DIGNITY IN EXTREMIS: Migration, Death, and the Risk of Survival

Homi K. Bhabha; Александр Эткинд

My talk is a literary and philosophical reflection on migration as more than a political crisis — a crisis of the conscience of our times. I will deal with a range of materials — journalistic, visual, testimonial, fictional — to attempt a description of what it means to be “already dead” (as one Syrian migrant described it) and yet to struggle to survive by taking an an “ethical risk” to emerge from the dark and drowning waters of despair and social death. Be warned, this is not a disciplinary, conventional engagement with the concept of dignity. My readings of Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, and Michel Foucault, amongst others, will engage with the some of the biopolitical conditions of “Mere humanity” (Arendt), “Bare life” (Agamben) or the “Afterlife” (Benjamin) that haunt the critical histories of our times in which we appear, at once, as subjects and ghosts.