Migration, Ethics & Power: Spaces of Hospitality in International Politics

Migration, Ethics & Power: Spaces of Hospitality in

International Politics

There are several reasons why people choose to migrate to another country. In addition to economic or socio-cultural motivations, people move or feel forced to move as a result of conflict, rampant human rights violations, and violence. When millions of people migrate to different countries each year at an increasing rate, it is inevitable to think more deeply about, and add more meanings to hospitality ethics. In Migration, Ethics & Power: Spaces of Hospitality in International Politics, Dan Bulley explores how hospitality could be best managed for different types of migrations, examining the various reasons driving these decisions, and exploring the perspectives of countries and international organizations to help build an ethical structure of hospitality.

The author starts by giving important clues about how hospitality should be structured for victims escaping from massacre, and ethical ways of providing space to those who are able to cross a border and seek asylum. Hotel Rwanda and Welcome to Sarajevo are two well chosen films to advise those countries that have an immense capacity and resources to host a significant number of guests who would otherwise face violence in their home countries, and to expose the hypocracy of refusals to provide space to these people while paying lip service to hospitality as an ethical good. Lack of hospitality is a very acute problem in today’s world, and it will keep expanding if not confronted. While discussing the third movie mentioned in the book, Ararat, the author unilaterally looks at the genocide picture from the Armenians’ point of view; this section would be stronger if Bulley had paid more attention to the broader perspective of both Turks and Armenians involved in the conflict.

By the end of 2014, almost 60 million people had to leave their countries to seek hospitality elsewhere (p. 39). Dan Bulley discusses how camps are produced and managed, the security problems that emerge, and moving restrictions for refugees hosted in camp spaces, in the second chapter “Humanitarian Hospitality: Refugee Camps.” Speaking in broad terms, he explains the phases from transit pass to the physical conditions of camp spaces according to UN standards. Bulley emphasizes that states are not the only actors to govern camp spaces. Education, security, food, healthcare, and shelter are often provided by various international aid services, although there are some camps controlled exclusively by state authorities, such as the camps in Kilis near the Turkish-Syrian border. Bulley describes humanitarianism as a form of technocratic government which cares for and controls the dwellers of the camp, and which aims to make them feel more at home. He also points out that inter-village marriages, traditional restaurants and coffee shops offering local tastes and hosting meeting events help make the refugees living there feel more connected. In time, as long-term dwellers of the camp take part in distributing aid, securing the camp and welcoming newcomers, they actually become hosts rather than guests.

People from all over the world migrate to economically powerful countries to start a new life, and to earn more money. Many invest in their own country upon returning, while others are simply exploring the world. Bulley examines the ethos of global cities in the third chapter, “Flourishing Hospitality: Global Cities,” which explores urban centers that welcome skilled immigrants and compete with each other to have the most skilled and brightest ones remain. In such locales, immigrants are mainly employed in central activity zones such as entertainment, food, drink and social life. They generally work in jobs such as serving, cooking, cleaning, child care, and maintenance. While some have or acquire legal work permits, many others do not. Those who are without proper paper work need to work longer hours for lower wages and are always vulnerable to threats of deportation. Insecure contracts, unsociable working hours, hazardous conditions, physical and even sexual abuse restrict their choices and ability to plan for the future. They may be and are even likened by some to modern slaves in civil society. These migrants are employed in positions in which citizens don’t want to work, and are thus exploited more. It is worth arguing then, that coutries such as the EU member states and the United States neither accept refugees whom they think will make no contribution to their economy or society, nor meet the legitimate demands of those who work to contribute in less desirable labor positions. There is not a blank to fill with the word ‘ethics’ in this situation.

Chapter four, “Unconditional Hospitality: (Trans-) Jordan as Postcolonial State,” is dedicated to presenting how the term ‘hospitality’ emerged in the wild deserts of Jordan. Bulley goes into the history of Jordan since the Ottoman suzerainty, through the British mandate, under the Hashemite Arab nationalists, until 1949 when the country was named the ‘Kingdom of Jordan.’ Jordan’s population of nearly 10 million currently includes 2.1 million Palestinians and 1.4 million Syrian refugees residing in the country, which is more than 30 percent of the total population. Jordan’s hospitality tradition dates back to the Bedouin tribal ethos which has existed in the region for a long time, certainly from the beginning of the region’s recorded history. Bedouin hospitality (Karam) is not only simply an offering of tea, cigarettes, and favorable conversation, but is also a test of sovereignty (p. 96). If the Karim (host) fails to provide Karam (hospitality) in Bedouin tradition, it indicates weakness and low character. The Bedouin proverb, “the guest is the prisoner of the host,’ but ‘the host must fear the guest,” means that when the guest sits and eats your food he is company, when he stands and leaves the house he is poet, and once the guest is released he is free to talk about your Karam, praising or defaming your reputation. Jordan’s impressive hosting of 3.5 million refugees from different cultures (Iraqi Christians, Syrians, Palestinians) encourages the whole world to recognize that each country has something to offer for people escaping violence. Even if the author claims that this hospitality is being enabled by outsiders (the EU, U.S., and UN), the act of taking responsibility for that many people is weightier than any amount of money provided.

Chapter five, entitled “Auto Immunising Hospitality: Europe,” begins with the statement, “Europe’s hospitality is in crisis” (p. 108). The EU is identified with its norms, values and ethics, but when people die along the way to Europe in the Mediterranean, ‘silence’ becomes another ethos of Europe. The author argues in this section that European hospitality is conditional, and necessitates a long process to advance. The author mostly emphasizes the steps that countries should take to become a member of the European Union. The conditions of Europe’s hospitality are expressed first in the ‘Copenhagen Criteria.’ A functioning and competitive market economy, respect for and adherence to European values, particularly democracy and freedom, are the main thresholds for membership.

Migration, Ethics, and Power clearly explains why people move from one place to another; it helps structure an international ethics conception, and explicates the measures to be taken in this context. It is obvious that immigration numbers are on the rise. Therefore, instead of building more walls and shuting all doors to remain ‘safe,’ cooperation between countries in terms of sharing responsibility is extremely important. Besides providing financial aid through international organizations, Europe, the United States, and all countries in general should be willing to provide enough space to assist the world’s desperate, displaced people.

Although the reasons behind immigration and the importance of hospitality are well described in the book, we can’t see a sufficient attempt to offer a systematic solution. Readers may find the book a little complicated, since it is more technical than flowing, with some disconnection between chapters. The book could have intensified its focus little more on humanitarian hospitality, and the conditions and future of refugee camps, rather than rehearsing the EU membership process or exploring commercial hospitality. Since the term ‘hospitality’ is yet to be discovered in academic studies, Migration, Ethics, and Power is a valuable resource for students, researchers and those interested in contributing to the field with new studies.