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Philosophy Today

Volume 63, Issue 2, Spring 2019

Ellen T. Armour
Pages 315-333

Justice for Alan Kurdi?
Philosophy, Photography, and the (Cosmo)Politics of Life and Death

Photographs of the body of a drowned three-year-old Kurdish boy from Syria washed up on a Turkish beach encapsulated the plight of refugees fleeing the (so-called) civil war in Syria with particular pathos and power. Through what these photographs index, this essay considers what they open up and open on to: the philosophical problematics embedded in the political issues the refugee crisis raises. These issues and problematics are rendered legible in Jacques Derrida’s recently published seminar on the death penalty and in his reflections on cosmopolitanism. Together, they prompt further reflections on what I call spectatorial responsibility as a potential cosmopolitical site.

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