Contradictions in Vulnerability: Coming to Terms with Images of the Refugee Crisis

Society and Space

10 September 2015

Amsterdam Panel on Humanitarianism and Images of the ‘Refugee Crisis’

Recording now accessible on the website of the journal Society & Space:

The images of the body of Aylan Kurdi, who drowned off the coast of Turkey, have shaped global perceptions of refugees and refugee policy in Europe. This is a recording of a symposium which sought to encourage more sustained reflection on the nature and meaning of these images and the ethics and the politics of their use. How do we balance the emotions that the images evoke with our drive for sober and critical analysis? Can we establish a position on the subject that in some way does justice to the boy’s life, his family members and all those affected by the consistent failure to provide a humanitarian solution for refugees in Europe? The discussion, held at the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies at the University of Amsterdam aimed to provide staff and students with – not a definitive analysis – but some ways of charting their path through the questions at hand.

Speakers: Sébastien Chauvin, Polly Pallister-Wilkins, Darshan Vigneswaran, Hernan del Valle (MSF, Amsterdam, and Saskia Bonjour – not present, but with a textual contribution below: Amade M’charek (Anthropology, UvA)

→ I described some tensions and contradictions in the way deservingness and vulnerability are deployed by the media and governments as sources of civic legitimacy for asylum seekers. The text (together with Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas) will be be ready soon and will be made available on the same website.