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Stopping the boats, changing the narrative: How the migrant refugee bildungsroman became a ghost story

Stopping the boats, changing the narrative: How the migrant refugee bildungsroman became a ghost story
Stopping the boats, changing the narrative: How the migrant refugee bildungsroman became a ghost story
What literary conventions best help us understand the migrant refugee’s claim for protection, and the terms on which law claims to offer it? One contender to have attracted attention recently is ‘bildungsroman’ (‘formation novel’): the genre of fiction concerned with a marginalized individual’s testing personal journey towards maturity, self-realization, and acceptance within a nation state. However, in light of UK legislation passed in 2022 apparently aimed at ensuring that migrant refugees who arrive illegally should not have any cause to hope for such acceptance, this paper proposes that we look instead to conventions associated with the ghost story. The article focuses its attention on the figure of the ghost as issuer of an unsettling reminder of unremedied injustice and moral duty: of a call to action that also inspires dread and consequent efforts to make it disappear and retreat to where it came from. These qualities are here considered as a basis for understanding the figure of the migrant refugee in law and in artistic depictions, including public performance (“The Walk,” 2021-22), photojournalism (“Risking the Channel ‘death route’ to Britain – a photo essay,” 2020) and visual art (“Dzhangal,” 2016-17).
1535-685X
Gurnham, David
f63e1a54-5924-4fd0-a3f5-521311cee101
Gurnham, David
f63e1a54-5924-4fd0-a3f5-521311cee101

Gurnham, David (2023) Stopping the boats, changing the narrative: How the migrant refugee bildungsroman became a ghost story. Law and Literature.

Record type: Article

Abstract

What literary conventions best help us understand the migrant refugee’s claim for protection, and the terms on which law claims to offer it? One contender to have attracted attention recently is ‘bildungsroman’ (‘formation novel’): the genre of fiction concerned with a marginalized individual’s testing personal journey towards maturity, self-realization, and acceptance within a nation state. However, in light of UK legislation passed in 2022 apparently aimed at ensuring that migrant refugees who arrive illegally should not have any cause to hope for such acceptance, this paper proposes that we look instead to conventions associated with the ghost story. The article focuses its attention on the figure of the ghost as issuer of an unsettling reminder of unremedied injustice and moral duty: of a call to action that also inspires dread and consequent efforts to make it disappear and retreat to where it came from. These qualities are here considered as a basis for understanding the figure of the migrant refugee in law and in artistic depictions, including public performance (“The Walk,” 2021-22), photojournalism (“Risking the Channel ‘death route’ to Britain – a photo essay,” 2020) and visual art (“Dzhangal,” 2016-17).

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Accepted/In Press date: 10 March 2023
e-pub ahead of print date: 23 June 2023
Published date: 23 June 2023

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 476300
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/476300
ISSN: 1535-685X
PURE UUID: 9a12e76c-c2e2-4dc8-87a8-f5e027e7bf7e
ORCID for David Gurnham: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6807-7587

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Date deposited: 19 Apr 2023 16:31
Last modified: 17 Mar 2024 03:28

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