Migratory Angels: The Political Aesthetics of Border Trauma

  • Johan SchimanskiEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


Post-traumatic conditions are the result of wounds crossing bodily or psychic borders. At the same time, crossing territorial borders can cause traumas. How do migration narratives figure the traumatic effects of border-crossings? To answer this question, I apply a border aesthetics approach, arguing that the borderings of what may be sensed (cf. Jacques Rancière’s concept of the partage de sensible, the “distribution of the sensible”) in the borderscapes of migration narratives are often regulated by the epistemological borderings that take place in the fixations, substitutions and blind spots of trauma. I suggest that migration literature can combine different styles of presentation—for example, images and narrative—in order to create new forms of political aesthetics and counteract the desensitizing logic of media spectacle.


Migration Borders Trauma Aesthetics 



I would like to thank audiences and interlocutors for their highly useful comments at presentations of various versions of this material—at the “Traumatized Borders” kick-off seminar in Joensuu, the master’s and doctoral student seminar Wolfgang Müller-Funk and Anna Babka arranged in Vienna, the “Border Images, Border Narratives” symposium in Joensuu, and the “Borderscapes, Memory and Migration” workshop in Copenhagen. Thanks also to Mats Henricsson for confirming my understanding of Swedish phrases. My research was carried out as part of the NOS-HS workshop series “Borderscapes, Memory and Migration”, and is a product of work within the EUBORDERSCAPES project (FP7-SSH-2011-1-Area 4.2.1-290775).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OsloOsloNorway

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