On 20 February, UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies hosted renowned novelist and critic Prof. Abdulrazak Gurnah to explore the roles of narration and storytelling in the context of migration and displacement (a key theme for our Refugee Hosts project).
Abdulrazak Gurnah’s novels – including Memories of Departure (1987), Pilgrims Way (1988), Dottie (1990), Paradise (1994), Admiring Silence (1996), By the Sea (2001), Desertion (2005) and The Last Gift (2011) and his forthcoming novel, Gravel Heart (2017) – chronicle the multiple forms of exclusion and inclusion, dispossession and emplacement, that characterise the movement of people today and in the past. Grounded in a postcolonial critique, and attentive to diverse processes of Othering across time and space, Abdulrazak Gurnah’s writing is acutely pertinent to questions we face today around refuge and asylum, and the hospitality/hostility that refugees and migrants encounter throughout their journeys.
Jointly convened by UCL’s Refuge in a Moving World research network (coordinated by Refugee Hosts’ PI, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh) and the UCL African Studies network, the event explored diverse ways of writing about experiences of displacement, including discussions of the significance of age and ageing; memories and processes of remembering; and of loss and belonging throughout different processes of migration. Throughout, Prof. Gurnah read extracts from his writings, including extracts of By the Sea – whose narrator, Saleh Omar, is an elderly asylum-seeker living in a British coastal town – and his contribution to The Refugee Tales, entitled ‘The Arriver’s Tale’.
You can listen to the talk – and the readings – here.