Past and present experiences of “natality” in border crossing. An Arendtian reading of the agency and rights of refugees
AbstractRecent 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.
Ambrosini M., “Humanitarian Help and Refugees: De-Bordering Solidarity as a Contention Issue”, Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 0, 0, 2022, pp. 1-14.
Arendt H., The origins of totalitarianism, Cleveland and New York, Meridian, 1958.
Arendt H., The human condition, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Arendt H., The promise of politics, New York, Schocken, 2005.
Arendt H., “We refugees”, in The Jewish writings, New York, Schocken, 2007, pp. 264-274.
Barbulescu R. and Grugel J., “Unaccompanied minors, migration control and human rights at the EU’s southern border: The role and limits of civil society activism”, Migration Studies, 4, 2, 2016, pp. 253-272.
Belton K.A., “Arendt’s children in the Bahamian context: The children of migrants without status”, The International Journal of Bahamian Studies, 16, 2010, pp. 35-50.
Benhabib S., “The End of the 1951 Refugee Convention? Dilemmas of Sovereignty, Territoriality, and Human Rights”, Jus Cogens, 2, 2020, pp. 75-100.
Bhabha J., “Arendt's Children: Do Today's Migrant Children Have a Right to Have Rights?”, Human Rights Quarterly, 31, 2, 2009, pp. 410-451.
Brambilla C., “Borders still Exist! What are Borders?” in Brambilla C. and Riccio B. (Eds.), Transnational Migration, Cosmopolitanism and Dis-located Borders, Rimini, Guaraldi, 2010, pp. 73-86.
Butler J., “Performative acts and gender constitution: an essay in phenomenology and feminist theory”, Theatre Journal, 40, 4, 1988, pp. 519-531.
Catarci M., “Challenging Interculturalism: The Inclusion of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Italy, in Australia and New Zealand”, Journal of European Studies, 8, 2, 2016, pp. 21-33.
Costello C. and Foster M., “(Some) refugees welcome: When is differentiating between refugees unlawful discrimination?”, International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, 22, 3, 2022, pp. 244-280.
D’Agnese V., “Action, freedom, and education: refugees and a ‘new beginning’”, Educational Theory, 70, 4, 2020, pp. 421-444.
Essex R., “Contentious politics, human rights and Australian immigration detention”, Australian Journal of Human Rights, 25, 3, 2019, pp. 376-390.
Fassin D., Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of The Present, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2011.
Fiske L., “Crisis and Opportunity: Women, Youth and Ethnic Minorities’ Citizenship Practices During Refugee Transit in Indonesia”, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 33, 2020, pp. 561-573.
Fontana I., “The implementation of Italian asylum policy and the recognition of protection in times of crisis: between external and internal constraints”, Contemporary Italian Politics, 11, 4, 2019, pp. 429-445.
Fontanari E., Lives in transit. An ethnographic study of refugees’ subjectivity across European borders, Routledge, 2018.
Giovannetti M., L’accoglienza incompiuta. Le politiche dei comuni italiani verso un Sistema di protezione nazionale per i minori stranieri non accompagnati, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2008.
Granata A., Granata E., Teen Immigration. La grande migrazione dei ragazzini, Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 2019.
Gündoğdu A., Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015.
Hayden P., “From Exclusion to Containment: Arendt, Sovereign, Power, and Statelessness”, Societies without Borders, 3, 2008, pp. 248-269.
Hayden P. and Saunders N., “Solidarity at the Margins: Arendt, Refugees, and the Inclusive Politics of World-Making”, in Hiruta K. (Ed.), Arendt on Freedom, Liberation, and Revolution, Cham, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, pp. 171-200.
Hirsch A.L. and Bell N., “The Right to Have Rights as a Right to Enter: Addressing a Lacuna in the International Refugee Protection Regime”, Human Rights Review, 18, 2017, pp. 417-437.
Holohan S., “Some Human’s Rights: Neocolonial Discourses of Otherness in the Mediterranean Refugee Crisis”, Open Library of Humanities, 5, 1, 2019, pp. 1-27.
Isin E.F., “Theorizing acts of citizenship”, in Isin E.F. and Nielsen G.M. (Eds.), Acts of Citizenship, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, pp. 15-43.
Istat, Cittadini non comunitari in Italia. Anni 2019-2020, Report 26 ottobre 2020.
Istat, Cittadini non comunitari in Italia. Anni 2020-2021, Report 22 ottobre 2021.
Istat, Cittadini non comunitari in Italia. Anni 2021-2022, Report 25 ottobre 2022.
Johnson C., Jones R., Paasi A., Amoore L., Mountz A., Salter M. and Rumford C., “Interventions on rethinking ‘the border’ in border studies”, Political Geography, 30, 2011, pp. 61-69.
Jurkevics A., “Hannah Arendt reads Carl Schmitt’s The Nomos of the Earth: A dialogue on law and geopolitics from the margins”, European Journal of Political Theory, 16, 3, 2017, pp. 345-366.
Kesby A., The Right to Have Rights: Citizenship, Humanity, and International Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.
