The Uncanny “Religious” Refugee: a Post-secular Perspective on Ethics of Hospitality

Paolo Gomarasca*

*Autore corrispondente per questo lavoro

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroChapter


The aim of this chapter is to show and analyze the unethical ambivalence of the dominant narratives about the events of migration, especially in the case of (forced) displacement. On the one hand, refugees are criminalized and targeted as a dangerous threat to border security. Refoulement practices and concentration camp-like conditions in some refugee camps are the “zoopolitical” effect of this paranoid rhetoric. On the other hand, counter-narratives portray refugees as helpless, passive victims. The effect of this idealized rhetoric is associated with a wide range of relief actions, such as safe zones, humanitarian entry visas, resettlement in solidarity, residency permits and other forms of what some theorists call biopolitical care. The paradox is that these two stereotyped imaginaries of forced displacement are the two faces of the same unethical process of dehumanization: in both cases, refugees are objects of other people’s interpretations and actions. But the key point is that, in this process of dehumanization, religion is often politicized and plays an instrumental part in justifying the two opposite narratives: the dangerous refugee is a (bad) Muslim, which threatens Christian civilization; the vulnerable refugee is a (good) victimized Christian or a (good) poor Muslim, who wait patiently in camps for Western salvation. An ethics of hospitality is possible only under two conditions. Firstly, we need to de-instrumentalize religion and analyze the real, multidimensional role of religion in refugees’ experience: the role as a root cause of displacement, in the countries of departure; and the role as a source of resiliency and as a key factor, which can both facilitate and impede integration processes in the countries of arrival. Secondly, we need to give back to the refugees their human subjectivity, which means enabling them to enter the discourse and express their subjective outlook on their own experience of forced displacement and on the importance of their religious belonging.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteMigrants and Religion: Paths, Issues, and Lenses. A Multidisciplinary and Multi-Sited Study on the Role of Religious Belongings in Migratory and Integration Processes
Numero di pagine21
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020


  • ethics
  • migrants


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