Christian Vium, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Camera as Cultural Critique Research Group, Århus University

Departures without Arrivals. Documenting undocumented migration from West Africa to Europe

In my on-going research into undocumented migration from West Africa to Europe (Vium 2007, 2009, 2014, forthcoming) I have been particularly interested in how to comprehend and communicate what happens subjectively to the individual migrant when he/she undertakes the long and perilous journey through the Sahara desert, across the open sea and when navigating in the shadows of the European continent. The quintessential notion of (social) becoming, may, I believe be approached from its negative – that of unbecoming, or becoming undone. Over the course of their Dantesque crossing into Europe, many of the migrants among whom I have worked essentially must become nobody, in order to become somebody. As I have argued elsewhere, this transgressive process of ‘becoming through unbecoming’ unfolds, I believe, through a succession of departures – transgressions of geographical cum politico-moral thresholds, often nested in migratory ‘intersections’, that progressively transform the migrant as he/she literally and figuratively ventures further into the unknown.

Working extensively with audio-visual technologies and modes of representation (in particular photography, film and exhibition-making) in my research, I grapple with how to “frame” transgression. To convey the fundamental notion of disorientation, uncertainty and indeed precariousness of indefinitely prolonged liminality, I believe emotional registers identified by and enacted through extra-textual technologies and media (audio-visual and three-dimensional installations) afford insights that can facilitate new insights that transgress the written and oral.

All seminars in the series.