* | Carlsbergfondet
Til bevillingsoversigt

Refugee Talk - Propositions on Ethics and Aesthetics

Carlsberg Foundation Monograph Fellowships


The monograph explores an ‘ethics of migration’ with focus on our cultural encounter with the refugee as a particular type of migrant protected by international law. It is deeply invested in re-grounding the debate about refugees in ethical approaches that challenge the political rhetoric and the highly emotive language that describes and arguably also accentuates the refugee crisis – thus our focus on language use, discourse and representation. We argue that the refugee crisis is also humanity’s crisis and explore art on and by refugees of the current moment whose affective experiences of indeterminate waiting in detention can be seen as a traumatising temporal dimension of stasis. Refugee 'stories' direct ethical questions at their audiences and contribute to an ‘aesthetics of migration.


The current European refugee crisis that peaked in 2015 is bound up in complex issues pertaining to the politics of language. This has been disproportionately overlooked in academic and public debates. A humanities approach that interlinks the issues of language use, discourse and representation with ethics and aesthetics has not yet been published. Our monograph fills that gap. In the contemporary political climate, we consider it a timely and important task to disseminate the continued urgency of the European refugee crisis from a perspective that takes stock of our ethical environment.


The monograph is designed as an ongoing conversation about the idea of, the figure of, the discourse about and by the refugee. It engages with and intervenes in the current refugee discourse. In order to do so in a way that has illuminating traction, our research is based on a series of dialogues with prominent international participants about key ideas that are integral to an ethics of migration, such as the language of justice, rights and duties. These are indexed in the wider conversation that the monographs stages. We draw on thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Kwame A. Appiah who speak in favour of conversation as research method and of being in conversation as a polyvalent ethical practice that establishes relations and interaction. Monograph to be published in 2021.


A dissemination of the European refugee crisis drawing on a humanities approach that places ethics and aesthetics at its centre will accentuate the importance of reactivating the language of justice, rights and duties in academic and public debate. As the monograph stages a comprehensive conversation based on research dialogues with prominent participants in the refugee debate (fellow academics, activists, refugee writers and artists, and critical journalists), its very design is intended to reach out and share diachronic and synchronic perspectives on refugeeism that can inspire not only academic and informed general readers but also promote the teaching of refugee studies in years to come.