Refugees are on the move around the globe. Prosperous nations arerapidly adjusting their laws to crack down on the so-called“undeserving.” Australia and Canada have each soughtinternational reputations as humanitarian do-gooders, especially in thearea of refugee admissions.
Humanitarianism, Identity, and Nation traces theconnections between the nation-building tradition of immigration andthe challenge of admitting people who do not reflect the nationalinterest of the twenty-first century. Catherine Dauvergne argues thatin the absence of the justice standard for admitting newcomers, liberalnations instead share a humanitarian consensus about letting in needyoutsiders. This consensus constrains and shapes migration law andpolicy. In a detailed consideration of how refugees and others in needare admitted to Australia and Canada, she links humanitarianism andnational identity to explain the current shape of the law.
If the problems of immigration policy were all about economics,future directions would be easy to map. If rights could trumpsovereignty, refugee admission would be straightforward. But migrationpolitics has never been simple. Humanitarianism, Identity, andNation is a welcome antidote to economic critiques of immigration,and a thoughtful contribution to rights talk. It is a must-read foreveryone interested in transforming migration laws to meet the needs ofthe twenty-first century.
Catherine Dauvergne’s study of the relationship between the migration laws of Australia and Canada and their national identities by no means sits on the uncritical side of this fence. One could say that this is due to her explicit use of critical theory. After surveying the work of liberal theorists on questions of migration, she situates herself within a critical school. She draws on Peter Fitzpatrick’s and Martha Minow’s insights regarding the dichotomous pairings and the inherent instability within liberal rights discourses and concepts (pp.25, 213). But her nuances analysis is more than a use of, or a borrowing from, the pages of critical theory. Indeed, one of the attractive features of this book is its originality.
The strength of Dauvergne’s book lies in its bold attempt to connect the identity construction of the nation/state to migration laws. In doing so, she shifts the discourse of migration laws from its economic framework to a humanitarian one. This book is written in a fluid and accessible style that most readers will appreciate. In conclusion, this is an insightful text that can be used effectively for teaching purposes at the senior undergraduate level in the disciplines of sociology, law, social work, and political science. This text is also an excellent resource for research projects in the area of human right and migration laws.
Catherine Dauvergne’s work is highly original. Her challenging, interpretive approach provides a welcome counterbalance to the unidimensional economic analysis that has shaped the majority of recently published books on immigration. Of particular interest to Canadians and Australians, her ideas and insights have international relevance.
Part 1: Reading Migration Laws
2 The Insights of Identity
3 Nation and Migration
4 Humanitarianism and Identity
Part 2: Humanitarian Admissions to Australia andCanada
5 Constructing Others: The Refugee Process
6 Reflecting Ourselves: The Mirror of Humanitarianism
7 Identities, Rights, and Nations
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