[en] “In the first place, we don’t like to be called ‘refugees.’ We ourselves call one another ‘newcomers’ or ‘immigrants.’” Already here, in the first sentence of Arendt’s essay “We Refugees,” does the hiatus of refugee status become manifest. A divide already opens up between different habits of reference. Refugees refer to themselves in one way, non-refugees refer to them in another, and so does the projected or desired possibility of one world in which both refugees and non-refugees might find accommodation, split into two very different realities. Consciousness of the split is of course solely that of the refugees, at first. Initially, the hiatus is theirs only. Others – non-refugees – remain soundly oblivious to this fundamental split until such time as it brutally breaks into their world too, for instance, when the corpse of a four-year old child washes up on a beach, and washes up on every doorstep in a succession of media waves. And then the hiatus is suddenly everywhere and no one remains exempted.
As the last sentence of Arendt’s essay contends forcefully, the split begins with the refugee status of some, but it ends with the bigger split of a world that begins to falter and fall apart: “The comity of European peoples went to pieces when, and because, it allowed its weakest member to be excluded and persecuted.” The comity of European peoples show all signs of going to pieces again today. When the comity of peoples goes to pieces, it is not only common space that cracks up, but also common time, the common time that warrants common space according to Kant’s Schematismuslehre. It is ultimately this breaking of time – the hiatus of time – that Arendt thematises elsewhere with reference to “the desolate aimless wanderings of Israeli tribes in the wilderness and the dangers which befell Aeneas before he reached the Italian shore.” “[T]his hiatus,” she continues, obviously creeps into all time speculations which deviate from the currently accepted notion of time as a continuous flow.” (Arendt On Revolution, 205). This text is also a supplementary discussion of my reviews of two recent monographs on Arendt. See: RECENT ARENDT SCHOLARSHIP: Review of The Wandering Thought of Hannah Arendt by Hans Jörg Sigwart, Palgrave MacMillan, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-137-48214-3, 147 pages (abbreviated as WT below), and Rightlessness in an Age of Rights. Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants by Ayten Gündoğdu, New York: Oxford University Press: 2015, 298 pages, forthcoming in Constellations.
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