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Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Publication details for Professor Maggie O'Neill

O'Neill, M. (2008). Transnational Refugees: The Transformative Role of Art? Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 9(2): 59.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper focuses upon the transfor­m­ative role of art and the methodological approach of working with artists to conduct ethnographic research with refugees and asylum seekers. In exploring the space or hyphen between ethnog­raphy (sociology) and arts based practice (photos, in­stallations, textual practice) I suggest that the combination of biography/narrative (ethnography) and art (mimesis) becomes a "potential space" for transformative possibilities. More specifically, draw­ing upon Walter BENJAMIN's (1992) The Story­teller I will discuss the methodological contribution of combining biography/narrative with art forms (ethno-mimesis) in creating a "potential space", a reflective/safe space for dialogue and narratives to emerge around the themes of transnational identities, home and belonging. The importance of renewing methodologies for the work we do within the area of forced migration, humiliation, "egaliza­tion" and human rights (LINDNER, 2006), the role of the arts in processes of social inclusion, and the vital importance for creating spaces for dialogue and performative praxis through participatory methodologies are also discussed.