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Lecture | Research Seminar

Exhibiting Displacement: Refugee Art as Work and the Responsibility (Not) to Document Loss

  • Evropi Chatzipanagiotidou
Thursday 1 December 2022
Pieter de la Court

This lecture is supported by CADS and the Leiden University research program Social Citizenship and Migration.


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Exhibiting Displacement

Ethnographers have attempted to move away from the restrictive dominance of oral narrative in documenting displacement, by deploying art as a methodological tool to access refugee experiences. However, this paper argues, art does not always offer an ethical solution to the problems with the ‘voice’, especially when it narrows down on suffering and loss as the central loci of experience. In this case, ethnographers contribute to the static understanding of “refugee art”, in similar ways in which this is framed by policy-makers, NGOs, and art dealers. Focusing on art-as-work among Syrians in Istanbul, this paper interrogates what “refugee art” constitutes, but also the ethnographic encounter itself. It reveals gaps, silences, and inequalities that remain unaccounted for in a number of “refugee art” projects, and spaces of alternative artistic articulations. Exhibiting displacement, both in its literal and metaphorical sense, allows us to deploy visual art production as an example of the interplay of tensions and dynamics of representation. The paper proposes a methodology that involves a keen preparedness as well as the undertaking that there may also be an ethical responsibility not to articulate particular kinds of admittances and indeed, silences (Weller 2017), losses, and invisibility/ies.

Bio Evropi Chatzipanagiotidou

Evi Chatzipanagiotidou is a political anthropologist who researchers conflict and peace, displacement, migration and diasporas, with a particular emphasis on nationalism and anti-nationalism, intra-communal violence, the politics of memory and loss, the social construction of silence(s) and ‘unofficial histories’, post-colonialism and transnationalism. She has conducted ethnographic research in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and the UK, including multi-sited, transnational and trans-border research between Cyprus and the UK.

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