Abstract: "We are like travelers navigating an unknown terrain with the help of old maps, drawn at a different time and in response to different needs," Seyla Benhabib writes in her new book, The Rights of Others. Transnational migrations and global interdependence are the unknown terrain, state sovereignty and patrolled frontiers the old maps. Contemporary migrations are not an isolated phenomenon explicable in terms of a free choice that immigrants make when they leave their countries of origin and host states make when they receive them. These are epochal transformations that are literally changing the face of entire continents, the social conventions of millions of people. The friction between this new terrain and the old conceptual maps has potentially explosive effects when a continent such as Europe, which aspires to become the beacon of cosmopolitan morality, patrols its borders to defend its civilization or manufacture its Europeanness. Europe's new enemies, the only enemies against which she is willing to mobilize her troops, are neither bellicose states nor expansionist empires, but boat people, disperati, who seek to escape poverty and hunger, even though no international code accords them the status of refugees. The problem is that liberal democratic states do not regard economic destitution as a form of persecution, while their minimalist definition of democracy is blind to de facto undemocratic regimes. So transnational migration produces blatant contradictions between universal human rights and the extant set of naturalization, immigration, refugee, and asylum policies.
Dissent – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Oct 5, 2005
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