Second Seminar within School on Migration
The continuation of School of Migration was held on March 24-26, 2017 in Vrnjačka Banja. School curriculum was designed so that, in addition to theoretical considerations within the various fields, students are also meet with stories of immediate field experiences and the ways of action. The program team of the seminar comprised of: Ivan Milenković, philosopher, Radio Belgrade Third Program; Biljana Đorđević, political scientist, Faculty of Political Sciences; Zaga Aksentijević, philosopher; Robert Kozma, politologist and Miroslava Jelačić, lawyer from Group 484. 20 students of political sciences, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology and geography took part in the seminar. During the seminar, lectures and discussions were held, as well as a theater play, a film projection and exercises for students.
The introductory lecture was an overview of various perspectives and approaches to the problem of immigration policies, which was held by Miodrag Jovanović from the Faculty of Law in Belgrade. The lecture “Immigration and Demographic Policy – the problem of normative justification” started with an exercise in which participants were asked to take the role of immigration officials in a hypothetical situation and decide, based on the data on the applicants, who would receive refugee protection. The exercise tackled the issues of standards and criteria for determining refugee protection, as well as the positions these decisions were made from: legal, moral, emotional. In these decisions, two perspectives are most often confronted: the perspective of the state and of humanitarian necessity. This led to the consideration of various approaches within the theory of justice, particularly the utilitarian position. However, Jovanović emphasised that the approaches within the theory of justice were created to act at the level of a nation-state of a traditional type, which is unsustainable in the present situation. He also said that within the approach to the problem of immigration politics, we can distinguish the legal perspective and perspective of social sciences, as well as the political-philosophical one, within which nowadays, instead of the theories of justice within the national states, the perspective of global justice is considered. The main question is: under what conditions is the immigration policy considered morally justified? The answers to this question should be sought in relation to the issue of freedom of movement and choice of residence, individual freedoms and equality, on the one hand, and the criteria for belonging to the political community and the moral right of the state to exercise power on its territory, on the other.
The second block of lectures and talks “Forced Migration: a review through a documentary / art form”, dealt with art and engagement, as to when art became an attitude, a political act, and whether society needed art to be a political act. The lecturers were Đorđe Balmazović from the art group Škart and Zoran Naskovski, a visual artist. Balmazović presented the “migrant maps”, which were part of the exhibition “The Border is Closed”. The origin of the maps was described as collecting documentary material from interviews with people who were staying in centres for the accommodation of asylum seekers. They talked about their life, their journey, their experiences and these stories were turned into illustrated maps. Although the maps fulfil, let’s say, the aesthetic criteria, their intention was not that: they had been conceived as educational material, as any other maps, said Balmazović. In that way, art gets a social function, becomes engaged.
Zoran Naskovski talked about how art could be a reaction to political decisions and a political situation. Naskovski also based artwork on documents: research in the preparation of work involved collecting, archiving and comparative analysis of world and domestic print media. The result was the exhibition “MANDALA AND CROSS / darkening, refugees and economic gambling”, where the media rhetoric that formed public opinion was analysed in detail, as well as the selection of events, photographs and their interpretation in various media and societies. Naskovski particularly referred to crimes being presented as something spectacular, as well as to different selection criteria: what crimes will be presented as a tragedy and which one as mere statistics. The work of Naskovski is an analysis of the presentation of violence and brutality, as well as the media manipulation through photograph and text. The artistic concept is, in this case, a means of presenting a social analysis.
The social function of art was the topic of the rest of the day. In the evening, the Dah Theatre play called “Perchance to Dream” was organised, which was open to the general public. The play problematises the issue of going out of own country, the value of what is fantasised to be a better life, commitment to art, the choices we have been forced to make and the (im)possibility of their realisation. Communication among the characters exceeds the verbal space, and involves the audience into a world where people are forced to leave home, in order to give meaning to their existence.
The play was followed by discussion on the potentials of art to strongly represent political attitudes, to be emancipatory, and to enter into conversation with the audience, encouraging it to reconsider their own views. The discussion was moderated by Ivan Milenković, and the speakers, together with the audience, were the Dah Theatre director Dijana Milošević, actress Ivana Milenović Popović, and artists Đorđe Balmazović and Zoran Naskovski.
The second day began with Ivan Milenković’s lecture on philosophical concepts that constitute our notion of identity and belonging. Under the title “Heterotopias: refugees between friendship and hospitality”, Milenković examined the term refugee and its implications regarding social constructs.
