Stories of War and Refuge. Imagining Futures in Afghan Exile Art

Navn på bevillingshaver

Ann-Katrine Schmidt Nielsen


University of Oslo


DKK 700,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


The project analyses how female Afghan artists and activists in European exile employ aesthetic strategies and art to reimagine the future. By taking its departure in the works of female Afghan artists, the project examines how a particularly vulnerable and resilient group employs the creative space provided by art to rethink and reimagine relations of gendered and geopolitical violence, the power structures of public spaces, and the affective sticking of shame, vulnerability, and hope to the female body. I will, thus, be working with a strong group of female visual and performative artists (e.g. Kubra Khademi and Rada Akbar) in order to investigate how their art function as a crucial imaginative space for the rethinking of both personal, regional, and global futures.


Despite the intense preoccupation with Afghan women and girls and their (lack of) access to education, employment, and human rights in Western media publics, there has been limited research into the artistic works and practices of Afghan female artists. The project seeks to remedy this lack while also challenging dominant readings of so-called 'refugee narratives' and diaspora art as mainly preoccupied with traumatic pasts. This is done by unfolding how the loss of expected or projected futures might also work as a creative force that enables a radical rethinking of possible and impossible futures in the artwork. The radical reimagining of alternatives are, of course, particularly pertinent in the wake of the violent events taking place in Afghanistan in the late summer of 2021.


I will work with three types of data. I will, first of all, document and analyse visual and performance art works that engage in reimaginings of the future. Second, I will conduct so-called art elicited conversations where the artists themselves choose one or more of their own works as the focus of the conversation. This method substitutes the researcher controlled qualitative interview and works, ideally, to decolonize the conversation. Lastly, I will sample texts and comments from the artists' social media profiles. These profiles do not only function as private communication channels with friends, families, and followers, but also work as alternative exhibition spaces reaching and updating a globally scattered public.

Tilbage til oversigtssiden