Monday, November 5, 2012

Asylum Seekers & {Risk, Fear, Hate, Love}

For this text, I kept thinking about the proximity of the emotions I personally experienced  while reading the texts by Ulrich Beck on the Risk Society a few weeks ago. I’m thinking specifically about questions of citizenship and belonging for refugees of places that have been affected by the high accumulation of risks and irresponsibility by First World countries and its corporate magnates.  There is a sense that responsibility is not shared equally, and while people in developed countries reap the rewards of lower food and gas prices or gourmet coffee, people in less developed countries are affected by the environmental hazards of these processes. They often become displaced persons and sometimes end up the developed world as migrants or as refugees. The ways that Ahmed characterized the reception of these people in their new homes by groups that sponsor finite definitions of citizenship comprises both the emotions of love and hate. Interestingly enough, Ahmed has the unique perspective of a theorist interested in not only how emotions are felt inside of the mind, but also how our body reacts and shapes them, and how they move among us while becoming “sticky.”

In regards to my musings about citizenship and movement, I thought that Ahmed effectively employs the double notion of movement operating when it comes to both the circulation of refugee bodies (as entering and becoming active in the nation) and  the circulation of negative affects about them . Adopting a Marxist approach to understanding emotion, she writes that: “Emotions work as a form of capital: Affect does not positively reside in the sign or commodity, but is produced as an affect of its circulation…objects of emotion circulate and are distributed across a social and psychic field” (Ahmed 43).  Thus, fear and hate do not stand still residing in the refugees themselves because in their immobile state, they can be considered invisible, nonexistent, outside of the national body. When they begin to circulate, to become visible, when their cultural practices cease to exist in the theoretical just as their experiences of risk become actualized,  this is the moment in which those laying claims to citizenship must be controlled, by whatever means society can avail itself of.

 I found it fascinating that after speaking of hate and fear in regards to asylum seekers in the UK, Ahmed then turns to love (‘Multicultural Love’ section in Chapter 6).  And thus rhetoric of fear and hate (reflected in “We hate your differences and fear how you are changing the national body by your presence”) becomes a rhetoric of  security and love (“Here, the nation and national subject can only love the incoming other—embrace them—if the conditions that enable security are already met” [135]). Ironically enough, to be welcomed and embraced in the very place that is the locus of your own displacement and risk means giving up the same differences that evoke fear and hatred  in the oppressor, making this intrinsic and persecuted “Otherness” the  last weapon  to be wielded at all.

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