chapter  7
18 Pages

Community arts, new media and the desecuritisation of migration and asylum seeker issues in the UK


Introduction This chapter argues that through community arts practice, forced migrants1 get the chance to enter into conversation with others as they gain access to the public representation (of themselves and others) in new communicative spaces. It is argued that participatory arts involving refugees and asylum seekers offer D VSULQJERDUG WR UHFRQ¿JXUH WKH UHODWLRQEHWZHHQFLWL]HQVKLS DQGEHORQJLQJ LQ multicultural Britain. We will see that, by creating safe spaces of dialogue and communication, participatory arts projects pave the way for everyday practices of de-bordering and desecuritisation that challenge ‘from below’ neat legal GH¿QLWLRQV DQG VRFLDO FDWHJRULVDWLRQV RI WKH UHIXJHH DQG WKH DV\OXP VHHNHU ,Q so doing, they are able to resist the securitisation of asylum and migration issues – e.g. the constitution of the asylum seekers and the refugee as a security threat ±LQDUDQJHRIPHGLDQDUUDWLYHV6SHFL¿FDOO\ WKLVFKDSWHU LQYHVWLJDWHVZD\V LQ which digital media allow community arts groups working with forced migrants to create new interstices, and spaces of freedom and transgression, whereby the symbolic borders that separate ‘us’ (citizens) and ‘them’ (non-citizens) can be negotiated. The chapter begins by probing some of the ways in which community arts practice can contribute to the (de)securitisation of migration and asylum issues by opening up new communicative spaces and alternative social relations that DUHFDSDEOHRIUHFRQ¿JXULQJWKHUHODWLRQVKLSEHWZHHQEHORQJLQJDQGFLWL]HQVKLS It then goes on to examine how the scholarly and policy-oriented literature on refugee engagement with arts in the UK emphasises ways in which the arts foster participation, inclusion and new relations of communication. We will see that while, on the one hand, participatory arts projects allow forced migrants to gain access to the public representation of themselves (and others) by entering into conversation with others, on the other hand, these forms of artistic engagement and cross-cultural exchange cannot guarantee that their voices are, ultimately, heard in the wider public sphere. While digital media can afford greater connectedness and relations of communication in digital public spheres extending beyond the local and the nation, questions remain as to whether, in the context of participatory arts, digital media actually open access to wider networks of belonging. The chapter concludes by probing some of the ways in which arts-based uses of storytelling

struggle to desecuritise migration and asylum issues in the British public sphere. It is argued that, through individualising empathy and constituting the refugee as a needy, vulnerable and traumatised other, participatory arts fail to effectively challenge the exclusionary power of traditional practices of citizenship, and SURPRWHGLVLGHQWL¿FDWLRQIURPQRQGHPRFUDWLFVWDWHSUDFWLFHVGLUHFWHGWRZDUGV individuals and social groups who are not part of the political community.