CfP: Entangled Histories of Art and Migration. Theories, Sites and Research Methods

Mareike Schwarz's picture
Call for Papers
December 8, 2020 to January 15, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Borderlands, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Research and Methodology, World History / Studies


Entangled Histories of Art and Migration. Theories, Sites and Research Methods

ed. by Cathrine Bublatzky, Burcu Dogramaci, Kerstin Pinther, Mona Schieren


Call for Papers


0. Introduction

 The DFG network “Entangled Histories of Art and Migration: Forms, Visibilities, Agents” invites contributions for its upcoming publication, dedicated to the interwoven histories of migration, art and globalisation as a significant phenomenon of social and political transformation in the 20th and 21st centuries. From a decisively art and cultural studies-centred perspective, the book explores the complex entanglements of art and aesthetic practices with migration, flight and other forms of enforced dislocation and border/border crossings. We are interested in scholarly as well as artistic proposals that tackle the meaning of global migration for both art-making and theory production. It is our aim to contribute to the interdisciplinary field of research on the migratory turn in the arts with a publication that is shaped by multiple and diverse forms of knowledge production. The book envisages to give voice to current debates on racism and decolonisation, as well as epistemologies of the South. Against this backdrop and in close relation to theoretical approaches and case studies, the argumentative thrust of the book unfolds over five key concepts and sections: 1) Resistance/Racism, 2) Visibilities/Invisibilities, 3) Sites/Spaces, 4) Materialization/Manifestation and 5) Practices/Performativity. These five sections are connected by way of a common line of inquiry (“cross-cutting topics”) which considers agency and self-empowerment, gender and queerness, the importance of new digital and social media, and the role of religion. “Entangled Histories of Art and Migration” aims at sustainably anchoring research on migration within the field of global art history by introducing fresh categories and methodologies.



1. Resistance | Racism

By sharpening the theoretical framework located at the intersections of Critical Race Theory and Decolonizing Migration and Postmigration Studies, this section aims at fostering migration research in the study of art, visual culture, design, museums and curating from a contemporary anti-racist perspective. It compiles contributions that bring together counter-histories of activist resistance ranging from the Civil Rights and the Black Panther movements to present-day activist movements such as Black Lives Matter, “Kanak Attack”, and “Tribunal ‘Unraveling the NSU complex’” (Tribunal ‘NSU-Komplex-auflösen’). The section focuses on critical visual and art historical analyses, examining the historical and contemporary processes of racialization/ethnification/othering of migration within the spheres of art/culture, museums and nationalism(s) since Modernity. The section also invites to take a closer look at the colonial art histories of the “ambivalent entanglements of racism, sexism and feminism” (Hark/Villa 2020), and at the visual formation of anti-Semitisms and anti-Muslim racisms which have become major narratives and popular formats within the visual politics of white supremacy and toxic masculinity in and beyond Europe (Dietze 2019).

Recent theoretical, activist and political developments also show that the museum as an exhibition, research and educational institution, founded in Europe and burdened with colonial history, has come under pressure. It has above all been accused of white supremacy and racism in the context of current decolonization and provenance debates. The resultant exhibition- and museum-theoretical discourse on anti-racist practices of curating, non-discriminatory exhibition projects, post-colonial and post-migratory museologies as well as the vision of a post-representational, radical democratic museum (Sternfeld 2018) will come to the forefront in this section.



2. Visibilities | Invisibilities

Visibility and invisibility have ambivalent meanings in the context of migration. Both can have protective as well as endangering functions on multiple different levels and act as instruments of control and power (Schaffer 2008). The contributions in this section evolve these complex politics of visibility and invisibility of migration and immigration in contemporary artistic production.

The articles will provide approaches to the main question of what role potential im/perceptibilities of migration play in the construction and interpretation of migratory realities and their recognition. How may visual practices add counter-narratives to mainstream media representations of migration? In which way can artistic or documentary engagements with migration and migrants enable new global forms of (in)visibility?

Visibility/invisibility are intrinsically interwoven with the exploration of initiatives of undocumented and refugee migrants. Many of these initiatives involve artistic groups as well as individual migrant artists and employ practices such as comics, drawing or installation to represent personal experiences of migration, forced displacement and trauma. In this regard, this section thematizes relevant concepts, such as new forms of agency, (il)legalization, politics of representation of migratory realities or self-reflective media strategies (Karentzos 2013; Rass and Ulz 2017).



