Imag(in)ing Refugees in Contemporary Black British Fiction

Onderzoeksoutput: Unpublished abstract


Ever since the birth of the novel three centuries ago, novelists have explored economic and socio-political issues in their fiction. It is therefore hardly surprising to find currently hot topics, such as migration, diaspora, global economics and development aid, reflected upon in contemporary fiction. This paper focuses on the refugee issue, and more particularly on how it is presented by Abdulrazak Gurnah and Caryl Phillips in their respective novels By the Sea (2001) and A Distant Shore (2003). Having both dealt with the immigrant experience in previous novels, at the beginning of the millennium Phillips and Gurnah both turn their attention to the precarious situation of the (male) asylum seeker in Britain. It is my intention to examine to what extent their fictional explorations of the predicament of the refugee elaborate on existing postcolonial theorising. Although migration is undoubtedly one of the central themes in postcolonial studies, the romanticisation of the nomad and the exoticisation of the postcolonial situation have lead to a rather deplorable disinterest in the economic and political circumstances of the refugee (see also Huggan (1998), Kaplan (1996), Youngs (2004)). By depicting the refugee as a modern 'immigrant nu' or 'naked immigrant' (Glissant) and by pointing out his/her disclocation and 'inbetweenness' (Bhabha), postcolonial theories have tended towards culturalist approaches that have overlooked the refugee's concrete predicament that is so crucial in both By the Sea and A Distant Shore.


OtherConference Panel on “The Art of Wor(l)d Markets: Development, Diaspora, and Narratives of Africa in Europe” at the 2nd AEGIS conference on “African Alternatives: Initiative and Creativity beyond Current Constraints”


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