Refugee Literature Workshop



GIS – MOMM Congress 6 July 2017 Inalco, 65 Rue des Grands Moulins, 75013 Paris Room B 3.03 Convenor: Claire Gallien Email:


The current refugee crisis affecting large parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean world today has given new prominence to the corpus of refugee literature written by Arab writers in Arabic, English, French, and other European languages. This workshop aims to unpack the category of ‘refugee literature’ and its ideological underpinnings as it relates to question of nationalism and neo-imperialism, but also as it questions and reshapes national literatures by taking refugees out of quarantined zones and into shared literary, cultural, and social spaces.

The speakers of the workshop aim to interrogate the validity of the category of ‘refugee literature’ not only because it homogenizes vastly disparate experiences and capitalize on suffering and pity, but also because it is established on the premise of a binary opposition with the equally problematic concept of ‘national literature.’ What does this sub-category reveal about the position of refugee literature in relation with national canons and the idea of the nation? By using the category, are we not, as scholars and critics, reproducing an asymmetrical power relation that ultimately reproduces the confinement of these writers to a sub- or minor genre?

Related to other forms of trauma literature, the workshop reflects on the translation of refugee experiences. Does one have to be a refugee to write refugee literature? How can the experience be translated, and by whom? Non-written forms of cultural productions, such as oral literature, shall be taken into account, along with the conditions of production, collection, and transmission of refugee experiences in the camps and the role/commitment of translators in the West and beyond.

Finally, the workshop invites comparison between the various recuperations of the term ‘refugee’ by the authors themselves and the status of refugee literature in various countries of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, but also in Iran, Pakistan, and India. Why would a writer prefer to resort to the elitist category of ‘exile’ rather than call her/himself a ‘refugee writer’? How does refugee literature reconnect with Shahrazad’s paradigmatic interpretation of literature as refuge? Would not the concept of ‘displacement’ be more fitting to characterize texts which relate an experience of displacement but also fundamentally displace categories (author, translator, editor, inside, outside, fiction, surreal, real…) and readers? 

6 July – Morning Session – Salle B 3.03 

9:30-10:45: Contesting the Tag  (Chair: Laetitia Zucchini)

Mariangela Palladino, Keele University: ‘Refugee Literature’? Narrative of Journeys across Africa and the Mediterranean.

Frédérik Detue, Université de Poitiers: “This is no Refugee Literature”

Melissa Chaplin : Exploring the Positioning of Refugee Authors in Contemporary Literature: Negotiating Identities from the Middle East to the UK 

11:00-12:00: Narrating and Translating Experience (1) (Chair: Najla Nakhlé-Cerruti)

Nathalie Bontemps, traductrice littéraire: Etre chez soi, être en exil, écrire. Réflexions autour de la traduction d’Aram Karabet, Yassin Al Haj Saleh, Joumana Maarouf, Majd Al Dik et Golan Haji.

Catherine Coquin: Les “portes de l’Europe” et les “portes du néant”. Réflexions à partir des oeuvres de Samar Yazbek, Jumana Maarouf, Nisrine al-Zahre, et du film L’Eau argentée. 

6 July – Afternoon Session – Salle B 3.03

1:00 – 2:15 pm Narrating and Translating Experience (2) (Chair: Mariangela Palladino)

Valerie Anishchenkova, University of Maryland in College Park: The Battle of Truth and Fiction: Documentary Storytelling and Contemporary Refugee Discourse

Corina Stan, Duke University: From The Village Indian to Ohrfeige: Novels in the Translation Zone

Bénédicte Letellier : La poésie de l’exil dans l’océan Indien : Salah Faik, Adeeb Kamal Ad-Deen et Ahmatjan Osman (via Skype)

2:30-3:30 The Ethics of Representation (Chair: Claire Savina)

Olivera Jokic : Yugoslavian Literature of Muslim Displacement and the Reading of Pity

Claire Gallien : ‘Just Bomb Into It’ – Radical Deconstructions in the Art and Poetry of Gerry Judah, Emily Jacir, and Suheir Hammad

Citer ce billet
Serge Martin (2017, 26 juin). Refugee Literature Workshop. REDILA. Consulté le 23 avril 2024, à l’adresse

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