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Engaging with Refugee and Migrant Experiences

Who Are We New Union Flag image
OU members team up with artists to communicate their research and engage with publics in immersive and innovative ways.

Former and current OU staff, including Engin Isin, Lisa Pilgram and Giota Alevizou worked closely with Counterpoints Arts, an organisation engaging with refugee and migrant experiences through cultural programmes, for over a year to design Who Are We? Held at Tate Modern, the project allowed OU members to team up with artists to communicate aspects of their research and engage with publics in immersive and innovative ways.

Counterpoints Arts led the overall production and curation of Who Are We? and, in addition to academic contributions to the programme, Giota Alevizou worked with them on leading the programme’s digital communications and engagement strategy. As part of the programme, Giota also collaborated with social broadcaster Lucia Scazzocchio whose installation, Beyond the Babble, is a participatory audio-focused installation that seeks to transpose the fragile nuances around the impact of collective and individual narratives. Giota and Lucia ran workshops to reflect on the capacity of sonic art and digital storytelling to contextualise stories of identity and belonging, as well as the ways in which perspectives can be enriched if we escape our own 'personal babble' fed by social media and news agendas. You can read their full conversation about the ‘Art of Listening’ on the project website.


Participants' voices projected beyond the booth.

A further collaboration took place between Giota and socially engaged artist Gil Mualem-Doron and his New Union Flag Project. Besides the New Union Flag installation, Gil and Giota ran two workshops with primary schools, at which pupils crafted their fabric of identity and reflected on new spheres of belonging. Designed by Gil, the mapping was explored and represented through creating a flag with textile designs from the places to which they are connected. Giota asked students to reflect on questions of cultural heritage, identity and belonging, looking at the ways in which these questions are expressed through the art of ‘making’ and story-telling. You can read a conversation between Giota and Gil about how the New Union Flag can be turned from an object of agitation to a space of communication. 

Umut and Sara de Jong, meanwhile, collaborated with artist Alia Syed. Alia’s film On a Wing and a Prayer responds imaginatively to the journey undertaken by Abdul Rahman Haroun who, in August 2015, walked the 31-mile length of the Channel Tunnel in a bid to find asylum in the UK. In an open seminar following its screening, Sara and Umut, together with OU law colleague Olga Jurasz, reflected on the role of the law in constituting citizens and migrants as well as the different spaces and journeys informing migrations, mobilities and immobilities. Sara's exchange with artist Laura Malacart and performance artist Natasha Davis is also available.  



The OU side of the project was funded by CCIG, HEIF, the SRAs in Citizenship & Governance & International Development & Inclusive Innovation and FASS. Read more about the OU's involvement.