EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P076)
The visual art of refugees: expressions of flight and exile [Anthropology of the Middle East and Central Eurasia Network Panel]
Location SO-D299
Date and Start Time 16 Aug, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Pedram Khosronejad (Oklahoma State University) email
  • Sholeh Shahrokhi (Butler University) email

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Chair Leonardo Schiocchet (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Short abstract

In this panel we seek anthropological works that introduce and reflect on the rich repertoire of refugees visual productions and art expressions. Panel participants should address how anthropology of visual art intersects with the scholarship of refugees, exile, and border crossing.

Long abstract

Since 2015 there has been a steady rise in the constructed spectacle of refugees arriving in Europe through mainstream media reports. Despite the proliferation of visual production in media, the image of the refugees remains essentialized as a destabilizing figure of an unwanted "other". "The refugee experience," in this way, is the inescapable narrative of victimhood and despair. Contemporary anthropology is no stranger to both the power and the danger of the visual in the representation of the "other", and/or the disruption of the perceived "familiar". However, art, photography, and the visual expressions of (by) the refugees and the displaced people arriving in Europe, have received little attention in the burgeoning anthropological scholarship of recent years.

Furthermore, artists and visual activists have produced some of the most poignant disquieting interventions in the current discourse on refugees in Europe (and across the global south). Additionally, a growing number of refugee artists, themselves, have become instrumental in transforming the topography of the discourse by way of art productions- from photography exhibitions to street graffiti art exposes- that brings to life the diversity of voices and the vibrancy of aspirations among the mass populations generally categorized as refugees in the political north.

In this panel we seek anthropological works that introduce and reflect on the rich repertoire of refugees visual productions and art expressions.

Panel participants should address how anthropology of visual art intersects with the scholarship of refugees, exile, and border crossing.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Digital and Visual Productions of the Displacement Experience

Author: Asma Hedi Nairi (Gazi University) email
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Short abstract

This article uses digital visual productions of refugees to analyse the human experience of displacement throughout its seven different stages as explained by Baker.

Long abstract

While digital humanities and the study of the Impact of New Technology on the Arts is a recent main path on the anthropological research, the analysis of refugee experiences through this perspective seems a little ignored. Being aware of the fact that mobile phones especially were the main companions of refugees during their displacement experience, the digitally produced forms of expression is a basic data to understand the different dimensions of Refugeeness.

In this work I adopt the theory presented by Baker in his book "the Psychological problems of refugees" where he has divided refugee experience into the following stages: Period of being threatened, Making decision on refuge, While refuging, Reaching the safe place, Experiences in the refugee camp, Welcome in the acceptant country and finally the Resettlement stage. The collected digital visual productions shared by Syrian refugees on the social platforms is the principal data that had been categorized according to the previously mentioned stages of the refugee experience process. it is important to mention that the use of the digital visual expressions in this frame should be categorized as a form of cultural production

This article aims to present an analysis of the changing state of the personal and collective memory of refugees in each of seven stages of the refugee experience, explaining how the digital visual productions reflects specific sight of the refugee's identity. The work does, exploit the collected data to present a reading of Syrian refugees' memory and identity throughout the displacement experience.

Self-Reflexive review of a collaborative film project

Authors: Arjang Omrani (University Of Muenster) email
Mohammed Asif Rezai email
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Short abstract

This paper, through a self-reflexive approach, addresses the dilemmas concerning the critical aspects of recording the image of the people who become the subjects of research as well as consuming the images that are produced by them. covered by the mass media.

Long abstract

In 2013 I was invited to join a project that aimed to organize film workshops for unaccompanied minor refugees in order to produce a film shot by them about their journeys. Being highly critical of the idea, as the director of the film, I transformed the project into a film that none of the original participants appeared in. In 2016-17 in contrast to the previous project, with the collaboration of a young refugee in Greece, we made a film that was shot by him with his own mobile phone. This paper, through a self-reflexive approach, compares these two experiences in an attempt to address the dilemmas concerning the critical aspects of recording the image of the people who become the subjects of research as well as consuming the images that are produced by them. By doing so I also would like to address the poetical and political strategies existing in Audio-Visual form of anthropological presentation of the topics that are widely covered by the mass media.

This paper also includes the reflection of my collaborator toward the process and outcome of this film while after that the journey is seemingly over.

Representation Reversed - The Noncitizen Archive: Counter-Imagery of 'Refugeehood' and National Belonging in Northern Europe

Authors: Christian Rossipal (New York University) email
Jelena Jovicic (Stockholm University ) email
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Short abstract

We explore the violent visual representation of 'refugees' in the mainstream media while foregrounding alternative tactics of self-representation through community (an)archiving. We ask if the representation of 'refugees' can seize to rely on speciation of the 'Other' for self-speciation?

Long abstract

In Archives of the Insensible, anthropologist and media scholar Allen Feldman argues that the noncitizen (stateless, refugee, sans papier) 'Other' not only co-constitutes sovereign Man and the nation-state through an inclusive exclusion, but that that the body of the 'Other' also serves as an "archival support" that "constitutes the unity, the presence of a sovereign subject to itself in a political economy of attention/retention." (189f)

We are interested in what happens when the noncitizen subject reverses this logic in and by (an)archiving the performance of a dissensual claim to the common (Rancière) and the right to have rights (Arendt). That is to say, what happens when the noncitizen appears in public through resistant, tactical modes of performance (de Carteau), despite being the "part of no part" in the life of the polis? Moreover, what happens when such performances are re-circulated and given new liveness through archival techniques and anarchival processes (Murphie)? Is there a potential for opening up a zone of indistinction and undecidability that traverses the rupture between the human and the nonhuman human? Is the collective (an)archival process an opening toward a "non-sovereign meeting" that does not rely on speciation of the Other for self-speciation?

