Feats of Survival: Refugee Writing and the Ethics of Representation

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapter


This chapter examines the ethics of reading and interpreting recent refugee texts, arguing that they use a range of discourses to move beyond stereotypes associated with the disenfranchised non citizen and demand new forms of reader engagement. It focuses on the politics of representation when such voices are subject to intervention and mediation by a range of actors such as translators, narrators and editors.
Drawing on Judith Butler’s theories of precarity, and in light of new citizenship practices that argue for more inclusivity and a participatory politics, the chapter evaluates responses to refugee narratives ranging from the critical to the empathetic. It examines Abu Bakr Khaal’s novella, African Titanics (2014 [ 2008]); the ‘retold’ stories of detainees and asylum seekers in Refugee Tales (2016, 2017, 2019) and Behrouz Boochani’s political memoir, No Friend but the Mountains (2018) for their modes of production and narrative strategies such as acts of story telling, textual audiences and readers, co-writers, editorials and authorial comment; it argues that these discourses generate awareness of the systemic inequalities underlining the condition of refugees and asylum seekers, and so create new horizons of reception for works in this genre.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Survival in Contemporary Literature and Culture
EditorsRudolph Freiburg, Gerd Bayer
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Nature Switzerland AG
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-83422-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-83421-0
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2022
EventThe Ethics of Survival - University of Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany
Duration: 11 Aug 201813 Oct 2018
Conference number: 20


ConferenceThe Ethics of Survival


  • ethics and representation
  • non citizen
  • refugee narrative
  • Abu Bakh Khaal
  • Refugee Tales I, Ii, III
  • Behrouz Boochani
  • poetics of representation
  • politics and representation
  • ethics of survival


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