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(Im)Mobilities in a postmigrant age: Narratives of forced migration in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone and Elfriede Jelinek’s Charges (The Supplicants)

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Postmigrant conditions do not translate into easy access for migrants who arrive outside of the parameters of orderly migration. While European nations acknowledge the principle of asylum, massive efforts are made to prevent refugees from reaching the territory of the state where they could receive its protection. Even as their physical proximity to Europe increases, their legal proximity typically decreases. The novel Gehen, ging, gegangen (Go, Went, Gone) by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck depicts the experiences of non-privileged migrants whose tales of exile and displacement indicate that most of them will not be recognized as refugees. The play Die Schutzbefohlenen (Charges [The Supplicants]) by Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek contrasts the treatment of asylum seekers with real-life cases of two ‘VIP foreigners’ who were granted naturalization by the Austrian government. Both texts convey a blunt message: The narratives of those who do (and those who do not) arrive in Europe’s ‘postmigrant societies’ without legal status confirm that the gap between privileged and non-privileged migration is almost impossible to bridge.
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Keywords: Erpenbeck; Jelinek; forced migrants; illegality; immobilities; postmigrant age

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000122889830University of British Columbia

Publication date: October 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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