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Between separation and integration: Strategies

of cohabitation in the era of diasporization and

Zygmunt Bauman

To cite this article: Zygmunt Bauman (2018) Between separation and integration: Strategies of
cohabitation in the era of diasporization and Internet, Popular Communication, 16:1, 1-3, DOI:

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Published online: 12 Jan 2018.

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2018, VOL. 16, NO. 1, 1–3

Between separation and integration: Strategies of

cohabitation in the era of diasporization and Internet
Zygmunt Bauman
University of Leeds

History braids continuity with discontinuity; those two qualities are in an “and-and,” not
an “either-or,” relation. Each chapter of history simultaneously preserves and innovates.
The current refugee crisis is not—can’t be—an exception to this rule. Your two inter-
pretations are not oppositions; they complement each other. “Being another chapter” does
not mean that there is nothing different taking place.
The most striking difference distinguishing the present “refugee crisis” from the shape
of the influx of foreigners immediately preceding it, is that it can’t be administered,
monitored, and all-too-all controlled by means until relatively recently assumed to be
effective. It is precisely such inadequacy and inefficacy of the orthodox means concerning
the latest tide of people knocking at our door that raised the anxiety common to all or
most inflows of strangers to the level of “panic.” What that last tide laid wide open is the
ongoing transformation of geopolitical conditions under which the movement of popula-
tions takes place—a phenomenon whose imminent advent the late Umberto Eco warned
of already two decades ego—however, to no effect. What Eco, roughly, suggested was the
need to distinguish between emigration/immigration (from, to) and migration (from, but
where to?)—two processes ruled by different sets of laws and logics (Eco, 2001).
“The phenomenon of immigration,” as the uniquely visionary Umberto Eco pointed
out well before the present-day migration of peoples took off, “may be controlled
politically, restricted, encouraged, planned, or accepted. This is not the case with migra-
tion” (Eco, 2001, p. 32). Immigration can be controlled politically, but like natural
phenomena, migration cannot be: “As long as there is immigration, peoples can hope to
keep the immigrants in a ghetto, so that they do not mix with the natives. When migration
occurs, there are no more ghettos, and intermarriage is uncontrollable” (Eco, 2001, p. 93).
Eco then asked the crucial question: “Is it possible to distinguish immigration from
migration when the entire planet is becoming the territory of intersecting movements of
people?” And suggested in his reply: “What Europe is still trying to tackle as immigration
is instead migration. The Third World is knocking at our doors, and it will come in even if
we are not in agreement … Europe will become a multiracial continent—or ‘colored’
one … That’s how it will be, whether you like it or not” (Eco, 2001, pp. 95–96). And, let
me add—whether all of “them” like it or/and all of “us” resent it.
The seminal departure in the modus operandi and the consequences of “peoples on the
move” is—to deploy Eco’s distinction—the outcome of migration, not immigration: of a
self-propelling process, rather than of a politically/militarily supervised undertaking.
Heterogeneity of the urban environment can no longer be supposed, perceived, and