This paper is an investigation into these questions, grounded in our joint research, fieldwork, and long-time collaboration with the Swedish-based activist-collective Noncitizen. Drawing on Seyla Benhabib's jurisgenerative principle (2006) and Jürgen Hamacher's notion of the euché (2004), we will attempt to plot noncitizen collective archiving as a practice in excess of biopolitics.

Between Lights and Shadows: The art of 'seeing' refugees

Author: Sholeh Shahrokhi (Butler University) email
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Short abstract

Weaving between "refugee art" and Anthropological scholarship, this paper revisits the notion of trespass and exile. Visualizing the harrowing journeys across geopolitical topographies, this paper examines how art is an integral part of the lives and history of the "displaced" arriving in Europe.

Long abstract

In September 2015, amidst the global attention on 'the migration crisis' to Europe, an image emerged as an iconic symbol for migrants and refugees out of the Middle East and North Africa. The image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Kurdish boy, faced down and lifeless on the pebbled beaches of Bodrum, revealed the scale of human suffering embodied in the figure of the displaced, and exemplified the interest of the global spectators in it.

Washed ashore Turkey's sea coast, the grim image of the dead child, whisked around the social and global media. The power of the photograph, in this case, was moreover revealed as the imagery signaled to the urgency of the predicament engulfing the millions of refugees arriving at Europe's doorstep.

In recent years, visual representation and art have come to stand as some of the most effective modes of mobilization against the growing xenophobia that runs through much of the mainstream reporting on the "refugee other" in the political north. In particular, many of the globally renowned artist-activists such as Banksy, and Ai Weiwei have devoted much of their art production to the subject of refugees. Moreover, many of the refugees themselves have produced visual repertoires of their journeys across borders, opening up new spaces for dialogue between the "seen" and the "unseen".

While the new digital technologies invade our everyday access to information, this paper examines diverse works of art to see how "the visual expressions" disrupt the mainstream discourse on refugees and border crossing?

Visual Stories of Displacement in Morocco

Authors: Sebastien Bachelet (University of Edinburgh) email
Mariangela Palladino email
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Short abstract

This paper explores visual representations of flight and exile in Morocco. It engages with scholarship on refugee narratives and participatory, creative arts to explore representations of displacement which depart from dominant accounts of victimhood.

Long abstract

This paper explores how visual representations by and of refugees and migrants can expose fraught power dynamics and debunk misrepresentations. It generates from our inter-disciplinary project 'Arts for Advocacy: creative engagement with forced displacement in Morocco' - led by a team of anthropologists and cultural studies scholars in partnership with Morocco-based artists, NGO practitioners and migrant leaders. Our team co-organised a series of video and theatre workshops with Moroccan artist Amine Oulmakki involving participants from Morocco as well as sub-Saharan migrants and refugees living in Rabat. This formed of the basis of 'Migration. Récits. Mouvements' (Exhibition in Rabat, December 2017), a video installation - conceived as a collective project - directed by Amine Oulmakki.

Our paper explores how Oulmakki's work displays mismatched and broken up visual and oral accounts by the participants - who partook in decision-making regarding the production of the videos. The visual and oral experience is a challenging one: viewers are invited to navigate a space where bodies trace their own emotional and physical journeys, while the emboldened presences emerging from the screens are unsettled by the displaced temporality and sequencing between frames and sound. Drawing on scholarship examining refugee narratives in anthropology and beyond, the presentation explores how this exhibition proposes counter-narratives of displacement which depart from confessional and 'authentic' accounts of victimhood, and in doing so offers novel ways to engage with exile and flight.

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

Author: Elsa Mescoli (Universite de Liege) email
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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.

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.

Afghan Immigrant Female Photographers in Search of Their Identity

Author: Fatemeh Sadrnabavi (Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran) email
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Short abstract

The majority of Afghan immigrants in Iran have been settling in different regions. The goal of this study is to identify the community of Afghan female photographers who have to face many obstacles to become and remain an artist.

Long abstract

Iran is one of the destination countries for Afghan immigrants. Due to political crises and wars, a huge number of Afghan refugees immigrated to Iran after the 1970s. Mashhad is one of the cities that has accepted the majority of Afghan immigrants. About 70% of Immigrants have settled in a region called Golshahr, one of the suburban and poor regions in Mashhad. The majority of immigrants in Golshahr suffer a very low economical and social status. But the existence of the art center and the performance of variety of activities in the artistic and cultural centers of this region represent a new generation who seeks to be known. Through education, some of Afghan women and girls of Golshahr have managed to escape from the isolation generated by their home and host community. Some of them have also initiated doing artworks. Photography, painting, and teaching them at Golshahr Art center have become popular amongst girls and encouraged them to be more active in society, especially in the artistic community. I am looking for the recognition of the community of Afghan female artists, especially photographers of the mentioned region, due to the fact that undoubtedly the works of these young artists can reflect their concern for being noticed, can express their identity, or an attempt to identify the marginalized community.They have to go through the breathtaking barriers and gender inequalities,driven from religious and ethnic beliefs and prejudices, to be recognized as artists in the field of art.

The Fatemiyoun Brigade: Afghan Shiite paramilitary immigrants to Iran in search of national integrity and religious identity

Author: Pedram Khosronejad (Oklahoma State University) email
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Short abstract

In search of national integrity and religious identity, this paper will analyze several types of visual representations of Afghan Shiite paramilitary immigrants to Iran who were martyred in Syria since 2013.

Long abstract

In search of national integrity and religious identity, this paper will analyze several types of visual representations of Afghan Shiite paramilitary immigrants to Iran who were martyred in Syria since 2013.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.