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In her working paper ‘Performing the human’, Moe Suzuki examines the conflict between the pervasive representation of refugees as the pure embodiment of humanity, and the continuing efforts to dehumanise them through various ‘othering’ strategies. She seeks to explore this relationship between the figure of the refugee and the idea of the ‘universal human’. Drawing on feminist and queer theories, she argues that the body is a vital site of identity construction, particularly with regards to the idea of humanity.

Using three case studies of corporeal protests—naked protest, hunger strikes, and lip-sewing—the paper explores what these corporeal acts by refugees communicate as acts of resistance and attempts to reassert their humanity, and what role the body has in the construction and performance of humanity. The case studies prompt us to question our positionality in the ever-changing world; how our lives may be implicated in relations of violence; and how the body may offer a vehicle through which we can foster empathy and the capacity to shorten the distance between ‘the other’ and ‘the self’.

Read the working paper here: Performing the human: refugees, the body, and the politics of universalism