When we decided about a year ago to dedicate a full issue of Diacritica to the topic of refugees, the editorial team was hopeful that by the time of publication we would be using the past tense for addressing the refugee challenges in connection to Western societies; needless to say that our hope was not met with the difficult political and social situations of our current times. Millions of citizens around the world are still facing adversaries that push them to seek a shelter somewhere. Most Westerners are not conscious about the fact that most of the wars that drive global south citizens to migrate are initiated either by direct or indirect Western interferences. This lack of consciousness demands a more intervening action from Humanities.
Generally speaking, there are two main discourses that surround the refugee crisis; the first one is what we call a ‘demonizing’ discourse and the second one is what we can describe as a ‘idealizing’ discourse. To contrast these two discourses in a short form of plain speaking we may say that the first one calls for refugees to go back to their homes, they are described as evil coming to the West to take advantage of its social and welfare services, they want to change Western values and to disturb the seemingly stable and peaceful Western societies. The latter discourse regards refugees as angels, they are saints who cannot do anything wrong.
Both discourses generate narratives that fail to give a chance to refugees to voice their own thoughts and feelings. Refugees are perceived by two discourses as agentless individuals with blank identities. Thus, these two discourses want to color them with specific political views without even listening to refugees’ perspectives. These two narratives are blinded by Western privileges that allow to judge someone who runs for his live from a war that is caused, most of the times, by Western intervention. It is the same privilege that was boosted by Western countries colonizing global south countries not long time ago, exploiting their resources, and leaving them with artificial boarders that the colonizers draw with no regard to the colonized desires.
The so-called ‘refugee crisis’ is caused by the West and is not a crisis that is just surfacing. Going beyond the concept of remediating dysfunctional phenomena of a well-defined system it means a huge demographic transformation with political and social implications. This transformation roots in the colonial history and the problematic relationship between the West and the global South. In this issue of Diacritica, we focus on Humanities. When we contextualize the ‘crisis’ within that intellectual framework, we can move on, and start a productive dialogue about the best theoretical perspectives and practical tools to deal with refugee challenges. It is the time to engage in conversations that connect refugees’ public narratives to the Humanities. Such an intellectual engagement will only further enrich the discussion that is already taking place behind the usual humanitarian and legal disciplines.
The papers included in this issue of Diacritica converse with broad topics such as media, language, and literature and not forgetting to engage the actual refugee voices. In addition to the traditional academic papers, we decided also to add creative writings and cartoons that will even cast another view on the refugee experience, hopefully contributing for a change.
Marie-Manuelle Silva & Fadi Skeiker