Have some strawberries.
Oh wait sorry, those are mine. And I dipped half of them in chocolate. The hare krishna men were giving out boxes of (half rotten, tbh) strawberries! But that’s still half a large box of free strawberries. I picked these up after my free lunch between panels on the second day of the conference on migration law: “A Sea of Troubles? Problematising Migration Law.” Presenting at this conference were legal academics, lawyers, and other sorts of legal workers from various European countries, presenting research and papers focused in different geographical places.
I am no law student nor a legal worker. I’ve taken two classes in the school of law here at Birkbeck, both heavily theoretical, and wrote a paper last term on the construction of sexuality in lgbt asylum claims in the US, so I thought, hey, I’ll go and learn some more things. Here are some of the things I thought about:
-Caseworkers and lawyers/solicitors/barristers seem to be against the law. Not against the idea of the law (not most of them anyways), but against the law as it presently operates and is written. They find it all kinds of problematic and, moreover, they find legal processes absurd. Perhaps many people go into legal work basically because they want to challenge the law, to change it. That is a theme I saw emerge in this conference. It actually gives me more hope for society, knowing that many lawyers, et al, are fighting the authoritarian legal system from within.
-Dallal Stevens read a very fascinating paper arguing for emotional intelligence training for law officials- from judges to caseworkers- and a shift in the system to valuing emotion. The idea is that emotion is central to see the asylum applicant as a human and to handle their case in the most humane manner. She argues against the doctrine of pure objectivity, saying it is a lauded falsity that establishing credibility in asylum claims is objective. It is always subjective, and should be treated as such. What struck me was how this reflects patriarchal discourse. It reflects the masculinization of law, the weathered western dichotomies of feminine-body-emotional and masculine-mind-rationality, and the devaluing of the feminine. Dallal punctuated that a just state is one that works with an ethic of care. This is a somewhat radical and amazing notion, I think.
-Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, author of Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives, the main book for my Cutlures of Human Rights course last term, said something interesting when commenting on the paper described above. She said that to deny one asylum is to work in opposition to human rights. If the individuals acting for the state acted in consideration of human rights of the individuals seeking asylum, everyone’s claim would be believed and they would be granted asylum. The radical notion here, she surmised, is that this would lead to a borderless world. Is the only nation congruent with human rights one without borders?
Food for thought.