English 9167A/B

Refugee Narratives

Professor Thy Phu.
Half Course.

In 1951, the UNHCR ratified the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a landmark document that defined the refugee, what his or her rights are, and the responsibilities of states with respect to claims for asylum. Because asylum seekers are expected to tell their stories as a key part of this process, the document highlights the importance of narrative as a means of making visible the figure of the refugee. This seminar expands on the legal approach to narrative, by turning to other cultural forms for creative expression of this condition and experience, including literature, film, and photography.

Through close engagement with select cultural texts, which we will put into dialogue with excerpts from essays on critical refugee studies, this course will consider conventions of refugee narratives including redemption, success and gratitude; the ways that writers and artists challenge these conventions through emphasis on themes of loss and ingratitude; the literary spaces that such fictions inhabit; the major rhetorical tropes that bring into focus the seemingly “minor” figure of the refugee; and the ways that the refugee might serve and unsettle settler colonial interests.