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Give Refuge to the Stranger: The Past, Present, and Future of Sanctuary (Paperback)

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The concept of sanctuary—giving refuge to the threatened, vulnerable stranger—is universal and older than human society. From its origins in primate populations, to its elaboration in ancient religious traditions, to the modern legal institution of asylum, Linda Rabben tells the story of sanctuary as it evolved over thousands of years. She then examines asylum today, analysing policy in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia and linking them to the experiences of courageous individuals to show how immigration and asylum are under attack in around the world. Her expert account offers critical context for understanding current political debates and is a stimulating, literate text accessible to undergraduates as well as the general public.

About the Author

Linda Rabben, PhD, is a leading writer, researcher, and advocate for human rights. She has worked for organizations such as Amnesty International, the Rainforest Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace and currently coordinates the Refugee Professional Recertification Project of RefugeeWorks. She has written or edited five books, including Walking the Forest with Chico Mendes, Unnatural Selection, and Fierce Legion of Friends. Her articles on human rights have appeared in periodicals including The Nation, Cultural Survival Quarterly, and Discovery Channel Magazine, and she won the Spann Memorial Essay Prize of the Debs Foundation and a Catholic Press Association award for her writing on Brazil. Rabben has served on the American Anthropological Association's Committee for Human Rights, the Brazilian Studies Association's executive committee and its human rights task force, and the Academic Freedom and Human Rights Committee of the Latin American Studies Association.

Praise For…

"Linda Rabben has written a profoundly human and inspiring work that explores in personal, historical, and anthropological terms the motivations that lead ordinary people to provide sanctuary to people fleeing violence, upheaval, and persecution. Rabben looks beyond law and politics to find the human connections that inspire people to open their doors and their arms to welcome and embrace the homeless wanderer. In the face of rising xenophobia, eroding asylum space, and closing doors to asylum seekers, Rabben reminds us that the spontaneous and unregulated urge to provide sanctuary for refugees is part of our DNA, and will survive as long as we do."

- Bill Frelick, Refugee Policy Director, Human Rights Watch

"Why should human beings give refuge to the stranger? How is it that we so often refuse those in greatest need - and in the process abuse, imprison and deny legal support to them? Linda Rabben confronts us with the shameful evidence of the way the public policy of the US, the UK and other developed nations has legitimated the mistreatment of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. She confronts those of us who are citizens of the world\'s liberal democracies with one of the urgent questions of our time, \'What are you going to do to ensure a welcome for the stranger?"

- Nicholas Sagovsky, Visiting Professor, Formerly Canon Theologian, Westminster Abbey

"Sanctuary for the threatened and suffering is a powerful possibility rooted in human nature, one that surfaces across cultures and throughout history. Yet this basic quality is often neglected or dismissed. Give Refuge to the Stranger brings forth our capacity to provide refuge, in clear and vivid prose, with convincing evidence and capable anthropological analysis. As we become more aware of our best possibilities, we become more capable of acting fully on them. "

- Josiah Heyman, University of Texas at El Paso

"This is essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about asylum systems in different countries. Written in an easily accessible style, and illustrated with powerful and compelling stories of people caught up in these sometimes Kafkaesque worlds, this book is a 'must' for any interested observer of asylum and refugee processes."

- Celia Clarke, Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees

"That we need to give shelter to persecuted others tells us something quite negative about our species; but that we do, and have always done so, also offers hope. It builds on the best in human nature. Linda Rabben employs passion and detailed research to explain how we are uniquely equipped for border-crossing empathy."

— Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy

"In Give Refuge to the Stranger, Linda Rabben places asylum in its proper social, economic and historical context. By doing so, she allows us to understand the ongoing importance of sanctuary---an ancient and noble institution that remains a crucial dimension of our human heritage."

— Michael Welch, author, Detained: Immigration Laws and the Expanding I.N.S. Jail Complex

"Rabben writes with the engagement of an investigative journalist, the detail of a historian, and the passion of an advocate - her work documents the continuing and compelling power of the concept of sanctuary in our times."

— Ignatius Bau, Author, This Ground is Holy: Church Sanctuary and Central American Refugees

"Linda Rabben’s politically and morally-engaged account of asylum processes in North America and Europe differs from other studies of this contentious policy issue in two important ways. First, she sets the 1951 Refugee Convention, and its increasingly mean-spirited application by recent European and North American governments, into historical context by describing the forms of refuge offered to outsiders by societies from classical Greece right up to the present. Second, she focuses on the civil society groups and non-governmental organizations which provide support to would-be refugees; advocate for improvements in their treatment; and even, in some cases, draw upon ancient notions of religious sanctuary as an effective means of
combating the negative stereotypes which the term ‘asylum seeker’ has increasingly come to evoke. Her lively mixture of historical narrative and first-hand ethnographic observation on two continents should help alert a wider public to the widespread official mistreatment of vulnerable victims of political, religious, ethnic, and sexual persecution."

— Anthony Good, University of Edinburgh

“This well researched book uses personal testimony and international examples to show how countries have dealt with the influx of asylum seekers throughout history. This book is a very good example of critically engaged anthropology, raising numerous questions worth researching further in specific contexts. Rabben is undoubtedly highly qualified to write this book. She is an anthropologist and long-term human rights activist, who considers the need to protect the vulnerable as a very basic and universal human sense of moral solidarity. "It's in our DNA", she says several times through the book, and it makes no difference what religious creed we follow. And yet, for the most part, institutionalized asylum currently operates in most nation-states through hardened officials or agents for whom the 'culture of disbelief' is the norm that casts asylum seekers as interlopers. The volume ends on an optimistic note, however, returning to the central argument that it is in our human nature to protect those in need, a statement that leaves the reader wondering why (and how) the immigration bureaucracy has turned its agents into such insensitive and often cruel individuals. See the full review: http://wings.buffalo.edu/ARD/cgi/showme.cgi?keycode=4192”

—Maria-Ines Arratia, Anthropology Review Database
Product Details
ISBN: 9781611320305
ISBN-10: 1611320305
Publisher: Left Coast Press
Publication Date: February 28th, 2011
Pages: 280
Language: English

by Dr. Radut