Stories of Hope and Death

Refugees and the Rise of Emotional Politics in Europe

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Lecture at Shanghai’s Hopkins China Forum

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Dr. Mayer trug im Rahmen des Hopkins China Forum vor

Dr. Mayer spoke at the Hopkins China Forum, a lecture Series organized in cooperation with the Hopkins Alumni Club. He introduced reactions in Europe on the refugee crisis, where he recognizes an increasingly dichotomous public discourse: nationalism vs. normative discourse

In his speech, Dr. Maximilian Mayer , Research Professor at Tongji-University Shanghai emphasized the link between the destiny of refugees and the strong dichotomy in the political discourse of European countries. The influx of millions of refugees to Europe, who seek hope and the right to live, would face reactions from the host societies that range from a high level of civil society courage to extreme anger, hatred and anxiety. Especially new right-wing populist parties have gained high support rates as result of the refugee influx and have been on the rise almost all over Europe.

But how can it be explained? Dr. Mayer impressively illustrated the reactions in Europe which he analyzed against the backdrop of an increasingly dichotomous public discourse: nationalism vs. normative discourse; whereas humanistic compassion would face tendencies in parts of the societies to construct and emphasize peculiar national characteristics. The fact that particularly political elites tend to populist politics in order to give noisy voices in the public the feeling of state action, has evolved into the global phenomena of securing borders by building up walls and fences. But exactly this approach has been contributing to the severe humanitarian crisis that is following the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea which already caused more than 2900 fatal victims in the year 2016.

The question remains under what circumstances emotionally-driven politics can find its way back to rational acting. The broad commitment of civil society, creative artists and responsible media coverage has been important conveyers of the message that a systematic denying of governmental responsibility that is driven by populism and the attempt to stir up hatred and fear is definitely the wrong way. Therefore, it is from utmost importance to co-create the public discourse by explaining complicated causalities — including the causes of refugees and questions regarding the legal pre-conditions to acquire refugee status. In his presentation, Dr. Mayer pointed out important perspectives that can help to tackle the issues.

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China, July 28, 2016


Tim Wenniges

Head of the KAS office in China | Shanghai

Tim Wenniges
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