Gresham College Lectures

The Visual Politics of Refugeehood - Nishat Awan

February 19, 2024 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
The Visual Politics of Refugeehood - Nishat Awan
Show Notes Transcript

Humanitarian agencies are increasingly relying on satellite imagery and testimonies from social media to understand and communicate why people feel compelled to seek refuge.

This lecture will explore digital humanitarianism and the visual politics of refugeehood. It will discuss how such practices allow us to see the places where violence takes place but often also serve to simplify complex situations. It will focus on undocumented migration from Pakistan towards Europe.

This lecture was recorded by Nishat Awan on 5th February 2024 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

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So I am gonna start with really unpacking the title of the talk and the kind of accompanying image, which I guess all of you will have seen since you are here. Um, both of these, I think, do some work together to illustrate the arguments that I wanna make in this lecture. So first of all, the title, the Visual Politics of Refugee Hood. Um, I think a simple question to ask here is, who is the figure of the refugee? Because somehow the answer is not, you know, it's not a simple definition. Some would sort of think of it as a refugee, as a legal term. So referring to the Geneva Convention of 19 60, 51, sorry. Um, that, you know, is the main sort of legal in the main sort of international instrument of refugee law. It says who a refugee is and what kinds of protections they're entitled to. Um, but I suppose in Collo, and, you know, we know what this is, this is people fleeing war or conflict, or people, um, subject to persecutions of various thoughts, political, religious, et cetera. The Gresham College lecture that you're listening to right now is giving you knowledge and insight from one of the world's leading academic experts, making it takes a lot of time. But because we want to encourage a love of learning, we think it's well worth it. We never make you pay for lectures, although donations are needed. All we ask in return is this, send a link to this lecture to someone you think would benefit. And if you haven't already, click the follow or subscribe button from wherever you are listening right now. Now, let's get back to the lecture. But I suppose in colloquial language, the people we may refer to as a refugee might not be someone who's fleeing war or persecution, but nonetheless, they have been forced to leave their homes. So a really good example in contemporary times is, uh, people who are leaving their, their homes due to the climate crisis, they're not covered under the definition, um, of, of the Geneva Convention. So we can see that even within the kind of legal definition there is, you know, a kind of a bit of room, I suppose. Um, and then if we think a little bit, um, about, I suppose the history of this definition, I think it's important to think about it. 51 was a Geneva Convention, but 1967, there was a protocol that extended the definition of who is a refugee. So the original definition was really designed, um, to, as it says in the quote, you know, to protect mainly European refugees in the aftermath of the world of World War ii. And then there was a kind of expansion. Um, we can see the kind of history of that in, in, in the way the convention works today, for example, a a country like Turkey has a kind of regional limitation to who it considers a refugee. Um, and then I think thinking about sort of contemporary events, if we think, I don't know how many people knew already before, um, the kind of events that are happening in Raza and the genocide of the Palestinian people, that there are, in fact, two refugee agencies operating. There's U-N-H-C-R, which we all have heard of, the High Commission of Refugees, but there's also Anwar, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that was built precisely, um, that was, that's there for Palestinian refugees only. So what does that mean? Why do we have randomly a separate organization for Palestinian refugees? And I think, again, history tells us. So when the Israeli state came into being, um, they lobbied for it for the same organization to not look after Jewish refugees as the ones that were looking after the refugees that were being displaced from Israel. So you can see already that it's a, although enshrined under, um, international law, the definition is political. And I think that's worth thinking as we move through the keeping in mind as we move through the, um, lecture today. And then we turn to this sort of, um, turn the visual politics of refugee hood, the visual politics. What do I mean by that? Well, our compassion for the life of various people, oops, around the world, um, is somehow mediated and shaped, um, if not dictated to a large extent, I would say by media. So, um, whether it's, you know, TVs, state media broadcasts, radio or social media more and more, um, and so there is a kind of certain visual language somehow that, um, that sort of accompanies the reporting of people in need. Um, and we can sort of think about how that sort of plays out. For example, if we think about sort of refugee hood, then, you know, the difference in response within the uk, for example, to Ukrainian refugees as opposed toran refugees. Could be one example around the time that the Ukrainian War started, I was traveling a lot between, um, Rotterdam and the, and London. So I was on the Euro sign. I would sort of come off the Euro sign and see these people holding, you know, um, banners saying, refugees welcome in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. And it was really nice to see. But of course, someone like me who has been working in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or