Homo Sacer

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Abstract

"Homo Sacer" in ancient Judaic and Roman Law refers to people who are outside the protection of the law. Today, this notion can be usefully resurrected in the context of the global refugee crisis. Investigating the plight of refugees in the light of contemporary responses highlights a range of critical practices in art and architecture. These include the aesthetics of fragility; the politics of memorialization; the questioning of the ethics of representation; the re-mapping of geopolitical territories; the voicing of narratives of displacement as well as emergency construction; and forensic architecture focused on zones of conflict. This paper explores such practices and offers specific examples for analysis. These examples are gestures that matter in the face of the ascendancy of the Right in our time. This ascendancy creates a responsibility to resist the normalization of border mentalities and their effects on Homo Sacer, and by implication on all minorities who are or could find themselves without the protection of the law. The art and architecture analyzed in this paper suggest entanglements rather than borders and leaps of the creative imagination in manifesting inklings of a future—however fraught and precarious—beyond the grasp of the Right and their reactionary interests.