Lampedusa and ethics

[Caveat: A few unrefined thoughts likely to change over the next few hours]

BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze

BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze

Tonight I am an ‘expert witness’ on the BBC Radio 4’s programme Moral Maze, the topic is immigration and I have been invited to reflect on the moral issues raised by the tragic incident off the coast of Lampedusa. As a constructivist sociologist, questions around ethics (especially my own) are not often at the forefront of the work I do. They are of course in the background, inspiring the kind of questions I ask, the people I choose to interview, the methods I use. I tend to look at normative framings (including human rights) as a subject of investigation rather than as a given. My recent review essay on globalization, rights and the non-citizen is an example of the work I am doing in this direction. But now, I am facing with a philosophical question on morality (which given my anthropological background sounds at times Euro-centric and paternalist) and in thinking on it I can’t avoid to go back to history instead, to colonial and post-colonial legacies, to how the world is inextricably interconnected. The paradox of a human rights framework which governments like the UK are happy to use only when it doesn’t affect them comes inevitably to mind, so at the end I’m back to an immanent critique of the state and the EU who commit on paper to principles they then only uphold selectively.

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