the edges of Afghanistan, especially working with refugees from those places, I was a little bit like, okay, you know, what's happening here? Why aren't people standing here with the colors of other flags? So of course there is a politics at play in all of this and something that we need to think about. Um, and then I suppose this, this, uh, I wanted to come to this image, which was not necessarily an image I wanted to use to be sort of, um, to be used alongside the lecture today. But somehow I was told that, and I think probably rightly so, I was told that this is an image that people sort of associate with refugee hood. And I think that's true, but why did I, why was I uncomfortable with this image? I think the first, the first point to make is a, a question around temporality. Um, so we see makeshift tense. There's this idea that, you know, being a refugee is essentially, uh, a situation of emergency. It's a kind of crisis situation. And crucially it's a temporary situation. But we know, as Chris alluded to in the introduction, that actually this, these become permanent situations. So, um, the largest, one of the largest refugee camps in the world dab in Kenya, um, was established in 1991. So that's 25 years ago. Zuri refugee camp, um, in Jordan for Syrian refugees was, um, set up in 2012. So that's 12 years ago. Um, but I think there's also something about this kind of visual language that shows refugees as dependent, right? Dependent on the U-N-H-C-R, dependent on handouts, dependent on our charity. Um, and so the reality of course, if you speak to people in these situations is that many fend for themselves.'cause a lot of people are internally displaced. They're at the edges in borderlands where these kinds of agencies are not operating. Um, but there are other issues at play as well that sort of speak about this idea of kind of spectatorship and su suffering that I will sort of come back to at the end of the, the lecture. But somehow there is this kind of erosion of, of the agency of a person. And we often see refugees as sort of abject victims. But of course, the reality is that we live in a world of hardening borders, um, where, you know, the militarization of borders all across the world does of course produce violence. It does produce suffering. So, um, this image is, it's, this map is from a, a report called a World World, um, by the Transnational Institute. Um, and it was published in 2020, and it shows the many, many borders that, you know, that are, um, sort of established the world over. And in the report, they say over the last 50 years, 63 border walls have been built worldwide. So kind of beyond, I suppose, the euphoria of the Berlin Wall coming down. And there was all this rhetoric of a borderless world, actually, something else has happened. And what we find, especially as the Berlin Wall came down and the kind of Europe became a borderless area, what happened was that the edges of Europe were sort of pushed outwards. So the borders of Europe were outsourced. That would be the kind of academic term. And so here, um, we can see that, you know, European border can be seen in Niger and Africa where Frontex operates, which is the European border of security agency. It's in Turkey, et cetera. Um, so here, I suppose I just want to, um, stop a minute and try to sort of complicate, um, our understanding of what a refugee life and movement looks like, um, when there are sort of crossing these militarized borders and thinking really with the realities of the journeys that people undertake across what are sort of militarized borders and often very hostile terrains. Um, so this image is from the Pakistan Iran border. It's a place where I've done a lot of work over the last few years, and it's also a place where walls and fences are being built. And one of the things we see, and probably the US Mexico border is the most, well-known example, but it's happening here as well, is that as the borders, um, are militarized, as walls and fences are built, people are funnel being funneled more and more into areas that are more dangerous, that are more remote. Um, and therefore, of course, um, they're suffering more and they're also dying. Um, so at the Pakistan Iran border, for example, knowing how to forte the coming of a dust storm is an absolutely crucial skill for those who are helping people, um, cross the border, as is a kind of very embodied knowledge of the rugged terrain. So the driver of this particular van knows that terrain inside out, right? That's the only reason they can, they can navigate across this land. Um, but I will discuss some of these issues perhaps now through a border that perhaps you would know better than the Pakistan Iran border, which is the sort of southern border of the, of Europe, which is essentially the Mediterranean seeds, of course, in the news all the time. When we think about kind of, um, migration related stories, the, the Mediterranean was named the Solid Sea by a group called Multiplicity, which is a group of architects and artists. And why did they call it the Solid Sea? Because they were sort of talking about the fact that, um, as the Mediterranean comes under a lot of different legal jurisdictions, as its sort of, you know, um, being surveilled, as all of these regimes are coming together, the sea is almost becoming solid. So sort of against the idea of, you know, the metaphor of this sea as being this open space, there was open and fluid space. They were talking about it being solidified through these certain practices that were just making this into a surveilled space. So it's a highly surveilled space. There are cameras, thermal cameras, satellite imagery, radars, drones. They're all looking upon this space. And yet one of the most observed in one of the most observed spaces of the world, somehow boats, sink, people