The tides are coming in from the oceans of the world and flooding our countries. The horrific images of refugees as a faceless, anonymous mass tend to conjure up metaphors of nature. But even the individual refugee appears as a menacing figure. The label of the barbarian is attached to his displaced existence, deprived of all rights and reduced to sheer life. The refugee disrupts the fundamental agreement of our civil society: the inviolable link between being human and being a citizen.
A constant state of emergency in a country based on the rule of law manifests itself in the figure of the refugee. A marginalized group becomes the decisive figure of crisis in the modern nation-state and a key political question. The refugee has no place in civic society; he is denied full membership (except as part of an economically calculable mass of seasonal workers). To a large extent, he remains invisible, unperceived by the public and their models of representation – as long as he is not included for image reasons in an advertising campaign of Benetton. At the same time, the refugee stabilizes a topography of security authorities, of control and surveillance bodies and of being subjected to military action: he marks the places of a legalized lack of rights.
The state of emergency, in which every refugee finds himself and that simultaneously controls and neutralizes, includes and excludes him, points to a neurotic gesture with which civil society defends its obsolete politics of exclusion. The event “Services rendered to Undesirables” traces a concealed geography in which the figure of the refugee moves about. Experts who are concerned with refugees in their professional life – lawyers, reporters, social workers, activists and theoreticians – have been invited.