Public Talk – Naor Ben-Yehoyada

Seas of “Brotherhood” and Fields of “Care”: Refuge, Rescue, and Retribution in the Mediterranean and Europe

The Mediterranean has recently appeared in the international news cycle as the sea that migrants try to cross towards European shores – where many of them die. Advocates, officials, and observers have usually addressed the situation under the umbrella of universal hospitality, which is taken to dramatize the contradiction between universal humanity and bounded citizenship. In this talk, Naor Ben-Yehoyada – assistant professor of anthropology at Columbia University – compares the dynamics of migration and interdiction, the role of history and context, and the casting of migrants in two ongoing scenes of migration – over sea and over land. He examines how the focus on rescue at sea casts migrants as abstract humans rather than as refugees of war – specific wars for which European countries bear responsibility – how it obfuscates the relationship between colonialism and migration, and how it displaces a demand for retributive justice and Western accountability for a long and ongoing colonialism and replaces it with abstract discussions of abstract universal humanity and benevolence.

Naor Ben-Yehoyada received his PhD from Harvard in 2011 and is now Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University. He specializes in maritime, political, and historical anthropology, specifically the maritime aspect of Israeli-Palestinian history and post-WWII region formation processes between Sicily and Tunisia.

This program is presented in partnership with Scripps College’s European Union Center.