In our modern days, global society faces an urgent “refugees problem,” which have appeared to be an important issue in the middle of the twentieth century and still remains relevant nowadays. When refugee situation arises, it is important to agree on the meaning behind the word refugee, for different scholars add different shades to the word’s definition. For instance, the writer Athena Athanasiou in Bloodlines: Performing the Body of the “Demons”, Reckoning the Time of the “Ethnos” gives a common definition calling refugee a “foreigner” and “immigrant”. Alike the latter author, German political theorist, and historian of Jewish origin Hannah Arendt in her work We Refugees defines refugees as people who “have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means and have to be helped by Refugee Committees”. For Arendt, refugees, despite their struggle to live in other countries, merge to other identities, forming “the vanguard” of people. Another scholar Giorgio Agamben in the same named piece reflects on Arendt’s work overturning the definition giving by the German theorist. The Italian academic advocates for refugee now is not the word describing a staleness person, rather a concept that connects to a new approach of social-political reality.
Accordingly to various approaches to this term, scholars facilitate this issue in their texts differently. To begin with, in her piece Athanasiou opens a discussion about “sensitive political issues” such as demographic problem and undernatality. She gives a thick description of how these issues are present in Greece. The possible solution mentioned that will make Greek population grow is a renewal of “blood” of a nation (procreative agency). That is, the reproduction issue the country faces can be solved by an influx of immigrants. Contrary, Arendt recalls the history of Jewish emigration from Germany, making it the topic of her work. She uncovers optimism that is the mask Jewish immigrants tried wore in order to hide the struggle and pain refugees have been through, and which in many cases resulted in suicide, for Jews were not warmly welcomed in other countries as well. As well, the German theorist finds the consciences of Jewish emigration in Jews forming a corpus of avant-garde people in European countries. Lastly, Agamben looks at Arendt’s piece from the other perspective, giving sufficient historical references connected to the topic, and praising the status of refugee. For the Italian philosopher a refugee social construct is a very beneficial concept, for it reconstructs political system while questioning traditional “trinity of state/nation/territory”.
The three works are quite interesting, for they allow readers to see this relevant issue in a new light. All of them are of a different structure but they are being united in raising or at least touching upon the refugee issue. Read altogether in the twenty-first century, pieces call for attention towards finding the solution to the situation happening in the world right now and even suggest possible answers.
Agamben, Giorgio. "We Refugees." Symposium, 22 Jun 1995. Athanasiou, Athena. Bloodlines: Performing the Body of the ‘Demos’, Reckoning the time of the ‘Ethnos. -: Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 2006. Arendt, Hannah. "We Refugees" Altogether Elsewhere: Writers o Exile. ed. Marc Robinson. 110-116. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994.