drown, unseen. Um, and there was a case of the left to die boat, uh, which at the time in 2011 was an incredibly shocking case. Now, of course, it's kind of become quite normal, unfortunately, but it was a boat that had been left to drift in the Mediterranean for two weeks. Um, and a group of, again, architects and designers, um, called forensic ocean oceanography, part of the group forensic architecture, mapped this, um, the course of this boat as it drifted. So they worked with, um, oceanographers, they worked with satellite imagery and tried to work out where the boat drifted for two weeks, and then tried to work out who was looking at the boat, right? Who was able to see that boat. And they showed that, you know, um, Frontex, the border agency of the eu, the NATO Maritime Surveillance Group, you know, it drifted into their zone. Um, Maltese search and rescue, all of these people in their zones of influence, the boat had drifted, but no one had helped. And so they sort of proved beyond all reasonable doubt, I would say that there was an active politics of not helping. So the reason why I'm telling you this story is that there is a kind of politics of unseeing around, um, refugees that sort of underpins some of some of the things that we're sort of speaking about, and some of the most highly sort of surveilled places in the world. Somehow a boat drifts for two weeks undetected. But next to that, of course, there's a politics of hyper visibility, because we've all seen the pictures. I don't want to show them of refugees in, you know, in a lot of kind of difficulty, violence, suffering, et cetera. So these two things are happening side by side, and that's something that's sort of worth thinking about. Um, so, um, somehow I've been thinking a lot about this, and for me, I think one of the things that, um, I decided to do was to really think about the kind of, um, the specificities of the journeys people go on, right? Rather than thinking about, um, refugee hood on a kind of numbers sort of issue to really think about the specificity of individual lives. And so I, um, and I talk about these as journeys of undocumented migration, and there's a reason for using that term. It essentially is referring to people who move across borders without the necessary documents or without passports, without visas. And it's a political choice to use this term because it means that you are not getting into a kind of argument about whether something is legal or unle or illegal. And you're also not talking about, um, the circumstances of why people are moving, but really the reality, the kind of the, the practicalities of how people move across, um, across militarized borders. So when you speak to people like that who are on journeys of undocumented migration, one of the things you realize is that movement is never this kind of simple linear journey from A to B, but instead it consists of stops and starts and what are often impenetrable walls. So of course, those walls are like that map I showed you earlier, kind of borders, fences, et cetera. But they're also to do with bureaucratic regimes, you know, administrative regimes that create kind of obstacles along the way. And so the image that you see on the screen is from, um, a conversation I had with a Syrian activist in Turkey quite some time ago now. Um, and he's sort of relating his journey of escape. So you can see that there is no simple line from A to B, there is a lot of kind of circulation and movement. And at the same time, this movement as you, you can hopefully you can see from the image is amongst sort of three countries, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. And this person is moving around trying to make a life, trying to somehow, you know, do the, do the work that he was always doing, which was that of activism around the Syrian revolution. Um, and yeah, so I suppose one of the things that through these conversations, not only with him but with others as well, one of the things that have sort of come to realize is that somehow the racial, and it is a racial production of contemporary borders, is designed to keep people moving. So we think the borders are there to keep people out, right? And this is of course the same part, a very brutal part of the same system, but actually the logic of contemporary borders is circulation. They're designed to keep people moving. So militarized borders, um, deportation regimes and precarious lives come together in a way that they, they essentially create a global underclass of people who are constantly kept moving, who are both wanted and unwanted within what I often call the spaces of northern privilege. And we're in one now, obviously. Um, so the northern, what do I mean by that? I think what I mean is that northern economies function on cheap labor. We know that. So if we think about Britain, you know, if we think about the agricultural industry, if we think about, um, fruit picking, we think about care homes, um, we think about the hospitality industry in general. There's a set of people who work there who are often undocumented and therefore are often exploited. If we think about the edges of Europe, I've done a lot of work in Turkey, and many of the people working in small scale workshops, there are, again, you know, refugees essentially. And again, they're producing goods and goods that are gonna be sold to northern economies, northern spaces. And so what we find in these spaces is that, you know, refugee hood blurs into modern slavery and back again. So there's the circulation also of people across these categories. And I think this notion of the categorization of people is really important. If we go back to the sort of beginning of the lecture where I was speaking about who is or isn't a refugee under the Geneva Convention, what we now find is that the same person, you know, maybe a few years have passed, but essentially the same person is moving across different jurisdictions, different places, and depending on where they are, which ju legal jurisdiction they fall under, um, which organizations purview they fall under. You know, they could be sort of categorized as a refugee, as an asylum seeker, as a migrant, um, as you know, um, as as victim of modern slavery, for example. So it really kind of helps to think about what this kind of, this idea of kind of categorizing people does in terms of the thing we really want to do, which is help people in need. Um, so within the politics of migration and refugee hood and the construction of borders themselves, because crossing borders is what turns into a refugee or a migrant. Um, what we find is that maps are incredibly important, um, documents that sort of mediate how we think about these things, and whether that's maps that produce, of course, the border, but maps also in the way that they sort of represent the movement of people. Um, because borders, of course, you know, they don't exist in the world. They are constructions, are constructions made through kind of bureaucracies through forms of representation. Um, and so I will show you a bit more, but this, these kinds of images are kind of mockups of a digital platform that I've been working on for a long time that's trying to think about the movement of people across the globe through other ways to collaging, et cetera. But, but I'll come back to that. Um, but first I want to sort of talk about the kinds of maps that we see often in sort of media reporting, but also in some academic work around migration. So these are often maps, you'll have seen them with like big arrows, all usually pointing towards Europe or North America, you know, showing apparently the movement of people towards the spaces, um, that we are in. Um, and what we find is that these maps are highly political documents. They're highly selective. They don't show, for example, you know, the movement, the large scale and very complex movement of people within regions within the African continent, for example. Or if we think of the Syrian refugee speaking about, you know, the, the movement that he was doing was within the de limitate area of one specific region. And so, yeah, these are, you know, there, these are documents that have been designed for something. And then if we think about people who are fleeing conflicts, so most of them stay within their region. So Syrians are mostly to be found in Jordan, in Turkey especially. Um, AF France are mostly to be found in Pakistan or Iran. Very few actually make it to the spaces of the global north. So the question then becomes, you know, why not try to sort of map the parts taken by particular people, as I had shown you in that or that map just now, you know, to really show the reality of, of lives in the move rather than a kind of rhetoric. But then also why not map as forensic architecture, forensic oceanography did the kind of surveillance regimes and the risks associated with border crossing, or, you know, why not, you know, map the numbers of people who never made it who've sunk into kind of shallow and watery graves. Um, or why not actually try to show some of the complexity of what it really takes to become a refugee in, in, in our societies, which is itself a highly complex system that you essentially need a PhD to work out what's going on. So that could be mapped, right? Um, so we've been working, as I said, on a mapping platform that shows the, some of this kind of complexity, bringing together interviews, conversations we've had with people over five and a half years who've been moving across difficult borders, you know, bringing together these interviews with images. So this is the backend of the, my, the platform that you wouldn't normally see. And it's the kind of repository of text and images that when navigated through, produces what I would say are culturally and socially situated accounts and understandings of the movement of people across the planet. Um, and so it produces these kinds of images. This is just a still from the, um, from the platform, and you can navigate, and it comes with a story that you've made through picking, um, fragments of texts and images through the, through the database. Um, it's still in a bit of a beta version, but if anybody's interested in trying, that's the address, otherwise dot topological Um, so it's sort of trying to show that there is no one journey, but lots of different kind of ways of navigating across a particular space. By the way, it doesn't work on mobiles before you get your mobiles out, <laugh>, you'll have to wait till you're home. Um, so I've really been thinking, I suppose not only about the spaces that people pass through, so this kind of spatial understanding through mapping, but also the temporality of migration and refugee hood, which I think is incredibly important to also aspects. So I've been working with this notion of the persistent present, which is this idea that, you know, people in these situations are somehow stuck in between, you're stuck in a very particular temporality where making the kinds of, you know, um, the kinds of plans we take for granted what you're gonna do in a week, in a month, in five years is absolutely, is really difficult, if not impossible for people to make, because time becomes a mechanism of control within the border regime, within the circulations of borders, because the price exacted for moving across borders without papers is time. So people wait to earn enough money, they await decisions of the asylum applications, or they simply wait for an opportune moment to go further, and you're always kind of waiting and trying to see what to do next. And so this temporality of waiting becomes really a key aspect, a key quality of life caught within the violence of borders. Um, so the image that you see on the screen is, um, of an Afghan refugee I met in Ukraine and Odessa, so before the war. Um, and, you know, she's growing very hesitantly her journey, and at some point she sort of stops and says, shall I write? And I was like, yes, if you want. And she writes that number in the corner, 25,000, and that's the amount she paid in dollars to get to Europe to an agent. And I met her in Odessa where she was left and told that she was in Europe. So you get, you know, and that now she, she was there for a year when I, when I spoke with her. So you can see that people are stuck in these kinds of spaces, um, in very difficult circumstances. But then the other thing that I've been thinking about a lot is, you know, that when we are thinking about the journeys of migration of refugee hood, where we start thinking about these, um, these journeys, these lives really, really matters. So starting not when people arrive at the shores of Europe or in the spaces of northern privilege, but perhaps starting where people actually start their journey. So this image is, um, from a place called Marike. It's in Pakistan in the, in the province of Punjab. Um, and it's just north of the Pakistani city of Lahore. So Lahore is kind of expanding northwards. It's because it's kind of, um, sort of curtailed by, um, the Indian border on one side and the river Ravi kind of going on the other. So the, the city can only expand northwards, and it's sort of engulfing these agricultural areas. Um, these are areas that rely, um, they're very well known for the kind of basmati rice, rice they produce. Um, but as you can see that through the kind of rapid sort of urbanization and industrialization, there's a kind of toxicity in the soil and the air. But also this is a place that's subject to, of course, the climate crisis. And here, it, it has meant that the monsoon patterns are shifting. So the monsoon is drifting northwards, um, which means crop yields are going down. And so as all of this is happening, as as people lose their land, as they lose their livelihoods, they begin of course to feel dis displaced when everything around you changes and you cannot recognize it anymore. There's no, you know, means of having a livelihood, then you already feel displaced. And this kind of feeling of displacement then leads to the kind of large scale movement of people that we're kind of talking about today around refugee hood. And so for me, it was really important to think with these spaces as well as I was trying to understand what refugee hood is or what it means today. Um, and then of course, we might think about the places that people pass through along these journeys so far before they come anywhere near Europe or North America. So this is, um, a bus station on the outskirts of the Pakistani mega city of Karachi. So now we're at the south of the country, um, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, and it's a bus station where I've spent a lot of time. I've hung out there a lot, drinking chai, talking to people. Um, and what you sort of understand when you spend time here is that this is a space where kind of the, the smuggling of goods overlaps with the clandestine movement of people. And it's a place where, um, you know, whole community is somehow coalescing around these, um, smuggling practices that supports both an economy and a way of life. So if you think back that, um, if you think back to that map of the bordered world, the Pakistan Iran border, which is the one where goods are coming, coming across in this area, um, that is one of the ones that's being fenced and militarized, and that is a border that's cutting across border pop population is the below population. Um, the Belo community have lived across this border for centuries. It's a colonial border. Um, and so on the one hand, of course, it's disrupting the lives of people who live in the border area, but at the same time, the the kind of effects I hear too, of the hardening of the border, because both goods and people kind of move freely. So the effects are much, much more complex and longer than we, we maybe, um, realize. And so to pay attention to these communities that coalesce around the border, understood in all of its complexity, actually doesn't produce perfect victims for, um, humanitarian redress. That's not what you get when you look at these kinds of situations. What you get instead is an understanding of the various forms of precarious labor that really, um, service everyday aspects of contemporary borders. So like the young boy who will, you know in the picture who will make you try as you wait, or the petty official who will, you know, check IDs at random <laugh>, or the smuggler who will help you cross the checkpoint somewhere near the Pakistan run border. These are all incredibly important actors in the functioning of borders and in the kinds of displacement they enact. But these are not actors that we usually think about or hear about when we, we are talking about refugee hood and migration. Um, so what I want to do now is just stop for a minute and show you a film that kind of deals with a lot of these issues. It's sort of nine, 10 minutes long, maybe a bit shorter, and then I'll come back and wrap up the, um, lecture. What does it mean to spend your life attempting to be somewhere or someplace else? Should life's court in movement only ever be understood as being pushed or pulled? What if the thing that pushes you away also pulls you in? What if you know what is to before you, but you go anyway? We know that borders are technologies of power. We also know that they're designed to keep people moving, circulating, fleeing unsettlement as strategy of power. If borders are designed to unsettle, they're equally designed to identify and to locate. To live in borders is to be unsettled, to be elsewhere, but not