Hospitality as a horizon of aspiration (or, what the international refugee regime can learn from Acehnese fishermen)

Anne Mcnevin, Antje Missbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In May 2015, Acehnese fishermen rescued over 1,800 displaced Rohingya who were stranded in the Andaman Sea. They did so in the face of a regional governmental stand-off that threatened to leave the Rohingya to drown. What compelled the fishermen and the villages from which they came to respond in this way? How might this example be instructive for an international refugee regime that failed in this case, as in others, to offer even the most basic form of protection to some of the world's most egregiously displaced? In this article, we respond to these questions, drawing on fieldwork based in Aceh and Jakarta alongside the insights of Jacques Derrida on the subject of hospitality. We show how the Acehnese example speaks to a general paradox of hospitality that all potential hosts confront, including those states currently denying entrée to asylum seekers. We identify three specific ways in which the Acehnese example can be drawn on as a source of both critique and inspiration. These concern the limits of refugee law as a 'solution' to the current 'refugee crisis', the ways in which capacity to provide hospitality is measured and the value of contingency in generating pathways oriented towards more hospitable responses to displacement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-313
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Hospitality
  • Human displacement
  • International refugee regime
  • Migration management
  • Mobility
  • Refugee law

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