Jeff Miley, University of Cambridge and Cihad Hammy, Hamburg University
Dominant representations in mainstream Western media either demonize refugees or at best treat them as helpless victims, politically passive, and uninformed. But in fact, refugees are political subjects, often with highly sophisticated political convictions. This is in no small part because of their first-hand experience on the front-lines of the global “war on terror” and in the liminal spaces of the global border regime. This seminar will discuss the paper which begins with an analysis of the political and social dynamics underpinning Europe’s so-called “refugee crisis.” It then turns to focus on refugees’ experiences and perspectives. Based on 30 in-depth, qualitative interviews gathered by one of the co-authors, himself a Kurdish refugee from Kobanî, during 2016 and 2017, this paper traces their first-hand experiences on the front-lines and focuses on the distinctive political ideas and worldviews of Syrians and especially Kurdish-Syrian refugees in Europe. It pays special attention to their views about contemporary politics in the Middle East, to their criticisms of Turkish and EU state policies in framing and responding to the so-called “refugee crisis,” and to the alternatives they espouse for resolving the ongoing and interconnected crises in the Middle East and beyond. The paper next includes two reflexive attempts to transcend the binary between subject and object of inquiry: the first, a review by one of the authors of the important documentary film, Dog Years, in which the direction of our gaze is reversed, to focus on the problem of Euro-centric subjectivities; the second, a first-hand account of the experiences of the other author, relaying the background to and process of becoming a refugee in Germany.
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