School on Migration in Vrnjačka Banja
This year, our school for students of social sciences had reopened. It was launched back in 2004, and with certain interruption s has managed to carry on. School on Migration is implemented as a series of seminars where the concept of exile is investigated from the viewpoint of different disciplines, but also through various approaches within each of these disciplines. The program team, responsible for the new seminar concept, comprises of: Ivan Milenković (philosopher, Belgrade Radio Third Programme), Biljana Đorđević (political scientist, Faculty of Political Sciences), Zagorka Aksentijević and Robert Kozma from Group 484. The first seminar of the new cycle was held in Vrnjačka Banja on February 24-26, 2017. The school was attended by 25 students of political sciences, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, law, etc. The school programme included lectures, discussions, film screenings and talks about films. Besides Biljana Đorđević and Ivan Milenković, the seminar lecturers were: Jelena Vasiljević (anthropologist, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory), Adriana Zaharijević (philosopher, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory), Miroslava Jelačić Kojić (lawyer, Group 484), Predrag Sarčević (anthropologist, Belgrade Radio Third Programme) and Dragan Protić from Škart Art Collective.
The purpose of the school was to examine the existing approaches to migration and exile: humanitarian approach, legal approach, integration policies in Western Europe, processes of re-thematization of th e concept of citizenship and national identities, instigated by the attitudes of the countries towards migrants and debate related to the integration of refugees.
Another important topic was the identification of the ways the issue of reception of migrants is used in the media and political-party articulations and discussions.
Together, we searched answers to the questions: Is there an approach that rejects the right-wing, xenophobic perspective, but also the other – the abstract – philanthropic one, and offers a sustainable solution regarding migration? Are there any unused ways of solving the migrant / refugee crisis?
In the introductory part of the School on Migration, Ivan Milenković talked about the need for a theoretical approach to the problem, along with the widespread legal and humanitarian approach, as well as the need for the politicisation of the refugee issue, in order to avoid the “double blackmail”, as defined by Slavoj Žižek, where opposed to the right-wing populism there is an empty and very abstract notion of humanism. In addition, he set the basic theoretical concepts the school would be dealing with.
The lectures encompassed: concepts of citizenship and nationality; human rights, especially the right to life; concept of a migrant and the criticism related to the distinction between forced and economic migration; refugee camps, attitude towards migrants, integration and social activism.
Through her lecture “Concepts of Citizenship and Nationality Encountering wit h the Phenomenon of Exile” Jelena Vasiljević problematised the notion of citizenship / nationality as a guarantor of the protection of rights, equality, freedom and belonging to a political community. The paradox is that the concept itself can be interpreted as discriminatory since it distinguishes citizens from non-citizens, especially in the situation of exile / illegal immigration. The focus of the lecture was how to keep the concept of citizenship as a framework for the reflection of the fair political community and the position of an “illegal alien” in that context.
The second day of the school started with a lecture on the legal approach to migration and exile held by Miroslava Jelačić Kojić, who emphasised that the international protection systems that protect human rights and fundamental freedoms are the basis
for a legal approach to migration. However, with the refugee-migrant crisis, when the protection of human rights becomes secondary compared to the protection of borders and security, it becomes clearer that the issue of migration is primarily a political issue. So it happens that traditionally democratic countries create or accept the policies contrary to international human rights protection standards, and the consequences of these policies have not yet been poss ible to examine. Miroslava pointed to the status quo situation we are all in, saying that it is necessary to insist on valid instrument for the protection of rights of people in migration.
Biljana Đorđević, with her lecture “Immigration Contract – Discussion on Integration Models in the Liberal-Democratic Societies”, thematised the concept of integration of migrants in Europe, created and implemented since the nineties, which she called the ‘immigration contract’. This model implies the creation of a contract between immigrants and the political community about their rights and obligations. The subject of the contract encompasses: language, shared values, participation – and consequently the signatory is obliged to integration. The posed questions were: the extent to which contract terms are acceptable due to the fact that these countries identify themselves as liberal-democratic? Does the idea of the contract may be valid, despite the abuses in practice? And finally – is it a contract about reconstitution of the political community or a contract about domination?
Predrag Šarčević lectured “About non-places and non-people: socio-anthropological and cultural anthropological approaches to the study of refugees”. As the most significant contribution to anthropology of the refugee issue h e emphasised the destruction of clichés about refugees as passive aid recipients and the fundamental importance of active behaviour of human beings in that position. In addition, he was dealing with the issue of identity by analysing the position of people in refugee camps, through: the prism of the Auge’s concept of “non-place”, the spaces that produce a sense of anonymity, without the possibility of establishing social ties, as well as through the consideration of “liminal status” (Van Gennep) of refugees, i.e. understanding their position as a phase transition in the initiation rites.
We later talked about social activism and the influence of art on the socio-political field with Dragan Protić from Škart. Protić introduced several segments of the exhibition “The Border is Closed”, which represent the literary presentation of documentary material collected during the work in the centres for accommodation of asylum seekers: stories of people on the road outlined in the form of maps or their impressions, observations, beliefs turned into poetic notes, recorded on spot, with colours on canvas. All the material was conceived through socialising and cooperation with migrants and asylum seekers, shaped into the exhibition to be a part of various museums and send messages. Protić said that the works could also be interesting “artistic failures”, without affecting their function. In this way, art is demystified and is no longer something “sacred”, but becomes the connection with the local population and a step towards social change.
The artistic treatment of the issue of migration was the subject of the evening hours during the first and second day – the films “Hannah Arendt” and “Fire on the Sea” were screened, followed by the discussion.
On the third day, the seminar was summed up and closed by Adriana Zaharijević, with the lecture “Another View of Exile: towards the universal right to liveable life” that dealt with the reflection of difference between the right to life and the right to liveable life. The latter implies equality, life in the absence of war and poverty, which is very questionable in the case of refugees. She also examined the very concept of a refugee, referring to the text by Hannah Arendt “We Refugees” by problematising the idea of human rights, citizenship, territory and belonging.
The project team and the participants ended the seminar with the plans for further work, their commitment and ideas for the next seminar.
Within the programme we also organised a promotion of the book “Anthropology of Citizenship” by Jelena Vasiljević.
Project: INVOLVED – INclusiVe COmmunities Lead to the Vibrant SociEty without Discrimination; Our new neighbours – a step closer
Goal: Project goal is raising awareness of asylum seekers and migrants, general and professional public on social, economic and cultural rights of asylum seekers and migra nts; Contribution to the development of the reception system for different categories of migrants and an open and tolerant society.
Implementers: Group 484 (Educational Program “We and the Others”)
Support: The Delegation of European Union in RS – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); Open Society Foundation Serbia