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- Author: Helen Solterer x
Calais has become a theater of struggle for Kurds and East Africans crossing Europe in search of freer lives. Since c. 2000, writers and artists have been witness to migrants in transit across the Channel. They represent people under siege: thousands blockaded, both intra muros, and in the surrounding zone where English sovereign territory has been re-established in France. This chapter composes a cultural history of this deadlock. It defines Calais as an enclave: land enclosed within another larger, dominant territory; a political situation that exerts pressure on all those inhabiting the area. Extra-territoriality is the premodern principle introduced to construct this account of Calais-enclave, and through which the chapter investigates three dialectics that condition daily life: inside/outside; stasis/movement; have-plenty/have-not. Fiction is the chosen tool for interpreting Calais-enclave. Froissart and his 1346 chronicle accounts for its mise-en-place, when the port town was besieged during the Hundred Year Wars between English and French sovereigns. Deschamps, the poet, represents a second perspective on the enclave: the laborers whose fields are burned. The chapter juxtaposes these earliest fictions with contemporary ones: Froissart with Emmanuel Carrère, whose Letter to a Calaisian woman narrates the predicament of today’s inhabitants; Deschamps with Patrick Chamoiseau whose Brother migrants makes poetic declarations on behalf of those migrating towards Europe, including those in the Calais Jungle. By examining these works together, the chapter argues for the vital function of fiction in undoing the nationalistic frameworks visited upon Calais-enclave.
This comparative volume examines the sustained contribution of migrants to Europe’s literatures, social cultures, and arts over centuries. Europe has never been a continent bounded by the seas that surround it. In premodern times, migrants imprinted the languages, arts, and literatures of the places where they settled. They contributed to these cultures and economies. Some were on the move in search of a better life; others were displaced by war, dispossessed, expelled; while still others were brought in servitude to European cities to work, enslaved. Today’s immigration flows in Europe are not exceptional but anchored in this longue durée process. Iberia/Maghreb, Sicily/Lampedusa, Calais are the three hotspots considered in this volume. These regions have been shaped and continue to be shaped by migrants; by their cultures; their Spanish, Arabic, Italian, and Somali; their French, English and Mandarin languages. They are also shaped by migrants’ struggles. The scholars and artists who wrote Migrants shaping Europe, past and present compose a new significant chapter in the cultural history of European migration by reflecting on the forces that have put people into motion since the premodern period and by examining the visual arts, literature, and multilingual social worlds fostered by migration. This historically expansive and multilingual approach to mobility and expressiveness makes a crucial contribution: migrants as a lifeblood of European cultures.
The introduction lays out the central argument of the volume, which has three main strands: 1) those named most often by others as “migrants” do not represent a sudden, unprecedented crisis but are part of a long line of people who have come from “elsewhere” to participate in European life; 2) this long-running circulation of men, women, and children has always been accompanied by the movement of inventive ideas; 3) displaced and dispossessed peoples have shaped European culture in a major way over many centuries. To make its point, the volume conceputalizes “migrants” in a new way, paying special attention to the existence of premodern migrants. It offers three groups of case studies, organized by language – Spanish, Italian, and French – which examine the growing and changing ensemble of representations in speech, writing, visual arts, and other objects that people create in search of a sense of self.
This image-rich piece presents the small experimental installation, “In Transit: Arts and Migration Around Europe,” from the Nasher Museum of Art, 2018: the collective work of faculty and students at Duke University. Traversing many time-periods, from the early thirteenth century to the current-day, the objects propose different ways that migration may be represented and expressed across various cultures around Europe. Through multiple perspectives, “In Transit” broadens our understanding of the history of migration by juxtaposing present-day artworks with those of early modern cultures. It extends the maps and its usual routes, from the ideological East–West axis, to that of the global South northwards. The “In Transit” works, made with paper, textiles, metal, and digital pixels, present artworks that are an integral part of people’s everyday actions: a painting of Abraham Cresques’s 137–80 Catalan Atlas next to Pedro Lasch’s video installation, Sing Along or Karaoke Anthem (2015); Jacques Callot’s etchings of the Bohemians (c. 1650) juxtaposed with Annette Messager’s woolen weaving of Two Replicants Together (2016). Together they materialize the lives of those who leave their homes – whatever their reasons – to flee persecution, to overcome economic hardship, to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. As a whole, the installation shows how artists respond to the movement of people over centuries, capturing the dilemmas of displaced individuals that are often their own. It creates new profiles of migrants.