Re-centering the human: crisis, migration, and new frames of reference
Aditi Surie von Czechowski
(University of Cambridge)
Paper short abstract:
This paper argues against narratives of crisis and biopolitical governance to propose that we re-center the concept of human in examining contemporary migration and displacement. This would allow us to move past legal categories and binaries to understand the global forces shaping inequality today.
Paper long abstract:
While the concept of biopolitics and states of exception have largely framed the conversation on precarity within migration, displacement, encampment and refugee governance, I argue that we can understand these iterations of vulnerability better by moving beyond political-juridical categories. If contemporary large-scale displacements can be read not as states of exception but as normalized forms of governance in a racialized world, how can we reframe narratives of citizenship to take this into account? This paper looks at everyday experiences and narratives of humanitarian aid in Tanzania's Nyarugusu refugee camp to explore some of the ways in which refugees conceive of their predicament and articulate claims that exceed the framework of refugeehood and citizenship. By examining how camp residents, largely from the Democratic Republic of Congo, experience and describe their condition, I aim to shift discussions of refugee life away from the contemporary focus on biopolitics towards individual experiences of humanitarian, corporeal, and occult realities. I suggest that black feminist theory, particularly as articulated by Sylvia Wynter and Hortense Spillers, with its focus on the politics of the flesh and the body, provides a more appropriate framework for examining questions surrounding refugeehood. Frustrated with inadequate and unpredictable humanitarian assistance, refugees make claims to humanity/inhumanity based on bodily vulnerability and the loss or lack of corporeal integrity. I suggest that foregrounding the category of "the human" allows us to better understand global realities that move us beyond narratives of crisis.
De-exceptionalising displacement in times of crisis