ENG484H1S - L0101

Advanced Studies Seminar: Bearing Witness - Canadian Refugee Narratives


Wednesday 10 am - 12 pm


S. Kamboureli

E-mail: smaro.kamboureli@utoronto.ca

Brief Description of Course

Overcrowded rubber dinghies, abandoned life jackets, drowned bodies, migrant “caravans,” tent “cities,” makeshift shelters, desperate- or resilient-looking faces peering through razor wire fences raised at national borders to halt crossing—who hasn’t come across the vast repertoire of images intended to encapsulate the refugee experience? While this course will engage with the ethics and politics of visuality in the representation of refugee crises—we will start with Ai Weiwei’s documentary film Human Flow (2017)--our primary focus will be on narrative representations. Not only does refugee status largely depend on the kind of stories displaced people tell about their circumstances, but narratives by and/or about the refugee condition play a fundamental role in the production of affect and how it contributes to humanitarian responses. With particular attention to a selection of fiction, memoirs, photographs, and films, we will examine as much the lingering trauma of dislocation and the liminality of refugee agency as the meaning and function of such key concepts in refugee studies as crisis, empathy, hospitality, complicity, compassion fatigue, humanitarianism, and distant others. Our interdisciplinary approach will be facilitated through a small selection of critical readings; these will help us contextualize the literary and visual texts we will study in relation to Canada’s self-image as a peacekeeping and humanitarian state.

Required Reading(s)

Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali, Angry Queer Somali boy; Steven Heighton, Reaching Mithymna; Kim Thùy, Ru; Tima Kurdi, The Boy on the Beach; Kim Echlin, The Disappeared; Dimitri Nasrallah, Niko; Films: Ai Weiwei, Human Flow and Lucy Tulugarjuk, Tia and Piujuq; and a small selection of critical articles.

First Three Authors/Texts

Dimitri Nasrallah, Niko; Kim Thùy, Ru (subject to change)

Method of Evaluation

  • Informed participation
  • Research essay
  • Reading journal