Postracial Inhabitancies Communities of Refuge in the After that is Now

Postracial Inhabitancies: Communities of Refuge in the After that is Now

The contemporary formations of the communities of refuge across Europe nowadays, suggest that there is a
growing phenomenon of postracial inhabitancies that decolonize the politics of belonging and community as
ethnically and nationally bound and tenaciously stand against the hardening of borders and the rise of neo-
nationalist and neo-xenophobic policies in Europe. Such communities represent the “passing to another
thing”, to the “After” that Derrida was proleptically articulating as the political future of the present during
his seminar on hospitality in 1995-1996. Drawing on Derrida’s seminar and his analysis of the political
potentiality of the “villes-refuges” that Derrida proposed as a response to the State sovereignty that tries to
delimit the unconditional law of hospitality to protect the State borders from the undesired strangers, this
presentation examines a couple of documented cases of communities of refuge that indicate that the concepts
of citizenship, belonging and community are being transformed to include the future after the race-nation-sex
difference as this is being radicalized and grounded in new forms of relation. Albeit persistent, these
differences are challenged by a politics and aesthetics of relation that is growing beyond them. Such cases as
“Space Metropoliz” and Nikos Pylos’s “The Refuge,” among many others, document forms of political and
social belonging that spill over the boundaries of the organic community of the nation or communalism;
propelled by the unconditional law of hospitality, they challenge the conditions and limits of the laws of the
city from within its borders by representing what Derrida calls “community of the world” (Beast and the
Sovereign vol. II). Squatting, occupying and taking shelter in empty buildings, often without owners
because of defaulted and unpaid debts or the remaining infrastructure that once housed refugees in
between and after the World Wars, twenty-first century citizens-xenoi claim the ruined spaces that
they restore and turn into their temporary and, at times, permanent shelters. In the ruined and decrepit
buildings, they resist their own ruination by the neoliberal debtocracy and their persevering and recurring
presence, against the frames of misrecognition or omission from the political sphere, is reminiscent of the
early histories of migration and dispossession. The debris and ruins of such histories are often housed in the
remaining infrastructure of old refugee shelters that the migrants are now occupying anew in the present.
These forms of inhabitancy that involve the cohabitation of people of different ethnic, religious or non-
religious, political, cultural and linguistic origins, confound the borders that separate the private and public
spheres in the polis. Rendering the dividing line between the private and the public spheres opaque via their
obstinate movement and recurrent acts of transgression that remain unaccountable and irreducible to the
policies of the state and its apparatuses, the contemporary maroons refuse to be frozen into political stasis
and social inertia. Rather, their persevering and collective acts of survivance contest the politics that
deregulate life and energize the question of the political, the question that attends to the absolute stranger and
the sudden and unexpected emergence of a request, of a demand on and a claim for soil, rights and
belonging. The question of the political as the question of the absolute stranger opens the path to the citizen-
xenos, the citizen-foreigner who inhabits the private and public zones of the polis in her/her/their tidal
arrivals and departures, tentative and persistent, recurrent and ever present.

Presentation Date: 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023