Accepted Paper:

Lifejackets on shore: anthropology, refugees, and the politics of belonging in Europe  

Author:

Sholeh Shahrokhi (Butler University)

Paper short abstract:

As scholars of cultural change anthropologist are intellectually equipped and ethically obliged to critique power formations across contested geopolitical boundaries. This paper explores how new bids for citizenship emerge out of political claims of belonging and legacies of nation-states in Europe.

Paper long abstract:

In a recent interview on a new art installation protesting Europe's diminishing interest in im/migration politics and a general decline in empathy for the political refugees out of the Middle East, artist-activist Ai Weiwei stressed, "we are all refugees as humans in some moment in history" (Feb. 2016). Indeed, what does it mean to speak of displacement and forced migration across conflicted geographies, as a condition of human life in contemporary history?

The question of belonging is not a new interest in Anthropology (e.g. Rosaldo 1989; Ong 2003; Bourgois 2007) but as the European demographics continue to grow more racial and ethnically heterogeneous, new anthropological interventions between macro-politics and everyday humanity is relevant and necessary. In an era where media pundits ride the waves of sensationalized journalism to offer sound-bite politics, anthropological interventions enable us to explore new forms of power relations against structured forms of distinctions based on ideas about race, gender, and religiosities across the globe. Anthropologist are intellectually equipped and ethically obliged to contribute to critique of power formations across contested geopolitical boundaries. By tapping into new forms of knowledge acquisition and collaborative knowledge productions, anthropology of the contemporary (Marcus 2015; Rabinow 2008) enables us to question old narratives of race and identity in the face of the upsurge in refugees arriving from the Middle East and North Africa in the political North. This paper explores how new bids for citizenship emerge out of the conflicting political claims of belonging and legacies of nation-states in Europe.

Panel P003
Anthropologists between the Middle East and Europe: war, crises, refugees, migration and Islamophobia [AMCE]