Stephanie DeGooyer, Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, discusses the legacy of Hannah Arendt and modern-day authoritarianism.
On this week’s episode of The Open Mind, we welcome guest Stephanie DeGooyer, co-author of “The Right to Have Rights.” The title of the book comes from a phrase used by refugee and activist, Hannah Arendt, in a 1949 article and again in her 1951 book “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” At the time, Arendt was critiquing the idea of inalienable rights when human rights were becoming an idea just after World War II. Now, DeGooyer and others have compiled a collection of essays that examine Arendt’s ideas in our age of mass deportations, Muslim bans, refugee crises and extra-state war.
In our conversation with DeGooyer, we discuss the application of Arendt’s “Right to Have Rights” today, and what it means to be a human. DeGooyer examines Arendt’s idea that one is truly human when at their most vulnerable. When you are “a stateless refugee who’s been cast out of your only country of origin and nobody will receive you,” what rights are human rights? DeGooyer states that “The real blindness [in the refugee crisis] is a failure to act in the interest of the world, [and instead] in the interest of the country for short-term receipt of power.”
In terms of a solution, DeGooyer insists that we must raise the quotas on how many newcomers we allow into our country, in addition to reassessing our fraught idea of nativism, that birth determines your citizenship. This will help us see the borders of our community differently, and recognize people who have been here, who are part of this country, who give to it, and who build communities. If not, DeGooyer gives us chilling context to our current refugee crises, stating that “history will judge this moment the way that we judge the way America turned around that boat full of nine hundred Jewish refugees.”