Accepted Paper:

The anthropology of the Middle East and its refugees  

Author:

Leonardo Schiocchet (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

As its subject shifts to “the suffering”, refugeeness becomes a point of inflection for contemporary anthropology, especially in the Middle East, given both its blaring empirical reality and its liminality – between the whims of particular nation states and the universal claims of Humanitarianism.

Paper long abstract:

In a recent article at JRAI, Joel Robbins addressed the pivotal shift from an anthropology of the savage to one of the "suffering subject". The current accent on political, religious, ethnic, and gender minorities reflects the contemporary world's ubiquitous political expression of civic contestation. Didier Fassin notes that as its subject shifts from "the other" to "the public", anthropology itself becomes more public. Subaltern studies have long pointed toward the postcolonial nature of the world today. Inspired by these analyses, I suggest that, far and wide, minority struggles today reflect unique processes of settling ethnic, religious, political, and economic disputes, as subjects struggle between national citizenship and post-national political representation.

The Middle East has been a prominent arena for such civic struggles, as evidenced, for instance, by the Green Revolution in Iran, the so-called Arab Spring, the 2011 Turkish elections, and the war in Syria. For anthropologists, questions of governance, belonging, and policies emerged as central in these cases, thereby reinforcing anthropology's growing public role. In these examples, relations between human rights and national belonging are at the core of the debate. My paper suggest that refugeeness is a point of inflection for contemporary anthropology, especially in the Middle East, given both its blaring empirical reality and its liminality - between a practical existence bound to the whims of particular nation states (and so-called post-national "apolitical" agencies) and universal claims of humanity. This discussion is informed by my ethnography on Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe (2005-2014).

Panel P076
The Future of the Anthropology and Anthropologists of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia (The Anthropology of the Middle East and Central Eurasia Network)