Who is telling the story? ‘Refugee’ Narratives: voice, image, words

The voices and stories of refugees are often unheard and unseen. When they are, they are, at best, often mediated by others who listen and observe from a distance. Often, refugees remain neither seen nor heard at all.

Despite the evidence that images and individual stories can deliver powerful positive interventions into debates that seek to demonise those seeking asylum, they can also reinforce binary stereotypes of either the ‘good’, deserving refugee, or the threatening, risky ‘other’. Both constructions essentialise human identity and undermine a person’s agency and personhood. What happens when refugees are not regarded as people deserving of human rights, and are perceived even as threats? And, we must ask, who controls the narrative?

These tensions reveal an ethical challenge at the heart of refugee experience, of research and of advocacy relating to the rights of those seeking refugee protection: who gets to tell these stories, and on what and whose terms?

In this webinar we invite refugees; academics; advocates; policymakers; civil society and those concerned about humanitarianism, to reflect on these concerns, including how narratives can remain a meant of resistance, and an intervention in negative perceptions of refugees.

This webinar is by invitation and is on zoom.


Arash Kamali Sarvestani is an Iranian Dutch Filmmaker based in The Netherlands.

Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish writer and scholar, is a Senior Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Canterbury; Associate Professor, University of NSW; Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne.

Jordana Silverstein is a Senior Research Fellow in the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness in the Melbourne Law School.

Anna Szorenyi (Gender Studies, University of Adelaide) researches cultural representations of refugees and human trafficking, through a relational ethics of vulnerability.

Event Details

Date: 10 August 2021

Time: 5pm - 6.45pm AEST (9am - 10.45am CEST)

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View a Recording of the Event on YouTube