Past debt and refugees

Eugenia Siapera (Dublin City University)

The current crisis makes evident the limits of, and tensions within, the European responses to the arrival of refugees at its borders. The North/South divide which is created is not geographical but socio-political and invokes in various ways the issue of the debt. Historically, the differing refugee experiences have created at least three debt relations: to past refugees, to current refugees and to future Europeans. This research will therefore look at the ways in which the past resurfaces, through historical photographs that mobilise the European past in the refugee crisis, through storytelling and narratives that revolve around Europeans as refugees and Europe as the cause of refugees, and through contemporary popular art, for example collages or street graffiti, that juxtapose Europe’s past and the present experiences of refugees. The findings of this sub-project will contribute to theorizing emergent solidary practices and discourses vis-à-vis what Europe owes to refugees, and what ought to be done to address the refugee crisis. Secondly, the findings will contribute to an understanding of how Europe’s past shapes its present, how its past experiences and treatments of refugees configure its current responses, and how this is accomplished from the ground up in contested and fraught dynamic reinterpretations of past debts.