3. Sites | Spaces

This section explores entangled histories of art and migration from a spatial perspective and more precisely from the point of view of an architectural production of space. It explicitly links the project’s research focus on exile, migration and flight to resulting new spaces and architectural aesthetics (Dogramaci/Pinther 2019). In addition, it takes up current, virulent debates at play in the field of architectural and design practitioners and theorists who criticize the lack of heterogeneity and inclusiveness within their profession (Caples/Everardo 2005). This goes hand in hand with the failure to recognize plural ways of knowing (alternative epistemologies) and being (alternative ontologies), and consequently with the establishment and maintenance of predominantly Western canons. Thus, this section strives to investigate the overlapping of architectural and spatial concepts caused by migration processes and the translations and transfers of aesthetic concepts linked to them: issues such as the creative and architectural production or negotiation of 'home' or the role religion plays within migratory building aesthetics (Becker et al 2013) take centre stage. This includes close readings of architectural approaches that take up or reflect hybridity in their design (including, for example, museums), as well as of (collaborative) artistic projects that reveal activist strategies (as they are carried out in public spaces, for instance). In addition, contributions will explicitly pay attention to topics and processes that offer extensions to omnipresent topographic narratives of migration (for example of intra-continental migration in Africa or Southeast Asia) in mass media or popular culture.



4. Materialization | Manifestation

This section takes up the question of the object after the ‘material turn’ by way of interdisciplinary contributions that illuminate creativity and artistic production in global and contemporary contexts of migration. Locating “objects as evidence of other complex social relationships” (Herman 1992) within the fraught histories of (neo-)colonialism, imperialism, nation-building, tourism and migration, it is this section’s aim to reflect on objects’ agentive potential.

To do so, we elect three points of departure: Firstly, we want to focus on the materiality of migration as expressed in various forms and formats of the visual arts. Contributors are invited to debate notions of the (in)visibility of objects of migration as a materialization of memory and as implicated in the politics of memory. A second focal point of this section is the negotiation of such objects’ presentation in museums, archives, art exhibitions or off-spaces. Current practices of exhibiting, collecting, archiving and digitization raise questions about how to critically and consciously handle, preserve and display material cultures of migration in museum spaces. Exploring images of migration is often linked to digital media, which constitutes the third emphasis of this section: we want to discuss contrasts between the materiality of things and the immateriality of their (digital) representation on the one hand, and raise questions pertaining to the participative agency of material resources on the other hand. Linked to this, it is of great importance to not overlook the challenges of disposability when dealing with physical/material equipment in the context of materiality vs. immateriality: relations of dependency and hierarchy bring to the surface criteria such as significance, impact and canonicity.



5. Practices | Performativity

Practices/Performativity foregrounds the relationship between the scholar and the artist. This section focuses on art historical and artistic practises as they dynamically correlate and build on one another. “To perform,” then, is understood as the artistic and scholarly production of meaning. A performative approach to a subject of investigation over and above the sense of sight is an example of “counter-hegemonic knowledges” (Santos 2018) that concern the “micropolitics of the body” (Rolnik 2018). Shifts in perspective can affect the activation of bodily knowledge/experience based on other epistemological regulations and “spaces of meaning” (Smith 2012) in order to strengthen the connection between diverse forms of knowledge (“scientific and artisanal knowledge,” Santos 2018). Paying attention to a plurality of methods, voices and perspectives, different approaches can be explored on eye-level. The assumption of "situated knowledge" (Haraway 1988) or "migrant situated knowledge" (Güleç 2018) brings alternative epistemologies significant for both artistic and textual work into view.

Writing about “migration” is permanently accompanied by a productive tension, as every text about migrant art or artists contributes to their “modification” and othering. The ambiguous relationship of “Practices/Performativity” can soften the borders between oneself and the other, between the observer and the observed. We therefore orient ourselves via a “poétique de la relation” (Glissant 2005): an alternative working model which conceives writing and artistic practice, subject and object, on equal footing and negates the assumption of identity as “fixed essence” (Hall 2018).


Submission of Proposals

Please submit your proposal of no more than 300 words (clearly specifying the section you want to apply for), accompanied by a short curriculum vitae (up to 100 words) both included in one PDF. Selected papers in English: 28,000 characters (until 15/05/2021). Deadline for proposals: 15/01/2021.

Please submit your proposals to



Book committee: Buket Altinoba, Burcu Dogramaci, Alexandra Karentzos, Elke Gaugele, Alma-Elisa Kittner, Franziska Koch, Kerstin Meincke, Birgit Mersmann, Kerstin Pinther, Mona Schieren

on behalf of the Network “Entangled Histories of Art and Migration: Forms, Visibilities, Agents” funded by the German Research Society (DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft):


Contact Info: 

Please submit your proposals to Cathrine Bublatzky (University of Heidelberg).