Challenging the collective imaginary of migration

Gomis, Elsa (2021) Challenging the collective imaginary of migration. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

Close your eyes for a moment and focus on the image that emerges when you hear the word ‘refugee’. My thesis deals with the collective imaginary attached to contemporary migrations. It aims to explore its foundations in Western visual culture and its impact on migratory policies. The notion of visual culture is considered broadly, to include media photographs, art, and fashion productions, as well as data visualisations ranging from infographics to cartographies. At the core of these images, the semiotic element of the motif is understood as being key in the genealogy of images that explains the success of the narrow range of mainstream photographs encapsulating the refugees. Emanating from Google Images, these images are arranged into typologies. The narrow range of motifs that can be found in these mainstream images is analysed in the light of the resemblance relationship between images and migrants suggested by art historian W.J.T Mitchell. The resonance of these images with the Western economic system and historical background leads to a consideration of the distribution of roles in European societies as a reflection on the distribution of roles in European films. From there, the film industry will serve as a cognitive framework for thinking about border regimes. The focus of this doctoral research is the 2015 so-called ‘crisis’ in the Mediterranean, but its conclusion encompasses more recent events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, whose repercussions impact contemporary depictions of refugees.

The present dissertation is part of a Critical PhD by Practice in Film Studies but also relies on refugee studies, visual studies, and art history. The People Behind the Scenes, a 77-minute film, is an integral part of this research. Both components of this research can be read and watched separately, but they must be considered jointly to appreciate the study to its full extent. This research is conceived as a practice, involving the creative visual productions of myself, as author, and as a constant self-reflection of my personal conditioning, as a white Western woman bearing a family history of migration linked to the French colonial past.

Keywords
Migration – Images – Collective Imaginary – Mediterranean – Critical PhD by Practice – Media

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2022 12:41
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2022 12:41
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/85956
DOI:

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