Deservingness and Difference, Life and Death
- Reflections on the “European Refugee Crisis” from Germany and the United States by Seth M. Holmes. Open guest lecture.
The European refugee crisis has gained worldwide attention with daily media coverage both in and outside Germany. Representations of refugees in media and political discourse in relation to Germany participate in a Gramscian “war of position” over symbols, policies, and, ultimately, social and material resources, with potentially fatal consequences.
These representations shift blame from historical, political-economic structures to displaced people themselves. They demarcate the “deserving” refugee from the “undeserving” migrant and play into fear of cultural, religious, and ethnic difference in the midst of increasing anxiety and precarity for many in Europe.
This paper offers reflections on the current refugee crisis from comparative field work in refugee centers in Germany as well as with Mexican immigrants in the United States.
Seth M. Holmes is Martin Sisters Endowed Chair Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology and Public Health at UC Berkeley. He is Co-Chair of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and Co-Director of the MD/PhD Track in Medical Anthropology coordinated between UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. In addition, he is Faculty Fellow in the International Research Center Global Work and the Lifecourse at Humboldt University in Berlin.
Trained as a cultural and medical anthropologist and a physician, he has written on ethnicity and citizenship hierarchies in transnational labor, food systems, socially structured suffering, structural vulnerability, symbolic violence, and the production of the clinical gaze in medical training.
His book, entitled Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States received the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award, and the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award. Holmes received the 2014 Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology and the 2015 James M. Blaut Award from the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers.