Over the course of yesterday, I attended talks with a midwife, a theoretical physicist and a poet/comedian – so it seems only fitting that I should round off the evening with a political exploration of the refugee crisis.
At this event, Director of the Jersey International Center for Advanced Studies (JICAS) Sean Dettman interviewed researcher, activist and author Bram Wanrooij about his book ‘Displaced’ on Europe and the refugee crisis.
So rarely do high-stakes conversations of this calibre take place publicly in Jersey and it feels like there is no better time to be having them.
Bram’s book is an academic study of how we experience thousands of displaced peoples at the point that they reach Europe as well as trying to document what is happening on the fringes of this understanding.
His thesis, he explained, was that “the refugee crisis is not a force of nature” and that there are deeply entrenched socio-politico-economic factors which have created the conditions which would set migrant populations on the move.
Speaking in particular about how the economic structure of capitalism has not only created these conditions, but also “paralysed” humanitarian mechanisms like the European Union to adequately respond to the ‘crisis.’
I was fascinated by the conversation that took place on the Arts Centre stage last night as both Bram and Sean discussed the refugee crisis in a fresh and engaging way.
Throughout their conversation, there was a rolling slideshow of images from the ‘front lines’ of the crisis which I can understand were used as visual aids to communicate the urgency of the situation and the dire circumstances many find themselves in before they reach safety.
Having said this, I felt the lack of context of these images risked dehumanising their subjects in a manner which directly contradicted the work Bram was undertaking with his academic research and writing.
Even a line of text on the slides to put them into context would have gone a long way to acknowledging the challenges of how we consume such emotionally-charged images of the crisis in a multi-media era – a theme I’m sure both Bram and Sean would have spoken eloquently on.
Ultimately however this was a thoroughly informative talk which I’m grateful to have attended.
I can only hope that we see more of this kind of discussion in Jersey and a huge thanks to the Festival and Jersey Cares; Refugee Aid Group (JCRAG) for making this event possible.
WORDS: MARTHA MACDONALD