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Accepted Paper:

#Their suffering - our responsibility: refugee advocacy in Norway and questions of luck, complicity and Norwegian exceptionalism  
Heidi Mogstad (Chr. Michelsen Institute)

Paper short abstract:

This paper critically examines three different ways Norway’s responsibility for refugees stranded in Greece has been framed by volunteers demanding political action: 1) a liberal cosmopolitan discourse, 2) a national exceptionalism discourse, and 3) a more vaguely articulated complicity discourse

Paper long abstract:

As Trnka and Trundle (2017) observe, claims of absence or lack of care regularly become the basis for attributions of particular forms of responsibility, namely blame and culpability. However, when it comes to refugee advocacy, such claims have a tendency to deflect these concerns, by erasing the political and historical linkages between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and neglecting complex questions regarding activists’ personal entanglements with the border regime. This paper draws on my doctoral fieldwork, where I followed a Norwegian volunteer organisation working in refugee camps in Greece, across time and space, and at home and abroad, for more than eighteen months. The paper examines volunteers’ efforts to extend or “scale up” (Ben-Yehoyada, 2016) their care for refugees in Greece by appealing to the Norwegian state’s responsibility to help and, specifically, evacuate children and families from the notorious Moria camp on Lesvos island. Focusing on the volunteers’ political campaigns and testimonies, I outline three different, but partly overlapping, ways in which Norway’s responsibility for refugees in Greece is framed and articulated: 1) a liberal cosmopolitan discourse, 2) a Norwegian exceptionalism discourse (Gullestad, 2006; Loftdottir and Jensen, 2012), and 3) an emerging, and more vaguely articulated, complicity discourse. The paper analyses the moral and political assumptions and effects of these discourses, paying specific attention to their various entanglements with hegemonic national narratives and “the politics of pity” (Arendt). I conclude by reflecting on my own difficulties navigating this discursive terrain as a scholar seeking to engage with both academic and public audiences.

Panel Mora02b
Complicities: politics and ethics at the edges of responsibility II
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -