Deconstructing the “Refugee Crisis”: Race, Representation, & Recognition

Oct 19, 2017 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley
Location is wheelchair accessible

The CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…

Deconstructing the “Refugee Crisis”: Race, Representation, & Recognition

Denaturalizing the Mediterranean border: Mediterraneanism, Mediterranean migration, and the tracing of the boundaries of Europeanness
Ilaria Giglioli, Geography

Over the past five years, the European ‘refugee crisis’ has made painfully clear the human cost of the closure and fortification of the Mediterranean sea. In response, intellectuals, public figures and activists throughout Europe have sought to question the closure of the Mediterranean border, and the notion that this border represents the ‘natural limit’ of Europe, by turning to Mediterraneanism: the celebration of historic interconnections between Europe and North Africa.

Mediterraneanism, however, has multiple articulations. In my talk, I analyze everyday manifestations of Mediterraneanism in Sicily, Italy, as both a multicultural model, and as a regional development discourse, showing how the celebration of Mediterranean interconnection is going hand in hand with the production of racialized difference between Sicilians and Tunisian migrants. By reading current articulations of Mediterraneanism in Sicily in relation to histories of colonial cosmopolitanism in Tunisia, I also show how – more generally – the celebration of Mediterranean mixing and interconnection has historically served to support European (Italian and French) colonial ambitions over Tunisia.

Through this analysis, I show how, in some articulations, Mediterraneanist projects do not question the exclusion of racialized subjects from the national or European community, the fortification of the Mediterranean, or implicit ‘civilizational’ hierarchies between Europe and North Africa. More generally, I argue that in order to challenge the current Mediterranean status quo, Mediterraneanist projects must be accompanied by policies of equal access and redistribution – both within Europe and across the Mediterranean, a critique of Islamophobia, and a questioning of how the boundaries of Europeanness are drawn.

Re-forming Refugee Protection: A U.S. Perspective
Kate Jastram, Human Rights Attorney

U.S. leadership has been indispensable to the international system of refugee protection for decades.  Yet now both our domestic asylum system and our program of resettling refugees from overseas are under severe pressure.  At home, the U.S. has failed to respond effectively to the rapid rise in recent years of women and children fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America.  As a result, the asylum system is unable to deal fairly and expeditiously with claims, and the backlog of cases has grown to nearly 300,000. Lengthy delays in processing cases hurt everyone involved, including the government, and leave the asylum program politically vulnerable.

The overseas refugee resettlement program has been furiously contested since January.  Just as years of advocacy for Syrian refugees needing admission to the U.S. was beginning to pay off, the Executive Orders threw the system into reverse, halting Syrian admissions at least temporarily and scaling down the entire resettlement program.  Litigation is ongoing, but a more fundamental question is that of political will and imagination.  I argue that the U.S. response to asylum seekers at home and refugees abroad must be creative, compassionate and security-conscious.  I draw on a previous crisis period in the U.S. asylum system to suggest reforms for today, and ground my policy analysis in the context of the developing Global Compact on Refugees.

Representing the “European refugee crisis” in Germany and beyond: Deservingness and difference, life and death
Seth Holmes, School of Public Health and Heide Castañeda, Anthropology (University of South Florida)

The European refugee crisis has gained worldwide attention with daily media coverage both in and outside Germany. Representations of refugees in media and political discourse in relation to Germany participate in a Gramscian “war of position” over symbols, policies, and, ultimately, social and material resources, with potentially fatal consequences. These representations shift blame from historical, political-economic structures to the displaced people themselves. They demarcate the “deserving” refugee from the “undeserving” migrant and play into fear of cultural, religious, and ethnic difference in the midst of increasing anxiety and precarity for many in Europe. Comparative perspectives suggest that anthropology can play an important role in analyzing these phenomena, highlighting sites of contestation, imagining alternatives, and working toward them.

BIOS:

Ilaria Giglioli is a PhD candidate in the Geography department of the University of California, Berkeley. Her research, partially funded by a grant from the Center for Race and Gender, analyzes cross-Mediterranean migration between Sicily and Tunisia (both current Tunisian northward migration to Sicily, and histories of Sicilian southward colonial migration and settlement to Tunisia), focusing on the drawing of the boundaries of ‘Europeanness’ through the production of racialized difference between Sicilians and Tunisians. She has published her work in a range of journals, including Geopolitics and The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Kate Jastram is a practitioner and scholar of public international law. She was a legal advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva and in Washington, DC; then joined the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley Law School; and recently took a position as an asylum officer in the San Francisco Asylum Office.  She is a Visiting Professor teaching international law at UC Hastings College of the Law this fall.  She teaches, writes and consults on forced migration and on armed conflict.  As a policy expert, she recently consulted on a joint project on asylum reform with UNHCR and the Migration Policy Institute.  Jastram is active in the leadership of the American Society of International Law, now serving as co-chair of the international refugee law interest group. She served on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration Advisory Task Force on Civil Immigration Detention Standards and was a lead expert on asylum issues for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bi-partisan federal agency.  She holds a BA summa cum laude from San Francisco State University, an MA in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College, and a JD from University of California-Berkeley School of Law.

Seth M. Holmes is Associate Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology and Co-Chair of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine at UC Berkeley.  Trained as a cultural and medical anthropologist and a physician, he has written on ethnicity and citizenship hierarchies in transnational labor, food systems, socially structured suffering, structural vulnerability, symbolic violence, and the production of the clinical gaze in medical training.  His book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, received the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award, and the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award, the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology, and  James M. Blaut Award from the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers.

Heide Castañeda is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. Her research combines medical anthropology and public health perspectives and focuses on migrant health and health policy in Germany, the United States, and Mexico. She is co-editor of Unequal Coverage: The Experience of Health Care Reform in the United States (NYU Press, 2017) and author of two forthcoming books on migration and health. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Fulbright Program, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Thursday Forum Series

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