Our Review of the Week takes an interdisciplinary philosophical approach to the issues of citizenship and statelessness in recent history

Placeless people : writings, rights, and refugees

Stonebridge, Lyndsey. Oxford, 2018
244p bibl indexes, 9780198797005 $34.00, 9780192517364

Treating modernist writers such as Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Simone Weil, Samuel Beckett, W. H. Auden, Dorothy Thomson, and Palestinian poet Yousif Qasmiyeh, Stonebridge (humanities and human rights, Univ. of Birmingham, UK) offers a nuanced and complex interdisciplinary treatment of the problems of citizenship, statelessness, and mass displacement—which she calls “the twentieth-century’s continuing atrocity.” Working from positions articulated by Hannah Arendt, Stonebridge observes that to be stateless is to be “rightless”; that is, human rights are guaranteed by sovereign nations, so to be outside the state is to be without enforceable rights. Modernist literature often validated exile and a withdrawal from the world into aesthetics, but, as Stonebridge writes in the introduction, “the exiled writer as a melancholy observer of modern life … had, in reality, long gone.” The writers Stonebridge treats all grapple with the philosophical and practical consequences of statelessness, particularly as they became apparent in WW II and after. Informed by religious, moral, and legal philosophy, the author’s examinations of the situations of Europe’s Jews and of the Palestinians point to the way governments have failed in the construction of international policy. Scrupulously researched and documented, this invaluable and informative volume is illustrated with relevant photographs and quotations.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
B. Diemert, Brescia University College
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature
Choice Issue: Sep. 2019