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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Cosmopolitan minds and Metropolitan societies: social exclusion and social refusal revisited

In this paper we examine the dynamics of social exclusion from a psycho-social perspective, taking the system of care, representing society-as-a-whole, as a perverse system that excludes whilst simultaneously seeking to include. Our focus is as much upon the predicament of the system of care as it is upon the plight of the troubled 'refuser' who takes up the anti-social position and refuses to join in. We revisit the legend of Diogenes the Cynic to explore a particular kind of ideological clash in the encounter between the in-group and the outsider. We explore the nature of the transaction between, on the one hand, 'metropolitan', 'city-state' systems of care which defensively and, we argue, offensively define their boundaries in ways that exclude (or that set unacceptable terms for the invitation to include) and, on the other hand, the excluded, 'cosmopolitan' seekers (or avoiders) of different kinds of asylum: 'citizens of the uni-verse' who withhold their allegiance to any particular earthly power. In doing so, we explore the nature and quality of the relationship between 'us' and 'them' that is established across a boundary by the particular ways in which the boundary is defined. We observe that the very real psycho-social problems associated with the homeless, the dangerous and the disordered are complex and chronic; and go on to explore the ways in which 'we', the safely housed and socially ordered, have a collective and shared responsibility for the co-creation of our shared problems. We conclude with an invitation to conceptualise more 'cosmopolitan' forms of hospitality for those who refuse to 'come in from the cold' on the 'metropolitan' terms more usually offered.'