anywhere. To live in borders is to be always contingent on this or that, on anything at all. To live in borders is to be yourself and to be someone else. A subpar is a mirage, a promise that is also a delusion. It a mua K can foretell the coming of a dust storm. They can show you a flickering light to follow. They will hide you, but they can also trap you. What risks are you willing to take? How much time do you have to give? How much money do you have? A dunker will weigh up your chances and your resources. They will know what price there is to be paid. All journeys must require a map, a way to navigate across unknown lands and hostile grounds. Those seafarers of old conquered our lands with just the horizon and the stars as guides. Our phones pinging to the satellites overhead. Look at us as much as they reveal us. But how do you navigate without a datum when the stars have misaligned? And there is no horizon to act as guide. How do you find your way? How do you navigate through a mirage? You have to anchor yourself in the shifting sand of a subpar if only for a little while. Everyone needs some respite. They were supposed to be on . Is there a difference between one kind of visit and another who gets to have a visit visa? And who must dream of a subpar? The undocumented can become documented, able to sail the seas on cargo ships that traverse fluidly across our world. But the ground, the ground is another matter altogether. The ground it turns out is contingent. You might come a ground, but you cannot stand on the ground. Those whose labor transports goods across the shifting seas must stay there. There where jurisdictions overlap and waters are international between nations where no claim can be made and no rights are to be had. While borders at sea are elusive, in contested lands, they proliferate and congeal in geographies. Further from the edges of Europe, the smooth flow of logistics inevitably meets the latent desires of a people to decide their own fate and that of their lands. To graze livestock, to attend the grave of a loved one, to simply walk across what were once open lands to visit becomes unthinkable. Why does one type of oil flow so smoothly while another becomes viscous? It's flow heavy stuck congealed, perhaps it depends on what it lubricates to live according to another's time. Factory time can become a somatic fact when the seasonal rhythms of village life are disrupted and the lunar calendar is half replaced by another measure altogether. So how do you locate yourself in between measures? In between the Ravi and the Chana where no water flows? Ravi's waters are close to us. There is no water there. We have been given water through am link from Marla head water is picked up and released into the canals, into AM link, and BRB there are sub-branches. The rhythms of village life are also imposed, ruled by colonial canals and property lines by cast iron and water treaties and capricious snow melts. But who has the privilege to be bored to long for another rhythm to ask what lies beyond Sound? So, hmm, pardon? Yeah. I suppose the stories that we've had the, um, privilege to hear are many things, the hopes, their cherish dreams. Um, there are about huge difficulties. There are also stories of violence. Um, the violence from mil, right borders, extractive regimes. And they all somehow come together on the intimate topology of migrant bodies. And so in working with film as a medium, one of the things that's been really important to me is to try to sort of account for the violence that people face on a structural level, um, without resorting to images of violence on individual people. I think that's incredibly important. And it's also an ethical question to not show people as abject victims, but somehow, you know, showing the truth of the difficulties this face, but also showing some of the agency that they have within that system where they make decisions, sometimes the wrong decisions and, you know, are able to kind of still somehow produce a life. Um, so what the film is really trying to do, as I said, is complicate who this figure of the refugee is, is trying to open up our understandings of what the spaces of migration of refugee hood look like. Not just the usual ones that we see, um, beyond European urban centers, beyond the edges of Europe. Um, and to an extent it's also some, somehow trying to show some of the realities of lives caught in borders. So the kind of dreams and delusions that being caught within the circulation of borders produces people lose track of time even though they are kind of okay. They don't call back home even though they know their families are waiting and they want to hear. There's something about wanting to always get there to get to that place where you feel okay, where you feel settled, where you can then call home. But of course we know that this never happens. And so it's a kind of ongoing situation. Again, it's that kind of feeling of persistent present that I was sort of speaking about earlier. And then I suppose it's the film is also trying to do some work against this kind of visual politics of humanitarianism that I was speaking about right at the beginning of this la lecture. So I suppose an important point to note here is that, um, you know, while within the kind of visual politics of humanitarianism and refugee who the, the migrant is produced as an abject victim, that kind of visual politics also does something to us. It produces us as a certain kind of spectator. Um, and, uh, the academic Lily Raki has written quite nicely on this. She sort of calls us, it says that it produces us as ironic spectators. What she means by that is that we become a sort of spectator that is always questioning, right? Um, a kind of self-conscious suspicion of everything that has shown us a kind of detached knowingness from things. Um, and really what the film Christ to do is to break that relation, to pull you the viewer into the complexity of sort of migrant lives and, and that of borders. Um, and so, you know, to, to tell you a story of a global community of this unsettled who may or may not, you know, fit within the kind of given definitions of refugee. Thank you. You have two questions that have come in from the outside that I thought I would pose to you together, which are actually very much coming out of what you've just spoken to us about. Mm-Hmm.