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Accepted Paper:

Images by Afghan refugees: Creating subjectivities through self-representation  

Author:

Sarah Bittel (The Graduate Institute Geneva)

Paper short abstract:

The way refugees are visualized is inherently linked to the way they are socially and politically perceived. Drawing on the example of Afghan artists' representations, the paper asks how image making creates a space for contestation against national and European asylum policies and border regimes.

Paper long abstract:

With images being omnipresent in our contemporary world (Mirzoeff 2015), I argue that the way refugees are visualized is inherently linked to the way they are socially and politically perceived, as images play a key role in regulating political discourse, creating categories such as legal/illegal and sustaining stereotypes and mobilizing political convictions. Further, images have become integral parts in creating correlations between a European migration crisis and complex negotiations of European border regimes. But despite pictures relevance, refugees' own visual representations remain almost completely absent from public as well as scholarly interest. As part of my PhD research, this paper draws on the example of Afghan refugee art and media collectives' visual representations, asking what subversive tactics emerge through their images and how image making creates a space of contestation against national and European asylum policies and border regimes. The paper's main argument of the image as a space of contestation is underpinned by the concept of the space of appearance as theorized by Arendt, taking visibility as basic condition to political participation (Arendt 1985). To expand on this aesthetic-political ontologies, it further builds upon Rancière's understanding of politics as 'a question of aesthetics and a matter of appearances' (Rancière 2013) and draws on Ariella Azoulay's theorizations of the image as a space of citizenship (2008, 2012). By countering and deconstructing common images of refugees, this research aims to re-work a dominant visual field, and to bring the refugee himself in the center of knowledge production.

Panel P106
Provoking Visuals: Creative Engagements with Borders, Wars, and Conflicts [PACSA Network]