://www.platforma.org.uk/bards-without-borders/"><em>Bards without Borders</em></a>, a group of poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds dedicated to exploring the connection between Shakespeare and migration. Globalising Shakespeare in this way casts new light on a figure often seen as relating exclusively to British culture and identity.</p> <p>What art and literature can do more generally – actively, even – is to draw out the intersecting temporalities and territories that constitute our contemporary moment and seek lines of connection between the varying means we have to understand and shape our responses to displacement and migration. The arts allow us a way into social and political questions and the moral and ethical assumptions that underpin them: questions about humanitarianism as political practice and human<em>ism</em> as a set of values.</p> <p>This is what we aim to achieve with our network ‘Responding to Crisis: Forced migration and The Humanities in the Twenty-first Century’. Through a series of international workshops and events, we will create ‘contact zones’ where artists, activists and academics come together and formulate interventionist models of critical and creative work in response to the unfolding ‘crisis’ in contemporary forced migration. Our idea is to develop new modes of collaborative response which draw on the creative energies of cross-sector working. We aim to impact positively on refugees’ lives by deploying the arts and humanities to transform public attitudes and inform policies.</p> <p>On this strand on openDemocracy, you will find contributions from our network participants – activists, academics, practitioners – on topics arising from our collaborative events over the next year.</p> <p>See <a href="http://www.respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com">www.respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com</a> for more up to date details of the project.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">Refugee or economic migrant? Join the dots Theresa May</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 EU Civil society Conflict Culture Equality Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Mariangela Palladino Agnes Woolley Mon, 03 Oct 2016 08:27:03 +0000 Agnes Woolley and Mariangela Palladino 105708 at https://www.opendemocracy.net