Refugees and their Allies as Agents of Progress: Knowledge, Power and Action in Forbidden and Dangerous Boundary Regions
Focusing on the historical and contemporary dilemmas posed by the “refugee crisis,” this essay investigates the potential for international progress in acknowledging our common humanity. I examine the utility of Emanuel Adler’s theory of cognitive evolution as a lens through which to assess the extent of that potential. I employ the theory to explore how certain practices dealing with forced migration became prevalent, while others lay dormant. I also examine how competing communities of practice battle to shape our understanding of forced migration in the current “post-truth” environment. I argue that cognitive evolution offers a potent conceptual framework for understanding both the extent to which the suffering of migrants has and has not been alleviated—a powerful indicator of the degree to which the world community has acknowledge their humanity. This holds for the social order of refugee protection, even in the current period as tribalism threatens to erode epistemological security, as normlessness threatens to replace a competition among norms, and as these threats weaken our shared reality.