Accepted paper:

Bonheur de dire, malheur de taire. Speaking out through art by undocumented migrants in Liege (Belgium).

Authors:

Elsa Mescoli (Universite de Liege)

Paper short abstract:

Undocumented migrants in Liege (sans papiers) constitute a performative category of subjects acting their presence on the territory between visibility and invisibility. Precluded from the access to civic rights, undocumented migrants find into art a tool for creative political engagement.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the artistic initiatives of a group of undocumented migrants as tool for creative political engagement in the local context (Salzbrunn, 2014). La Voix des sans papiers de Liège was recently settled starting from the occupation of public uninhabited buildings in Liege and to claim the right to regularization. This occurred in an urban context that has been theatre of similar struggles for migrants in the past, and that shapes as a "welcoming city" (commune hospitalière) with regard to migrants and their rights. A network of actors from different social spheres (politics, NGOs and associations, cultural actors) support and permit the emergence at the local level of these artistic initiatives, that become social spaces for migrants to raise their voice. In particular, non-professional actors go on scene to narrate their story and to state their rights as active citizens despite their legal status, thus positioning against the restrictive policies on migration operating at the federal level of the state. Through a perspective that sees knowledge as collaborative production (O'Neil, 2008), ethnographic material has been collected during the writing workshops that lead to the creation of a short theatre representation, as well as during the performing of this. The analysis of this material shows how art permits to blur the boundaries between legality and illegality and to participate in the political life of the state through culture. Through art, undocumented migrants become visible actors against the process of invisibilization willed by federal state authorities.

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The visual art of refugees: expressions of flight and exile [Anthropology of the Middle East and Central Eurasia Network Panel]