CONTACT Maurice Bauman Lyons University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, United
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License
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treated as a temporary irritant, but rather sooner than later is bound to be made null and
void, ensued by the cultural assimilation of the currently alien elements: the inevitable—
voluntary or imposed—surrender/annihilation of their cultural idiosyncrasies. Cultural
heterogeneity is fast becoming—and recognized if not approved—an undetachable and
irremovable, indeed endemic, trait of the urban mode of human cohabitation. At the time
when Eco wrote down his words of alert, in the city of New York, for instance, the
“whites” counted 58% and were ever nearer to becoming a minority; 42% of the “whites”
were Jews, and the rest were divided among WASPS, Poles, Italians, Hispanics, Irish, and
so on (Eco, 2001, p. 96). Whether we like it or not, we the urban dwellers find ourselves in
a situation requiring the development and appropriation of the skills of living with
difference daily, and in all probability permanently. After a couple of centuries spent on
dreams of cultural assimilation (unilateral) or convergence (bilateral), and on ensuing
practices, we begin to face up—even if in many a case reluctantly, and often with
unmitigating resistance—to the prospect of the mixture of interaction and friction
among a multiplicity of irreducibly diverse identities of neighboring and/or intermixed
cultural diasporas. Realization of such prospect does not come easily and the first response
is one of denial—or a resolute, emphatic, and pugnacious rejection. Whether the intensity
of passions is capable of compensating for that denial’s pragmatic unproductiveness is,
however, another question altogether.
Do we need a new humanism for the 21st century, so many voices currently ask. What
we do need in my view, and urgently, is the closing of or at least narrowing considerably
the “cultural lag” stretching between the novel condition of the world and the increasingly
outdated consciousness of its population (particularly its opinion-making elite). The late
Ulrich Beck, a most acute master of vivisecting our world’s weaknesses and inanities,
argued convincingly that we have been, collectively, cast in a cosmopolite situation (in the
sense of becoming irretrievably dependent on each other and bound to exercise reciprocal
influence) (Beck, 2006), but we haven’t yet started in earnest to develop (let alone to
appropriate and to not to mention deploying) a matching cosmopolitan awareness. Alas,
similarly to Eco, Beck was not given attention; his call to act was hardly heard. On a planet
crisscrossed tightly by trade routes and information highways, we (including our political
elites), we guide our thought and actions by the precepts inherited from the era of
territorial sovereignties, moats, drawbridges, stockades, barbed wires, ad hoc coalitions,
and walls.
What we call “refugee crisis” is but one of multiple manifestations of the state of
“interregnum”—one in which the habitual ways of acting have stopped working
properly and bringing familiar results, but the new ways—more adapted to the changed
conditions—are still at best stuck at the drawing-board stage. I doubt whether the
inclination to single out one or another from the host of such manifestations as
“fundamental” or “the biggest”—a proclivity insinuated, aided, and abetted by ratings-
greedy media and votes-greedy politicians—is the right and promising way to proceed
in our multifaceted, multicentered, and by and large disorganized world. It is high time
and perhaps a matter of our shared life and death to face up to the complexity of our
common existential condition and see (and, hopefully, deal with) processes in their
intertwining, mutual dependence and reciprocal influence. “Never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”—to quote John Donne (1923, p. 98). That is, for
all of us, the humans.

Contrary to the demagogues of all denominations, there are no shortcuts, no quick

fixes, no instant solutions to the “current refugee problem,” just as there none to all other
problems we confront except the most banal among them.
Speaking of the problems calling for most urgent attention, Pope Francis named
recently designing, appropriating, and practicing the art of dialogue—and tackling the
catastrophically rising social inequality—and he added right away that both issues need to
be inserted in school curricula at all levels (Congregration for Catholic Education, 2014).
Chinese wisdom, going back to Confucius’s times, recommends that thinking of a year we
ought to sow corn, thinking of 10 years we should plant trees, and while thinking of
100 years we must be educating people.

Author note
Zygmunt Bauman is internationally celebrated as one of the greatest social thinkers of our
times. Though he was a professor of sociology at the University of Leeds (and later,
professor emeritus), his work transcended conventional disciplinary boundaries, embra-
cing social and political theory, philosophy, ethics, media/communications studies, cul-
tural studies, psychology, and theology. Publications of relevance to this special issue
include Strangers at Our Door (Polity, 2016), Europe: An Unfinished Adventure (Polity,
2004), and Liquid Modernity (Polity, 2000).
This is the lecture blueprint Professor Bauman prepared for his scheduled public
keynote at the “Connected Migrants: Encapsulation or Cosmopolitanism” academy collo-
quium, organized by Prof. Sandra Ponzanesi and Dr. Koen Leurs at the Royal Netherlands
Academy of Arts and Sciences, 15–16 December 2016 (
calendar/academy-colloquium-connected-migrants). Sadly, Professor Bauman developed
a serious health condition, and passed away aged 91 on January 9, 2017. We are very
grateful the right holders have granted us permission to publish this piece as the preface
for the Popular Communication volume 16, issue 1 special issue on “Connected Migrants”.

Beck, U. (2006). The cosmopolitan vision. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Congregration for Catholic Education. (2014). Educating today and tomorrow. A renewing passion.
Retrieved from:
Donne, J. (1923). Devotions upon emergent occasions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Eco, U. (2001). Five moral pieces. Trans. A. McEwen. Orlando, FL: Harcourt. (Originally published
in 1997 as Cinque scritti morali)