For the Italian philosopher, fighting for the right to migrate will be as hard as against slavery – 26/01/2021 – World

For the Italian philosopher Donatella di Cesare, the fight for the right to migration is the challenge of our century and will be as hard as the fight against slavery. A philosophy of migration is what she proposes to do in the book “Foreign Residents”, which has now been released in Brazil by the publisher Âyiné (transl. Cezar Tridapalli, 370 pages, R $ 89.90) .

Di Cesare is a professor at the Sapienza University in Rome. A Heidegger scholarship holder, she was a student of the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, and, defender of the political vocation of philosophy, actively participates in public debate in the Italian media.

In “Foreign Residents”, published in 2019, she presents this figure which gives its name to the book, a subject with the right to migrate, but also hospitality, and questions the sovereignty of nation-states, as well as land ownership, citizenship, identity and other concepts dear to a world in which people move while countries want to stop them.

Di Cesare spoke to Folha about some of the central issues in his book, the pandemic and the Donald Trump years.


You say that philosophy has not yet addressed the issue of migration. How important is the theme for philosophy? The theme of migration had not yet found its place in philosophy, and it is the same for the figure of the migrant. I wondered about this figure as a global phenomenon, but also about what a “jus migrandi” means. [direito de migrar como direito humano].

I am convinced that the right to migrate is the right of the twenty-first century and also the challenge of the new millennium, and that it will involve a struggle as arduous as the fight against slavery. Migrating is not just about changing places; it is not a right to escape. It is a right to hospitality. Migration is a political and existential act that involves an encounter – or a confrontation – with the other.

The state-centered world order makes migration difficult. In this sense, migration also has a subversive value. What is happening is a nation-state war against migrants. We accept the state as if it were a natural fact, and it is not.

Migration is a provocation, almost a subversion, because it lays bare the violent and artificial foundation of the state. It is precisely because I criticize the principle of the State that my perspective is anarchic.

How is the pandemic affecting migration? In my book “Sovereign Virus?” [lançado em maio na Itália e publicado no Brasil pela Âyiné]I write that the pandemic is a turning point, a before and after in history. It’s not like September 11, when we were spectators. We are now potential victims. And it’s not like the economic crisis of 2008, because it’s an extra-systemic disaster and we still don’t know how the capital will react. We know the pandemic has accentuated inequalities.

In immune democracy, there are the protected, the guarded, that is to say the citizens of the interior, and there are the exposed, the unprotected, the rejected, the scum of the globalization process, who are being held and left for dead in refugee camps. Never before like in this pandemic, when biopolitics became immunopolitics, superfluous humanity was able to die without any problem.

In the book, you talk about the images of the suffering of immigrants, citing the photo of the body of a Syrian boy found drowned on a beach. How do we become insensitive to them? As citizens, we are, even unconsciously, accomplices of States. We want to be protected, to have rights. So we look at what is going on outside, beyond borders, from a state-centered perspective. Thus, what comes from outside appears to us as an enemy, an invader. We also apply different criteria: there, suffering is an expected, inevitable destination; here all suffering must be alleviated, the slightest disturbance must be eliminated. Anesthesia is now part of democratic history.

You talk about how exile leads to a freedom that comes from understanding that there is no natural connection to a place. How do nationalisms eclipse this fact? We must recognize that, in the planetary exile of globalization, we are all foreign residents, this figure is the protagonist of my book. The resident alien disrupts the logic of the barriers which guarantees the existence of the native, of the citizen. To live is not to have, it is to be. And that doesn’t mean to take root, to settle down, to be part of the earth.

It is the resident alien who shows the way, living in the wake of separation from the land.

It is not a question of democratizing citizenship by freeing it from the nation, but of going beyond citizenship, which also means exposing the limits of cosmopolitanism. In the end, it is not a question of proclaiming “citizens of the world”, nor of extending “citizenship of the world”, but of going further, towards a place which must coexist. That’s what counts: living together. Another way of understanding the community is possible.

It has to do with your critique of the ideas of assimilation and identity. What are the problems with these ideas? Recognizing the precedence of the other in the place where one lives is to open oneself not only to an ethics of proximity, but also to a policy of cohabitation. The discriminatory attitude claims this place exclusively for itself. The one who discriminates is placed as a sovereign subject who, claiming a presumed identity with this place of which he fantasizes to be part, claims property rights.

The sovereign subject, whether it is an “I” or a “we”, is nothing more than a usurper who intends to replace the other, weaken the other, erase his evidence. As if the other, who always preceded him there, had no rights and had not even existed. Thus, with the other, he erases all ethics. Because no one has ever been chosen, and on earth you are only temporarily where someone else has lived before, a place you cannot claim ownership of.

The “co” implication in cohabitation must be understood in its broadest and deepest sense. In a world crossed by so many exiles, living together means sharing spatial proximity in a temporal convergence where everyone’s past can be articulated in a common present with a view to a common future.

Trump took over right after the 2015 migration crisis, how do you assess his tenure? Trump is the “quintessential” exponent of sovereignty advocates, that is, those who defend sovereignty in reaction to globalization. We are well aware that we live in a globalized world, marked, for example, by migration. There is therefore no question of fomenting the hatred of the so-called natives against migrants.

We also know that the borders are never really closed. The migration mechanism is still functioning: to be better exploited, the necessary labor has free passage.

Trump made people believe he would close the borders. In fact, his hateful policy only hurts the weakest, the women and children locked in cages. These images cannot be overlooked.

Trump has presented himself as America’s savior. Like Bolsonaro, he denied the pandemic. He used the same demagoguery against migrants, that of us against him. He would be the healer, the one who would cleanse the nation’s body of black criminals, Mexican immigrants, feminists and transgender people, the sick and disabled, who would defend the nation from all internal threats and dangers coming from within. outside.


Donatella Di Cesare, 64 years old

Philosopher and professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza, she is the author of “Terror and Modernity” and “Foreign Residents” and contributor to newspapers such as Il Corriere della Sera (Italy) and Die Zeit (Germany)

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