This post is part of a series on migration and the refugee crisis moderated and edited by Prem Kumar Rajaram (Central European University).
The refugee crisis in Europe is fabricated. Like most “crises,” the recent onset of people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan trying to cross into the European Union is a representation. Anxiety and specific readings of law and humanitarianism frame this issue. This framing works inward as well as outward. Inward, it establishes a dominant regulating norm—an idea of “the refugee”—that allows for internal comparison and inequalities (people are said to have varying rights to protection). Outward, the framing helps create an understanding of a complex situation—an abstracted understanding—and allows for policy makers and commentators to treat “the refugee crisis” as an exceptional condition. As exception, that crisis appears to be regarded and treated as an “event” distinct from the political “norm,” and it enables a vertical form of politics. The crisis is the state acting as it tends to, as a protection racket in Charles Tilly’s memorable take, defining a danger or threat that strengthens its force and its hold over territory.
“Normal lives” and the state in a Sarajevo apartment complex
Yearnings in the Meantime is a volume of the “Dislocations” series published by Berghahn Books. The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neo-liberal globalization, the retreat of the welfare state in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the heightened military imperialism at the turn of the twenty-first century have raised urgent questions about the temporal and spatial dimensions of power. Through stimulating critical perspectives and new and cross-disciplinary frameworks, which reflect recent innovations in the social and human sciences, this series provides a forum for politically engaged, ethnographically informed, and theoretically incisive responses.
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