Solidarians and humanitarians in the land of Xenios Zeus: Responses to the “(European) migration crisis”

Lecture by Katerina Rozakou, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences.

The emergence of a vast and diverse landscape of humanitarian actors as response to the “(European) migration crisis” has been described as new, solidarity, volunteer or amateur humanitarianism. Scholars have felt the need to coin these new terms in an attempt to describe a humanitarian milieu that is exemplified by informal and often ad hoc groups, and what has come to be known as “independent volunteers”.

Especially since 2015, Greece has become the epicentre not only of the “(European) migration crisis” but also of such forms of humanitarianism. But why did Greece attract all these volunteers? What was the fertile ground that enabled the growth of these humanitarianisms?

Apart from addressing these questions, in this talk, I will reflect on how solidarity became the main trope with regard to the reception of the refugees/migrants in Greece, replacing hospitality as the par excellence model and Greek national attribute. Solidarity and the emic term allileggyos (solidarian) specifically, has a particular historical genealogy reflecting an antagonistic relationship with the state in Greece.

Thus (and quite differently to the volunteer), the solidarian is interrelated to the formation of subversive citizenships and it is deeply informed by Greek political history. During the “(European) migration crisis” the solidarian –and solidarity humanitarianism– has gained international currency and has become a self-identification concept for international volunteers.

Rozakou’s lecture is part of the closing conference for the Helping Hands Research Network on the Everyday Border work of European citizens, funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research.

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