There are two themes or subjects within anthropology that keep recurring which are Biopolitics and Hospitality. Hopitatitly is a tool employed within the realm of biopolitics to manage and control control populations. I will start by defining Biopolitics, the difference between refugee and migrants have different consequences when describing displaced peoples. I will further describe how the perceived innocence of displaced people varies in degrees of subjectivity of the native country’s perceptions and this literal effects on refugee populations gaining entrance and being provided resources. I will provide two examples how biopolitics is at play at two different field sites, on in Greece and the other in Jordan. These will relate because they are both refugee camps that create a space of liminality and ambiguity in relation to lives of asylum seekers. Furthermore, I will discuss the role the media played and how “the count” was a source of promoting anxiety within state populations. Finally, I will end with what role anthropologists play in this contentious discourse.
Seth M. Holmes and Heide Casteneda’s article Representing the “European refugee
crisis” in Germany and Beyond: Deservingness and Difference, Life and Death describe the various factors that allow for displaced people to gain asylum in Germany during the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. According to (Holmes, 2016) how a person is defined as a either a refugee, asylum seeker, or as a migrant affects the type of treatment they receive along with what resources are open to them. For instance, the term migrant is not considered dire enough to receive governmental support and often is associated with negative connotations because they portrayed as to have left their country of origin according to their own volition with the goal accessing economic opportunities or a “better life”. Whereas refugees are considered to be in a tenuous position and therefore are allowed more rights and better treatment than that of migrants (Holmes 2016). Research by Ticktin (2017) explores how humanitarianism ascribes moral value on purity and innocence; victims deemed worthy are listed as children, women, and animals, linking how each of the latter subjects are part of socio-moral and political capital. Ticktin’s research corresponds with Holme’s (2016) by defining refugee as someone who must have “real” danger they are running from, such as a war and that they must be in a vulnerable, passive position as opposed to economic migrants who are seen as cunning and sly with economic motives. Ticktin (2017) and Holmes (2016) both agree that migrants, similar to refugees, are subject to systemic inequalities. In addition, Holmes argues that “voluntary migrants are subject to structural violence and post colonial economic inequalities” (Holmes 2016). Many anthropologists and social scientists utilize Foucault’s concept of Biopower and biopolitics as a framework for understanding the refugee crisis in Europe. Holmes (2016) defines biopower as form of security that is meant to ensure life at the level of the body and the population. Certain populations are sorted into a category of lesser value, therefore denied the resources to live in order for another more privileged population to survive. Holmes further specifies that Foucault states that marked bodies deemed as a threat and those specific bodies death will enhance the life of the population (Holmes 2016). In addition to Foucault, Fassin’s concept of politics of life which states that some lives are marked to be saved and others not based on their positionality and factors such as profound inequality, are common within the discourse of biopolitics (Holmes 2016). Agamben’s theory of “bare life” describes usually describes the status of a refugee having no political or legal say, that they are reduced to animal biological functions, therefore not having the same rights as citizens of the state that they occupy ( Rozakou 2012).