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Rightlessness in an Age of Rights$
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Ayten Gundogdu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199370412

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199370412.001.0001

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Expulsion from Politics and Humanity

Expulsion from Politics and Humanity

(p.126) 4. Expulsion from Politics and Humanity
Rightlessness in an Age of Rights

Ayten Gündoğdu

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the long-term encampment of refugees as a fundamental condition of rightlessness amounting to an expulsion from political community and humanity. The argument rests on an engagement with Arendt’s account of vita activa (action, work, labor) in The Human Condition. For most readers, Arendt privileges action as the quintessentially human activity and denigrates labor as the least human activity. Challenging this reading, this chapter argues that each activity makes a distinctive, irreplaceable contribution to living a life that can be recognized as human in Arendt’s phenomenology. The disruption of the habitual fabric of life in refugee camps highlights the importance of labor for experiencing the elemental joy of life and cultivating a trust in the reality of life. The makeshift structure of many camps brings to view the importance of work for establishing a relatively durable dwelling place. Finally, the isolation of camps from the political community and the human world draws attention to conditions that deny to refugees the possibilities of rendering their action, especially speech, relevant. To clarify what speechlessness entails, the chapter examines lip-stitching as a contemporary form of protest and concludes with Arendt’s discussion of Aristotle and her analogy between slavery and statelessness.

Keywords:   refugee, camp, rightlessness, labor, work, action, speech, Aristotle, lip-stitching, slavery

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