Eugene Michail, Senior Lecturer, University of Brighton:
“Between Solidarity and Opposition:
Local Communities and Activism during the Refugee Crisis”


How exactly did the eastern Aegean islands react to the arrival of refugees from 2015 onwards? According to Eugene Michail, local communities are the relatively neglected link of the so called “refugee issue”. Through his presentation, he tried to elaborate on this link. His research showed that the local communities, affected as they are by major international developments, struggle to escape from a polarization regarding their solidarity or opposition to refugees. But, as he explained, upon a closer look, we can identify a wide range of actions, positions and ideas. Local societies are autonomous “living organisations”. Their diversity is scientifically and politically useful, regardless of our personal position in favour or against the results of such a political dynamic.

Michail proposed to the academic community a thorough historical mapping and analysis of the reactions to the “refugee issue” in Chios (an island of the Eastern Aegean) from 2015 to 2017. By approaching the recent history without predetermined theoretical models, he is trying to understand what changes have occurred in recent years – in particular what happened in regard to local activism. He, therefore, put and answered specific questions: Why did solidarity prevail in the summer of 2015? Why did it lose in 2016? What role did the key local actors play? What choices did the local society have and how did it react to the dilemmas? How can we conceptualise such islands and local communities both as part(s) of an international political crisis and as autonomous societies with their own ideas of political organization?

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