Khosravi S., “The ‘illegal’ traveller: an auto-ethnography of borders”, Social Anthropology, 15, 3, 2007, pp. 321-334.
Kmak M., “The right to have rights of undocumented migrants: inadequacy and rigidity of legal categories of migrants and minorities in international law of human rights”, The International Journal of Human Rights, 24, 8, 2020, pp. 1201-1217.
Krause M., “Stateless People and Undocumented Migrants”, in Sawyer C. and Blitz B.K. (Eds.), Statelessness in the European Union: Displaced, Undocumented, Unwanted, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 22-41.
Levinson N., “The Paradox of Natality: Teaching in the midst of Belatedness,” in Gordon M. (Ed.), Hannah Arendt and Education: Renewing Our Common World, London, Westview Press, 2001.
Lindahl H., “Give and Take. Arendt and the nomos of political community”, Philosophy & Social Criticism, 32, 7, 2006, pp. 881-901.
Makris S., “Public sphere as ‘ultimum refugium’. The philosophical, political and ethical theory of Hannah Arendt”, International Journal of Theology, Philosophy and Science, 4, 3, 2019, pp. 77-92.
Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali, Report mensile minori stranieri non accompagnati (MSNA) in Italia, Dati del 31 dicembre 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022.
Musso L.G., Tra archein e prattein. Agire libero e fondazione politica nel pensiero di Hannah Arendt, Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 2014.
Newman D., “Border, boundaries and borderlands”, in Richardson D., Castree N., Goodchild M.F., Kobayashi A., Liu W. and Marston R.A. (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Geography, Hoboken, Wiley, 2017, pp. 2-13.
Owen D., “On the Right to Have Nationality Rights: Statelessness, Citizenship and Human Rights”, Netherlands International Law Review, 65, 2018, pp. 299-317.
Paasi A., “Boundaries as Social Processes: Territoriality in the World of Flows”, Geopolitics, 3, 1, 2007, pp. 69-88.
Paasi A., “Borders and Border-Crossing”, in Johnson N.C., Schein R.H. and Winders J. (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography, Hoboken, Wiley, 2013, pp. 478-493.
Parekh S., “Resisting ‘Dull and Torpid’ Assent: Returning to the Debate Over the Foundations of Human Rights”, Human Rights Quarterly, 29, 3, 2007, pp. 754-778.
Paz A. and Kook R., “Yearning for a Home: Peter Bergson and Hannah Arendt on the Palestinian Refugee Problem”, Ethnopolitics, 20, 2, 2021, pp. 244-268.
Pratt G., “Geographies of identity: Marking boundaries”, in Massey D., Allen J. and Sarre P. (Ed.), Human Geography Today, Cambridge, Polity, 1999, pp. 151-167.
Rancière J., “Who is the Subject of the Rights of Man?”, The South Atlantic Quarterly, 103, 2/3, 2004, pp. 297-310.
Rees P., “The Rights Claims of the Sans-papiers: Transgressing the borders of citizenship”, Tropos, 4, 1, 2017.
Riva S. and Hoffstaedter G., “The aporia of refugee rights in a time of crises: the role of brokers in accessing refugee protection in transit and at the border”, Comparative Migration Studies, 9, 1, 2021.
Sbraccia A., Strutture di minoranza. Minori stranieri in comunità. Uno studio di caso, Napoli, Think Thanks, 2011.
Schinagl R.C., “One only needs an island/Alone in a vast sea: ‘We refugees’ - the waves of refugees of 2015/16”, Stellenbosch Theological Journal, 5, 1, 2019, pp. 361-381.
Schulze Wessel J., “On Border Subjects: Rethinking the Figure of the Refugee and the Undocumented Migrant”, Constellations, 23, 2016, pp. 46-57.
Schulze Wessel J. and Razum O., “Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Encampment”, in Razum O., Dawson A., Eckenwiler L. and Wild V. (Eds.), Refugee Camps in Europe and Australia, Cham, Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, pp. 33-46.
Stonebridge L., Placeless people. Writing, rights and refugees, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018.
Ticktin M., “Thinking Beyond Humanitarian Borders”, Social Research: An International Quarterly, 83, 2, 2016, pp. 255-271.
Traverso A. (Ed.), Childhoods on the move. Twelve researches on unaccompanied minors in Italy, Genoa, University of Genoa, 2020.
UNHCR, “Asylum Seekers”, 2019, https://www.unhcr.org/asylum-seekers.html.
Vergani M., Nascita. Una fenomenologia dell’esistenza, Rome, Carocci, 2020.
Whelan F.G., “Prologue: democratic theory and the boundary problem”, Nomos, 25, 1983, pp. 13-47.
The Author assigns to the Nuova Cultura and to Italian Association of Geography Teachers all rights under copyright that can exist in and to the submitted paper. The Author warrants that the paper and images (photos, maps, graphs etc.) are original and that he/she is the Author of the submitted contribution and its parts; in the case of images taken by other publications, the Author must provide a specific authorization and must pay in advance any copyright.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.