Refugees and the State of the Human
The status of refugees, as Giorgio Agamben asserts, is predicated on an articulation of what constitutes the human. What the refugee challenges or makes visible is not only that human rights are not naturally given but also that what is human is not naturally given. If we are constituted and defined through the sovereign as Agamben argues, whose power is based on the ability to determine inclusion and exclusion, then our humanity is bounded solely by the authority and legitimacy and extension thereof acted on by that sovereign power. In essence, out ability to be human is not based on birth alone but rather on a power that articulates and names that birth as legitimate.
The refugee highlights the relationship of modern biopolitics to what counts as a human. The case of refugees: political, economic, and social in nature, challenges a national social imaginary both in its commitment to international relationships as well as its own boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. In other words, what counts as a human and in what context?
A recent dispute between Peru and Bolivia (see article below) illustrates the complex nature of the status of refugees. Similarly, we see that the United States often defines certain refugees as human while others are not, they are left to live in the status of the excluded, the state of exception.
NY Times article