We, the Refugees

Hannah Arendt was not afraid of making a few jokes. I thank her for it. We, the Refugees has a peculiar but particular beat. Humorous in its own way. I hope you, dear reader, take a moment to read it. Or skim it. Here is an alternate link. She alights from one gem to another. “No, there is something wrong with our optimism. There are those odd optimists among us who, having made a lot of optimistic speeches, go home and turn on the gas or make use of a skyscraper in quite an unexpected way.” Then, at another point, “One may be surprised that the apparent uselessness of all our odd disguises has not yet been able to discourage us.”

It is surprising to me that her essay does not have a more substantial audience. It’s never been more relevant. It seems exactly like the type of document a professor, perhaps exploring marginal viewpoints in history (migrant farmworkers, anyone?), would use in his or her lecture. Maybe her whiteness precludes her from serious consideration. Oh well. Here is Giorgio Agamben.

The reasons for this impotence lie not only in the selfishness and blindness of bureaucratic machines, but in the basic notions themselves that regulate the inscription of the native (that is, of life) in the legal order of the nation-state.


That there is no autonomous space within the political order of the nation-state for something like the pure man in himself is evident at least in the fact that, even in the best of cases, the status of the refugee is always considered a temporary condition that should lead either to naturalization or to repatriation. A permanent status of man in himself is inconceivable for the law of the nation-state.

Anyhow, happy reading.

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