Human Rights: Moral Claims and the Crisis of Hospitality


  • Zona Zarić École normale supérieure, Paris



body, violence, Other, hierarchy, refugee, homo sacer, hospitality, cosmopolitanism


This paper focuses on the current international refugee crisis and the ways in which it is leading to sharp symbolic and physical violence through the process of “othering.” Based on Hannah Arendt’s discussion of statelessness and the question of the right to have rights, and Giorgio Agamben’s discussion of Homo Sacer, as well as drawing on other key authors such as Judith Butler, we argue that conditions of extreme human vulnerability and dangers of totalitarianism are being radically worsened by the ethnicized and racialized denial of the other, that is, of human rights. Rather than advocating an abstract cosmopolitanism, however, without strong purchase in contemporary social life, the paper concludes by noting the need to place oneself in a position of discomfort, in order to confront the tension between particularistic attachments and universalist aspirations, between the multiplicity of laws and the ideal of a rational order common to all polities, between belief in the unity of humankind and the healthy antagonisms and tensions generated by human diversity


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