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Migrant agency and the moving image

How are the erection of borders, fences and other migration management practices experienced by refugees themselves; what is their experience of everyday life?

Migrant agencyAll too often, migrants, refugees and migration are presented in the media and political debate as a threat to ‘our’ society, economy and/or way of life. This securitisation of migration, which creates a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, also plays out on the ground, through the erection of borders, fences and other migration management policies that seek to prevent people seeking refuge from entering or moving across Europe. 

Much existing research aimed at rectifying this negative image instead presents people seeking refuge either as passive victims without agency or active individuals with the capacity to resist restrictive migration management policies. What many of these studies lack is careful attention to refugees’ own experiences and the complexities of both their active agency and their suffering. This project attempted to better understand these complexities by giving migrants the ability to express these experiences using the moving image to find their voice. 

The project drew on the work of the King's College London Migration Research Group, the members of which conducted a research and photo exhibition project to highlight migrant agency with the use of photo cameras. 

Migrant agency and the moving image  takes the experience of refugees as a starting point and intended to employ an auto-photographic approach to explore the ongoing refugee crisis, enabling refugees to tell their own stories from their own perspectives. Specifically, the project team sought to work together with refugees living in the informal camps of northern France, providing them with video cameras to film their daily lives and their experience of the crisis. The reality took the project down a different path.  


Project events

We are in between exhibition: March - June 2018, The Exchange, Bush House 

What is the situation for migrants in Northern France after the destruction of the camps in Calais and Dunkirk in October 2016 and April 2017? What are their stories and experiences of living in informal settlements in the woods? This exhibition relayed, in text and still and moving image, some of the narratives of the migrants we met in Calais and Dunkirk in September 2017. 

Project film

Project team                                                                                

Leonie Ansems de Vries is a Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.
Her research focuses on migration management and migration trajectories; refugee subjectivity and migration struggles; and, the politics of life. Leonie recently completed the collaborative ESRC-funded project ‘Documenting the Humanitarian Migration Crisis in the Mediterranean’, which examines the effects of migration management practices on people seeking refuge in Europe. She is the author of Re-Imagining a Politics of Life: From Governance of Order to Politics of Movement (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014) and her research has appeared in journals such as Review of International Studies, International Political Sociology and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. She has also written a series of articles on the migration “crisis” for openDemocracy.

Imran Perretta is a visual artist based in London whose work addresses biopower, marginality and the (de)construction of cultural histories.
His multidisciplinary practice encompasses sound, performance, poetry and the moving image. Recent shows include ‘Mene Mene Tekel Parsin’ at Wysing Arts Centre, UK, 'brother to brother' for JVA Solo Presentations at the Jerwood Space, London, ‘it wasn’t a crash, in the usual sense’, at Arcadia Missa, London and ‘Pale News’, a collaboration with Milo van der Maaden, commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery and performed in Victoria Park, London. Other recent exhibitions include ‘5percent’ for Copenhagen Art Week, Denmark, and 'Devotions' at MOT International Project Space, London. He is currently in residence at Somerset House Studios, and will be an artist-in-residence at Wysing Arts Centre in late 2017. He is a recipient of the 2017 Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella award for which he will produce a new moving-image artwork looking at issues around agency, asylum and the nation state.

Signe Sofie Hansen graduated from King’s College London with an MA in International Conflict Studies in 2016 and is currently finalising her MSc in Political Science from University of Copenhagen.
Her master studies have focused on journalistic communication; war and insurgency; and, in particular, migration. She wrote her MA dissertation on volunteers and migration management based on fieldwork in Calais, France, and her MSc thesis on migrant agency in relation to the sovereign state based on fieldwork in France, Lebanon and Denmark. Signe was initiator to and participating in the Humans of Calais research and photo exhibition project under the King's College London Migration Research Group.

Migration agency and the moving image is a collaboration between King's College London's Department of War Studies and artist Imran Perretta, brokered and supported by the university's Culture team in partnership with Somerset House Studios.

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