Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are often described as living in a condition of waithood, suspended from law and awaiting return to their national homeland, where they will finally turn into qualified political lives. This frame, stemming from Hannah Arendt’s legacy, fetishizes rights and the nation-state as the spheres where the human ceases to be a mere biological body subject to humanitarian relief and finally turns into a fully fledged subject of rights. This article, in contrast, interrogates the possibility of political lives in gray areas. It asks, what conditions of being human are attainable in a context of juridical suspension? Can exile become grounds for an articulation of rights that overcomes the political, juridical, and emotive national frame as the only space for existing in the world? The article suggests understanding Palestinian refugees’ political subjectivity in Lebanon today not through the frame of defeat and demise—or as bare lives (Agamben)—but through the Gramscian lens of the cathartic moment. It explores the political work of catharsis as an emotional, moral, and rhetorical form of collective outbreak from national frames. Through catharsis and paroxysm, refugees expose the fallacies of humanitarianism and nation-state–based conception of rights and instead articulate a novel imaginary of a borderless humanity as a basis for politically qualified lives.
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Ruba Salih; Refugees and Cathartic Politics: From Human Rights to the Right to Be Human. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 January 2018; 117 (1): 135–155. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-4282073
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