One World: Public narratives on human mobility


Countering technocratic and humanitarian refugee narratives with a “one‐world” solidarity narrative

Kesi Mahendran


This article articulates a one‐world narrative, which reconfigures

human mobility in dialogical response to the ideational borders of

the European Union. Fifty‐two semi‐structured interviews, in

Scotland and Sweden, bring participants, ranging from people with

refugee status to the generationally nonmobile, into dialogue with

the integration ideals of the European Union. Within this ideational

space, participants employ I‐positional dialogical capacities such as

“outsideness” and “multivoicedness” to articulate a postnational

“one‐world” solidarity narrative (OWN). OWN is revealed as distinct

from a posthuman “one‐earth” sustainability narrative, which

was found to “border” and delimit mobility. Three dimensions of

OWN, (a) borders as constructed; (b) citizen of the world; and (c)

accidental nature of existence, together repoliticise depoliticised

technocratic reasoning, culturalism, and the asymmetries of humanitarian

narratives on refugees. In conclusion, articulating the public's

dialogical capacities is key to moving beyond public opinion

towards public dialogue on vexed political questions such as



The overarching aim of this article is to contribute to a fuller understanding of the public's dialogical capacity to respond to vexed political questions. The question under scrutiny is the parameters of human migration into and across the European Union (EU) in the context of unprecedented levels of forced human displacement of which 54% in 2015 were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Despite media attention on “Europe's refugee crisis,” the

majority (86%) of people seeking refuge do so in neighbouring countries (Grandi, 2016; UNHCR, 2016).

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