(Dis)trust in refugee law: the historical and contemporary narratives

This presentation discusses the arbitrariness and historical contingency of a legal category of a refugee as well as its effects on refugee positionality, by focusing on the exile experience of refugee scholars. By shifting the gaze from the law itself to the “refugee experiences” of the law the paper discusses its limits, consequences and (dis)trusts as discussed by scholars themselves.

The paper utilizes both historical and contemporary ethnographic data and focuses on such issues as shifting definition of a refugee, securitization of refugee law, inadequacy of the legal definitions and inconsistencies in refugee procedures. First, it studies the academic writing of refugee scholars on the topic of refugee protection by focusing on the work of Hannah Arendt, Louise Holborn and Otto Kirchheimer. Secondly, the paper discusses insights by four scholars “at risk” based at different European universities, interviewed during Autumn and Winter 2018/2019.