Watching Europe watching its borders. Cultural self-reflection and surveillance in films about migration

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    Abstract

    This contribution departs from the problematization of the current European "migrant crisis" as an increasingly self-referential, exclusive inner-European discourse which transforms humanitarian emergency into matters of "national security", "identity" and economic hegemony. In order to cut through such self-referential closure, cultural practices and counter-narratives have emerged which remind Europe of the actual migrants behind the "crisis", the individuals forming the "refugee wave", the dead bodies behind the statistics. For a specific set of such practices and narratives which explicitly discuss how the crisis is usually "kept out", and which negotiate the very contrast between inside and outside, I suggest the term cultural self-reflection: By reflecting on the cultural frames in which they themselves have emerged, they aim at questioning and perforating these frames from the inside and enabling new perspectives on the outside. As an exemplary case, I discuss the representation of the outer borders of the European Union in a set of contemporary European documentaries and essay films with a particular focus on ways in which practices of border surveillance and their use in news media are reflected and questioned. The discussion of these "Border Films" provides a transposable model and a proof of concept to showcase cultural self-reflection as a crucial area for future Humanities research in the wake of the European migrant crisis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)95-150
    Number of pages56
    JournalPerspectivas de la Comunicación
    Volume11
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 15-Aug-2018

    Keywords

    • European migrant crisis,
    • Self- reflection
    • Documentary film
    • Borders
    • Surveillance

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