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What is Refuge, Who Decides and How? Alison Phipps,UNESCO Chair, Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts University of Glasgow Tuesday 6th Feb, 6pm, West Wing 6, UCC

6 Feb 2018


Since the ‘reception crisis’ of 2015, it has become increasingly clear that the countries of the Global North are overwhelmed by the task of decision-making faced with the plea for refuge. As the philosopher Hannah Arendt said of a different point in history, ‘the European peoples went to pieces, when, and because, it allowed its weakest member to be excluded and persecuted.’ (Arendt 1943). It wasn’t just in Europe. The record of decision-making in line with the Refugee Convention in the Antipodes and in the United States of America is also wanting.

This lecture will examine again the question of what constitutes refuge and who decides and how on what refuge is. It will look at examples from Direct Provision to detention estates in different countries, refugee camps such as Calais, as well as the habitations of refugees in cities in third countries, and at the practices of dispersal. It will then consider this record as a record of decision-making about refuge and the mechanisms by which decisions come to be made. It will also consider examples of refuge from history and how these have been invoked as part of the Refugees Welcome movement, as well as in contemporary philosophy and the arts. Finally it will ask about refuge as an individual gesture and need, looking at the intimacy of refuge, ceremonial dimensions to refuge and its embodiment.

The lecture will weave together poetic reflections and artistic sensibilities with the philosophical questions raised, and critical engagement with the politics of refuge today.

Centre for Global Development