Bernini, ‘The ordeal for humanity’, 2015

Subject Area

Sexual Orientation/Sexuality
Gender Identity
Human Rights






Europe | International

Year Published



Lorenzo Bernini, ‘The ordeal for humanity: LGBTI asylum seekers in Europe facing the limits of human rights’, 2015 AG About Gender – International Journal of Gender Studies, Vol. 4, No. 7, pp. 177-189


What’s “human” in the human? What makes a living being a human being? In case of doubt, who decides whether a living being is a human being? A liberal political culture based on the value of human rights cannot avoid these questions. This article will use different interpretative frames (Thomas Hobbes, Michel Foucault, Leo Bersani, Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, Jasbir Puar) in order to give account of the permanence of a sovereign decision on the human in the biopolitical governance of the present. The condition of African lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex asylum seekers in Europe is exemplary of this. Persecuted in their countries for their sexual orientation or gender identity, in many cases they cross the Mediterranean on makeshift boats to land – twist of fate – on the same islands where Italian Fascism used to confine homosexual men. There they are “received” in camps for illegal immigrants where their full humanity, denied by their countries of origin, will be taken into exam by a commission. Only if recognized as authentic members of a sexual minority, they will benefit the totality of human rights in Europe. Otherwise, they risk to be forced away from Europe – and from humanity. Far from being a voyage of hope from barbarity to modernity, their journey from Africa to Europe turns into an archaic ordeal.