In a detailed examination of the meaning of the term refugee, foreigner and enemy, Milenković also presented the ways of constituting and degrading political communities. He recalled the biblical distinction between the concept of a private enemy (inimicus, lat.) and a political enemy (hostis, lat.). A political enemy is a figure that serves to constitute a political community, as defined by Karl Schmidt. A political enemy is an enemy of the community, and this hostility is not based on emotions, but its existence should serve to build the identity of this community. This is one of the mechanisms of anti-immigrant discourses. Moreover, when speaking about political communities, we actually talk about developed societies, where each member has his/her role and place in society. Milenković reminded that Ranciere called this order the “police order”, and that personal documents are a guarantee of identification, as well as confirmation of the role and place in society. When refugees enter the community formed in this way, they bring in confusion, dilemmas: there is no place for them in the system. They do not have personal documents, they base their identities differently … However, besides confusion, they bring in the opportunity – the opportunity to create another and different place in society. Here Milenković invokes Foucault’s “Words and Things” and the concept of heterotopia, in order to point out that, when words do not correspond to things, identities are revealed as constructs susceptible to any kind of decomposition and transfer to another context. The presence of refugees brings uncertainty about what the community sees as the foundation of one’s own identity, but also a new possibility for society to build other roles, other places – heterotopias.
During the same day, Biljana Đorđević dealt with the issue of justifying the borders through the lecture “Deprived of the legitimacy discourse: cemented countries of central Europe and emerging political subjectivities”. She started the lecture with the paradox of liberal democracies, in which democracy demarcation is carried out, in order to know who the citizens are, which presents an undemocratic act – based on exclusion. She mentions the question posed by Paulina Ochoa Espejo, which is the justification of borders, in general, of the moral justification for forcibly preventing the crossing, and therefore the issues of building physical walls and their effectiveness are put in the background. For Ocoa Espejo, the borders of a legitimate state serve for the equal respect of people in democracy, and the wall could be justified only when equality was seriously jeopardised from the outside. As justification for the construction of walls, the following reasons are mentioned, such as: “controlled flow”, preventing or making the entry of terrorists, migrants difficult … However, the question arises – why is it necessary?
However, the direct consequence of building walls is not protection against violence, but exactly the opposite: the increase in violence inside the walls of that state is registered. In addition, the idea of building walls at the borders of states that are considered democratic is in contrast to “democratic accountability” – distribution of responsibilities for accepting refugees, which should be part of cosmopolitan duty and international solidarity. In this context, the need for asylum systems is a global public good, but legislation fails to offer concrete solutions for the distribution of responsibilities and ways to achieve it. Biljana Đorđević emphasised Wendy Brown’s claim that raising a wall is actually a theatrical act that should conceal the weakening of sovereignty, and that raising the borders is an attempt to manage something that is unmanageable and to maintain the fragile identity of a political community formed around a national or religious identity.
Moreover, the emergence of walls produces new political subjectivities within the cemented states: active and activist citizens. Active citizens are those who act in accordance with the state rules. On their own initiative they take some responsibility for themselves (although they should not, but are not punished) and act in accordance with state policy (e.g. civil “arrests” of migrants, voluntary patrols). On the other hand, the activist citizens are those who act past the order, who protest against the order (for example, cutting wire fences at the border).
During the afternoon we were engaged in the presentation of forced migration in the media, with journalists Momir Turudić, Jerko Bakotin and Mirko Rudić. The discussion focused on ways of reporting on the refugee crisis, as well as on the influence of the media on the public opinion and media manipulations. The journalists also talked about their experiences from the field and from travelling to crisis and war zones. Momir Turudić, journalist and Farsi translator, spoke about his experiences in Iran, Libya, Greece and Sicily. Jerko Bakotin spoke about the experiences of migrants from Africa, trying to reach Europe by crossing the Sahara, then Algeria or Morocco. He described the social situation in Senegal and Mali, where he lived and added that migration issues are always in tune with capital flows and the issue of globalisation. Mirko Rudić talked in detail about the situation in Serbia in the last few years, the opening of new refugee camps, the attitude of the state and the local population towards migrants, as well as the ways in which the given situation had been presented in the media.
The day continued with the writing exercise for students, where the task was the analysis of the first chapter of Slavoj Žižek’s book “Against the Double Blackmail”, dealing with the issue of big migration in the contemporary world and the attitude of the West towards refugees. In the evening, the screening of the film “Visitor” by Tomas McCarthy was organised, dealing with issues of identity, migration and intercultural communication.
On the third day, a discussion was held and works from the exercise were commented on. The process was led by Biljana Đorđević and Ivan Milenković. In the afternoon, Art Collective “Škart” held a “Small School of Activism”, where the ways of social struggle that use artistic practices were presented.
The seminar was concluded with arrangements for involving students in the work in centres for the accommodation of asylum seekers, as well as plans for campaigns to be held in towns where the centres are located.
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 migrants; 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