SSP Seminar Series: Bauman and Refugees - Biography and Writing

Izabela Wagner-Saffray (Institute of Sociology, Warsaw University) delivers 'Bauman and Refugees - Biography and Writing' as part of the School of Sociology and Social Policy research seminar series.

Speaker: Izabela Wagner-Saffray (Institute of Sociology, Warsaw University )

Abstract: In 2016, after an unprecedented one million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, Zygmunt Bauman published Strangers at Our Door. His analysis of the ‘migration panic’ phenomenon helps to understand processes occurring between ‘strangers’ and ‘us’. Bauman sketches a pertinent and persuasive socio-political model of reacting to migration, however he never Draws from his own experience as a refugee, using mainly texts by philosophers, psycho-sociologists, sociologists and journalists as well as politicians instead. Yet, a close lecture of the book shows discrete traces of his life story.

Zygmunt Bauman belonged to the category of ‘refugees’ twice. First time, when as a teenager, with his parents he fled Poland occupied by Nazi Germany and thereupon experienced the status of ‘a foreigner’ in the USSR (1939-1944). For the second time, in 1968, when he, his wife and their children were expelled from Poland as Jewish due to the government’s anti-Semitic policy, when the whole Bauman family became ‘stateless persons’. During the majority of his life Bauman belonged to the category of ‘the other’, being stigmatized and discriminated against.

The seminar will consist of three parts: First, a biographical case study of Bauman’s personal experience of seeking refuge abroad; Second, an ethnographic case study of a center for refugees in Italy; and finally, a discussion of such phenomena as ‘otherness’, ‘we-ness’, exclusions and interactions.

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