Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary. Aesthetics, Affects, Archives

Migration is almost always framed as the result of exceptional circumstances, as in the 2015 refugee crisis for instance. This impacts the reception of narratives produced by those living in the diaspora. Works by Black and ethnic minority artists are overwhelmingly associated with labels that set them apart from the unmarked norm. These frameworks favour generational models such as the Windrush generation in Britain, so-called guest worker literature in Germany, and ethnic and area studies designations in the US. Such formulas reinforce an understanding of migration as perpetually new.

By turning to what we call Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary, this project asks what happens if we instead apply a ‘normalizing’ perspective to the study of contemporary diasporic art; a perspective that seeks to subvert and deconstruct the exceptionalizing tendencies of dominant narratives of migration and diaspora. We centre on three conceptual terms: aesthetics, affects, and archives. This, firstly, disrupts models of national canon formation and considers (queer) diasporic artistic practice and aesthetics as entangled with post-World War II global histories of the decline of empire, neo-imperialism, and the more recent rise of the New Right. Secondly, drawing on innovative methods from autotheory and queer diasporic critique, the project stipulates that diasporic texts that highlight the ordinary, everyday aspects of migrant experience promote an affective bearing that exceeds the binary of romanticizing the homeland of once and neoliberal ideals of assimilation and integration. Thirdly, the analysed texts complicate official historiographies and contribute to an archive of the lived experiences of migrants and their children across generations, exposing the continuity of racism, as well as its unacknowledgeability.

Thus, the project proposes that artistic practice can acknowledge negative affects and contribute to a reimagination of community that goes beyond national and heteronormative constraints. The project underlines, then, the relevance of Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary as archival sites that have the potential to challenge the workings of racist structures and foster new modes of belonging.

Read more here.

Project Information and Fact Sheet on CORDIS.

Funded by the European Union (ERC, TODO, ID: 101043907). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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2023-01-20 | Posted by Alexis Mertens