Placeless People: Writing, Rights and Refugees

Editor Lyndsey Stonebridge will be giving the John Coffin Memorial Annual Lecture on the 22nd May at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London.

In 1944 the political philosopher and refugee, Hannah Arendt wrote: ‘Everywhere the word “exile” which once had an undertone of almost sacred awe, now provokes the idea of something simultaneously suspicious and unfortunate.’ Exiles from other places have often caused trouble for ideas about sovereignty and the law and nationhood. But the meanings of exile changed dramatically in the twentieth century, often leaving human rights law struggling to catch-up. This lecture discusses how writers such as Arendt, Orwell, Simone Weil, Dorothy Thompson, and Samuel Beckett responded to the mass displacements of the last century, and anticipate many of the issues we confront today. Sceptical about the ability of human rights to legislate for refugees, yet committed to universal justice, these writers challenge us to imagine new terms for placelessness in modern times.

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