Past and present experiences of “natality” in border crossing. An Arendtian reading of the agency and rights of refugees


  • Anna Granata Riccardo Massa” Department of Human Sciences for Education, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
  • Paolo Monti Riccardo Massa” Department of Human Sciences for Education, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy


Recent crises in Europe and beyond have renewed a longstanding debate on the status and treatment of refugees. Hannah Arendt famously questioned the limits of universalistic human rights discourse based on the widespread phenomena of statelessness and displacement that emerged during and after World War II. In this paper, we analyze recent patterns of inclusion and exclusion of refugees in Italy through the lens of Arendtian narrative and theorizing. We consider three cases of interaction between families, schools, and other public institutions in light of the shifting normative framework before and during the war in Ukraine. Two major insights emerge from this analysis. From a pedagogical point of view, the most promising educational practices with refugees are those centered on enabling their agency and corresponding experiences of “natality”. From an ethical-political perspective, these practices highlight a latent tension between the universalistic scope of human rights enshrined in the human rights declarations and their structural dependence on the particular norms and procedures enacted by nation states. The understanding and teaching of human rights within our political communities is inseparable from the practices that engage with refugees. In this sense, our practices of inclusion and exclusion affect the understanding of national borders as a barrier or threshold with other political communities, but also the interpretation of our own ethical-political principles.


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2023-03-31 — Updated on 2023-06-01



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