Arts of the Border: Refugee Itineraries and Identities

43B :  Aspects of French Culture
Spring 2020
D. Sanyal


Texts: Marie NDiaye: Three Strong Women, Moshin Hamid: Exit West, Joyce Carol Oates: “Illegal Alien,” select short stories from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, selected poetry.

Films: Lioret’s Welcome, excerpts of Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea, Tura and Crouzillat’s The Messsengers, Sidibé, Wagner and Siebert’s Those Who Jump, Audiard’s Dheepan.

Course Description:

This course explores the paths taken by refugees and their accounts of identity and experience at Europe’s borders. Contemporary films, literature and other artistic materials will help us map perilous migrations across land and sea into Europe. We will pay particular attention to how borders keep out, contain, detain and deport illegalized bodies, but also how these borders are negotiated, resisted or evaded by migrants. We’ll pay attention to the forms of identity that emerge or are put into crisis by surveillance, clandestine passage, detention, encampment, deportation or asylum.

We’ll also consider the importance of “storytelling” for organizing histories and selves in ways that are audible and visible to the state. How is the refugee currently imagined? How relevant is history (e.g. slavery or colonialism) for thinking about refugees today? What are the possibilities and limits of humanitarian approaches to refugees? Of human rights approaches to refugees? Most important for this class, how might art transform ways of thinking about refugee identities, protections and rights? These questions will be pursued through films and other visual media such as VR, short stories, poems and a novel.

Additional Information:

Course taught in English; knowledge of French not required.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes