Who welcomes? The geographies of refugee aid as care work – commentary to Gill
Drawing on my recent research with aid workers in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as on examples from Greece and Italy, in this commentary I propose the concept of care work as one of the possible ways to achieve a grounded critical understanding of welcome, one that goes beyond solidarity versus institutionalization, bureaucracy versus generosity and state versus civil society dichotomies. Framing the issue in such a way means asking three fundamental questions: not only, as Gill poignantly does, what is welcome, but also where is welcome actually located and, most importantly, who welcomes. These questions illuminate the many overlooked forms of affective and physical labour without which state-centred, institutional, and internationally organized aid and “welcome” would not be possible. The task, I contend, is to unearth the labour of care that the governance of migration and refuge requires, labour that is mostly feminized, racialized, and precarious. By illuminating the forms of care and interdependencies upon which the reproduction of our societies depends – in all its aspects, including border regimes – this perspective opens up an emancipatory pathway to the politicization of welcoming and aid to migrants and refugees, alternative to humanitarian discourses.
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