Europe and refugees : 1938 and 2015-16
Ahonen, P. (2018). Europe and refugees : 1938 and 2015-16. Patterns of Prejudice, 52(2-3), 135-148. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2018.1433006
Published inPatterns of Prejudice
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Ahonen attempts to provide some historical contextualization for the refugee crisis that has dominated much of European public and political debate since 2015. He draws comparisons between the crisis-ridden present and the decade of the previous century that was particularly laden with anticipation of disaster and doom: the 1930s. More specifically, his article explores parallels in public discussions of refugees by European political leaders and media commentators in 1938, on the one hand, and 2015–16, on the other. The coverage of 1938 focuses on the Evian Conference, organized to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, while the analysis of 2015–16 concerns the period from the rapid acceleration of the refugee influx into Europe in the late summer of 2015 to the Brexit referendum of June 2016. Ahonen contends that, despite obvious and significant structural and contextual differences between the late 1930s and the mid-2010s, recent public discussions of the refugee crisis in Europe have closely resembled those conducted around the time of the Evian Conference. Fear and a sense of threat have been the dominant sentiments in the mid-2010s, as they were in the late 1930s, with many similarities in the language and analytical categories in which those sentiments have been publicly expressed. He also provides observations about the potential benefits and pitfalls of diachronic historical comparison, suggesting that an analysis of the failings of refugee policy during the 1930s can provide lessons for better practice today. Aggressive, racialist language about refugees of the kind that was common in the 1930s should have no place in today’s public discourses in Europe. Awareness of the continuities that exist in this area can provide important historical perspective, highlighting the persistence of prejudice and the urgency of the need to reject and resist it. ...
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