This morning, Refugee Hosts Co-I Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge discussed Hannah Arendt alongside Frisbee Sheffield and Robert Eagleton on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. The full programme can be listened to here.
The discussion helped to bring out the relevance of Arendt’s work in today’s political environment. This is especially true when it comes to issues relating to displacement, citizenship and hospitality. As Lyndsey points out, Arendt’s argument in We Refugees is simple, yet strikingly overlooked: Refugees, in the first instance, do not like to be called refugees.
Following this critique, Arendt may help us discover a range of moral and political tools to better determine how we should respond to and engage with the world’s displaced people. One option, espoused by our Refugee Hosts project, is to shift our focus toward the everyday, to the local, and to language. This may enable us to re-frame the debates that currently govern the ‘humanitarian narrative’, and which too often reduce the refugee to ‘bare humanity’. By exploring diverse encounters across time and space, the dichotomies between ‘refugee’ and ‘host’ can be disturbed, bringing the stories of displaced and hosting communities to the centre of our enquiry.
For more on the relevance of Arendt to our Refugee Hosts project, see Co-I Dr Anna Reynolds’ reflection on Displacement and Political Judgement.