An Inhumane War: Ukraine, Animals, and Refugees

Sublation Magazine, May 1 2022


In February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russian operations against his country as "vile, cruel and inhuman". Taking this humanitarian perspective, the media was inundated with this master signifier: ‘an inhumane war.’ Killing civilians, not taking care of the wounded and sick, not respecting the rights of prisoners of war, and using weapons of mass destruction are considered to be signs of a war that is out-of-control, bestial, and insane. But there is something much stranger – and more telling - about calling a war 'inhumane'.

It is not hard to predict in which direction the discourse on migrants will develop. Surely, the polarization of victim-enemy perspective on migrants will gain new features. On the one hand, there will be a growing split between openly considering the Ukrainian refugees as victims and the Middle Eastern refugees as enemies, revealing the hypocrisy of the previous humanist perspective on the Middle Eastern refugees, where the idea of the victim was only disguising the repressed view on them as enemies.


This polarization will not represent an outburst of racism out of nowhere - it will only mark a quantitative, not a qualitative change - for racism is inscribed in the humanist project itself. There is no humanist project without repressed otherness and externalized animality.