<affirmative>. Um, the first is, as maps are political, how do we influence or reclaim maps with more stories about movements told by the refugees themselves first? And the second one is, are people migrating more because of economic political instability or climate change? And I'm gonna then take the next ones from you And maybe I'll take the last question first. Um, I think one of the things that you find out is that these things are kind of entwined in lives That, that, at least in the kind of places that I've been working and where the kind of climate crisis is compounded by certain kind of political decisions that have been made by certain decisions on urban planning, on, you know, large scale infrastructure. So yes, there is a climate crisis that's happening, but it's being compounded by certain forms of development that bring in, you know, political and kind of economic ideas. So it's very difficult, I think to, to disentangle this. And actually many people have sort of questioned this term climate refugee precisely because of that.'cause it's very difficult to pinpoint that this is the reason why someone is moving it is the climate. Even though, you know, with common sense we know, but if you wanted evidence, it's very hard to to make that case. And so I think that's why we need those kinds of individual stories because you would try to understand how people's lives are entangled across these different kind of issues. Um, then as far as sort of maps are concerned, yes, absolutely. Maps are political documents and so we have to bring our own politics to them. Part of what we've been trying to do with that, um, mapping platform is to sort of try to understand that the digital as a kind of means of making maps is absolutely, you know, you can't escape it now. So how do you not produce kind of maps that go with the logic of certain kinds of digital technologies that produce spaces bordered? And so it means, you know, putting the experience of the refugee or the migrant first and then growing the space. Normally you start with spatial relations and you add experience to it. We are doing it the other way around. That makes sense. Lovely. Thank you <laugh>. Um, I'm curious about your point about borders being designed to keep people moving. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative>, um, specifically when it comes to patterns of circular migration engendered by like geographical convenience and ease. I think, uh, the example in my mind right now is the southern border of the us which acts as like a case study of what circular migration looks like. Undisrupted, pre like politicization of that border. Um, obviously the introduction of a militarized southern border has disrupted like natural flows of circular migration that have existed before the American state. Do you think that idea still holds that 'cause it's a very quintessential like militarized border. Do you think the idea of borders being there to keep people moving still ho holds with the case of circular migration, specifically with the, um, American South southern border? Mm, thank You. Good question. Um, well there was a reason why I said contemporary borders because I think, yeah, absolutely. So the Pakistan Iran border that I'm speaking of is a very similar case where people move across and there is this kind of circular migration that's to do with trade flows and that yeah, it's happening across the border, but before that border was kind of militarized and harder that that was happening and it worked really nicely. But the kind of circulation that I'm speaking of happens once the borders have been militarized and that kind of natural movement that was happening to do with families and economies breaks down. And then you still need the labor, right? You still need some of that, those economies to function. And so another logic comes in and then people are kind of forced to move through what are very exploitative conditions, whereas before they had agency and they could do, uh, they could move according to their own kind of yeah. Desires, I suppose. So does that answer your question or? Yes, a good answer. Thank you, <laugh>. Okay. My question is about, um, what you, um, described as a production of, uh, perfect, or I call it non-production of perfect victims, uh, along the spaces that you, um, where you spend a lot of time for your research. Um, how, um, and I see it through this lens of like ideal refugee where nobody's, nobody, there is no ideal refugee and still there is, uh, um, definition of refugee mm-hmm, <affirmative> and you started with this. And um, so how this, um, places where no perfect victims are produced affect, um, categorization of refugees. And do you see this Possibility Of like, disrupting this and what are options for disrupt disruption? Does this make sense? Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think it, it goes to the reason why within this kind of last project that I did, which is kind of five years looking at movement from, you know, Pakistan around Afghanistan, Europe. And there was a reason why I focused in on the Pakistani migrant subject because this is a subject that will almost never get refugee hood right? Because, um, there are people who are understood as economic migrants for better or worse. Um, and so part of the reason for doing this work was to kind of break that categorization. So I started with the refugee definition precisely to show that this definition does not work in any of these cases. And I think the point that I made that, you know, as people move, it's not a point that I've only made, lots of people have made it. As people move across jurisdictions, they get categorized differently. Um, so I think, you know, questioning, so starting with those very kind of peripheral subjectivities and showing that they require forms of, um, you know, redress et cetera, um, I think helps to break down this logic of categorization, which is really unhelpful. We have a another set, um, from the outside, um, I'm gonna ask you about all three of them. One is about the Rwanda plan. Yes. Um, what will this do to undocumented people in the uk? The second is, um, what are the key human rights issues that you have seen faced by the Syrian refugees in Turkey? And then the sort of overview question, would it be helpful or harmful to have an international governing body overseeing all migration? Well, this sort of is, I mean there are refugee agencies. There's the IOM, which is the International Organization for Migration. So that is supposed to look after all those people who don't fall under the, the definition of refugee taken as the Geneva Convention Rep, um, um, definition. Um, so it also includes internally displaced people. So we have the IOM, but um, this is maybe a slightly controversial thing to say, but something that I think that the IOM is much more concerned with keeping people in the places they are. So they're the people who run the voluntary return program, if you've heard of that. U-N-H-C-R does it too, where they're kind of the whole logic of the international organization for migration is to make sure people don't actually migrate. So yeah, a more kind of honest broker could, could be helpful, I guess. Um, but, you know, um, but I don't know who that broker would be. It's difficult to imagine right now who that would be in the world we live in. Um, there was a Rwanda question, but what was before that one? The middle A about, um, Syrian refugees in Turkey issues they face. Well, Turkey, as I mentioned, operates this kind of regional limitation when it comes to who it considers to be a refugee or who it'll help I suppose.'cause it signed the Geneva Convention early on and then didn't take the 67 Protocol. Um, so in Turkey, no refugee actually can be given refugee hood within Turkey. So it's sort of the U-N-H-C-R looks after the whole kind of question of how refugees are kind of, you know, get asylum and then they're sent to other countries if they do get asylum.'cause Turkey doesn't keep refugees, but the Syrians have a special status within, um, within Turkey. So they have slightly more rights than other people who are applying for refugee hood in Turkey. Um, that's not to say that Syrians have a wonderful life. I mean there is a huge amount of homelessness of Syrian refugees in Turkey. There's a lot of xenophobia against them now, um, especially in the last few years as the Turkish economy has, um, struggled. So has of course, you know, xenophobia against outsiders is the usual story. So, um, healthcare tends to be the major issue for people, um, in Turkey, and that's Syrians as well, but especially those who are not Syrians, because Syrians have a special case, so they're entitled to a bit more than other people in who are seeking asylum. So healthcare is a major, major, major issue in Turkey. And often you find, at least in the people that I've been talking to who usually tend to be Muslims because of the countries they're moving from, um, that mosques and other kind of religious organizations are really that providing those services that the state is not providing, um, Rwanda plan. Um, I mean it's as brutal as it sounds, I think it will make life very difficult because a lot of people who are trying to make their way to u the UK are coming here because they have family, they have friends, they have networks. So to take some d out of all of that and put them somewhere far away where they have no networks of support is an incredibly cruel thing to do. Um, and hopefully it won't work.<laugh>, Thank you so much for this lecture. Um, I'm actually studying at the Bartlett in UCL and I find there are like many institutions, the architectural aesthetic of the refugee or migrant is very one dimensional and often serves a purpose. And my question is, how do you negotiate empowering migrants and people that you're working with, with counter epistemologies and an overarching understanding of the systems that hold them hostage with the urgent needs and realities at the present moment? That's a difficult question. If I knew how to do that, I'd do it <laugh>, but I, no, it's a really, really good question. And it's hard because architecture, as you say, especially in a place like the Barlett is very kind of trad, right? It's very traditional in the way it thinks about architecture. Another version of this lecture starts with what all of this, How all of this should make us think about architecture differently. Architecture as you know, the very kind of basis of the Western understanding of architecture is around settlement, right? The primitive heart and all that nonsense we get told in ba and actually to restart, to start to rethink architecture through unsettlement is a long term project that I think we all need to engage in as our architects. You know, how do we begin to think of architecture, spatial relations through unsettlement because that's really the condition of the vast majority of people in the world today. So it means, yeah, absolutely what you said, questioning all the bases, um, everything that we've learned really in architecture school.<laugh>, Final thought from you, Nisha. Nothing, just thank you very much for coming and listening.