Virtual Symposium
Reading Arendt Today: Migration and Prejudice

20 January 2023, hosted by Maynooth University

Keynote speaker: Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of Birmingham, UK)

It has almost become a truism that the work of Hannah Arendt is a powerful theoretical guide to contemporary culture and politics. “How could such a book speak so powerfully to our present moment?”, wrote Jeffrey Isaac in 2016 in The Washington Post, when discussing Arendt’s seminal 1951 work The Origins of Totalitarianism. “The short answer is that we, too, live in dark times.” However, such contemporary evocations of Arendt may overlook the historical specificities of Arendt’s writing and thinking. This interdisciplinary symposium thus seeks to examine what it means to read Arendt today, particularly in relation to (forced) migration and prejudice.

Forced migration and displacement continue to affect millions across the world, including those forced to flee the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Arendt’s own experience as a stateless refugee, following the rise of Nazism, was inextricable from the experience of antisemitism – and migration and refugeedom remain connected to forms of prejudice today. This may include contexts of violence against a specific ethnic group that necessitate refugeedom; or forms of prejudice against refugees or other migrants within their ‘new’ country, for example, denial of education opportunities or the right to work.

This virtual (online) symposium will explore how Arendt’s writing may help navigate the intersection of migration and prejudice in both historical and contemporary contexts. To what extent, or in what ways, does Arendt’s writing speak to contemporary instances of forced migration? How does Arendt’s work help us to understand the links between (forced) migration and prejudice? What might be gained from reading Arendt within her own historical context – or bringing her work to bear on other contexts? What does it mean to read Arendt on migration today?

Topics of discussion may include, but are not limited to:

  • Ways in which Arendt’s thought might illuminate (responses to) contemporary migrantphobia
  • The applicability of Arendt’s work to contemporary and/or non-European contexts of forced migration
  • ‘Statelessness’ in relation to other forms of refugeedom and migration
  • Arendt’s own experiences of migration, antisemitism and migrantphobia
  • Migration, human rights and legislative prejudice
  • Antisemitism, and its relation to other forms of prejudice
  • Arendt, Zionism and Palestine
  • Arendt’s own prejudices, including Eurocentrism

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on these or related topics. We welcome a wide range of responses, including papers taking a comparative approach, bringing Arendt’s work into dialogue with other contexts, literature or other artworks.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, along with a short bio (up to 100 words), to edmund.chapman@mu.ie by 18 July.

This conference is part of the event series ‘Migrantphobia and Antisemitism: Prejudice, Culture and Belonging’, funded by the Irish Research Council as part of the project ‘The Language of Refuge: Transnational Writers, Antisemitism and “Home”‘.

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