REFUGE: ASYLUM AND A RIGHT TO ASYLUM
Asylums have offered shelter to the deranged from their wanderings – in the image of the ship of fools -, a place to settle and seek protection from themselves and others. But asylums rapidly closed in on themselves; the deranged remained among themselves, segregated, stigmatised, excluded from society and devoid of human rights.
The history of asylums is a paradigm for what governments today propose to refugees: loss of human rights, stigmatisation, lengthy imprisonment, camps. The shelter we offer to refugees is increasingly walled in and fenced off.
We would like to assert that a refuge in its full meaning of hospitality implies a place to settle as well as a place to move in and out of freely, whether this refers to psychiatric patients or migrating or displaced people. In mental health care, a fundamental step to improvement was to stop the exclusion and its pathogenic effects and to open doors, first those of different psychiatric units as experimented by institutional psychotherapy, then the gates of hospitals themselves, leading to out-patient care in France, the “Secteur” and “Psichiatria Democratica” in Italy. This means that people are allowed to move freely between indoors and outdoors. It also means combating negative conceptions of supposedly deviant individuals and encouraging solidarity in the social environment.
Today, hospitality is an increasingly political issue. It is subject to ever stronger restrictions. What kind of refuge will we be able to offer to people suffering mentally, in hospital, in the city or in camps, when in all of Europe the economy of cost efficiency is dismantling health care facilities?
How twisted has our sense of hospitality become that we are forgetting basic standards of shared humanity?
Fireflies (Pier Paolo Pasolini/Georges Didi Huberman), tiny and intermittent lights in the dark of night, indicate clandestine lives and loves, far from blinding watchtower spotlights, the media and grand political speeches. The image of fireflies has allowed us to imagine acts of resistance, to think outside the dominance of ultra liberalism. Micro-political experiments manage to slip into the gaps of official institutional patterns, they spread into civil society and into social networks.
At this CEDEP workshop we would like to pay tribute to these experiences and discuss them within our usual framework which considers our subject from three perspectives: clinical, legal and political.