Poetics of Detention: Framing the Refugee ‘Crisis’

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On Tuesday 22 May, Professor Debarata Sanyal (University of California, Berkeley) will give a seminar on the Poetics of Detention: Framing the Refugee ‘Crisis’ at the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies. All those interested are welcome to attend.

Media representations of illegalized migrants

Poetics of Detention: Framing the Refugee ‘Crisis’ considers recent media representations of illegalized migrants through the tropes of bare life, racialized swarms, and disembodied data. How do such representations of the European refugee ‘crisis’ challenge historical paradigms of racialized violence such as slavery, the Holocaust and colonialism? With the assistance of technologies of surveillance and control such as biometrics (fingerprint databanks, retinal scans, bone density tests) humanitarian and securitarian optics converge to produce asylum seekers as expropriated bodies and risky personhoods who are detained for their protection.

Understanding migrant detention through aesthetic figures

It will be argued that aesthetic figures may be more useful than historical paradigms to understand the operations of migrant detention at Europe’s borders. This will be illustrated by reference to two short documentaries on detention that give experimental form to the transformation of refugees into readable bodies. How does the mediation of personhood and embodiment by the technology of detention put pressure on the representational mandates of humanitarianism and human rights? How can experimental visual works help reimagine personhood, rights and agency, from within the conditions of detention, as tactical forms of emergence, disappearance, or persistence?

Prof. Debarati Sanyal. Source: YouTube (still)
Prof. Debarati Sanyal. Source: YouTube (still)

About the speaker

Debarati Sanyal is Professor of French at the University of California Berkeley. She is the author of Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance (Fordham University Press, 2015); The Violence of Modernity: Baudelaire, Irony and the Politics of Form (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). Together with Michael Rothberg and Max Silverman she has edited Noeuds de mémoire: Multidirectional Memory in French and Francophone Culture, a special issue of Yale French Studies (2010).

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Room 0.06, Janskerkhof 13, Utrecht