Urizen and the Image of the Refugee: The refugee crisis from an aesthetic perspective

  • Aurélie Duchesne

Abstract

Ever since 2015, Europe has seen the number of asylum seekers increased as a consequence of the situation in the Middle East. The situation, now known as “the refugee crisis”, has had major repercussions on the political and social European landscape. From a legal perspective, the unwillingness of European states to welcome refugees led part of the legal community to talk about the failure of international refugee law. This paper aims to challenge such statement by critically analysing one UNHCR’s artistic project implemented in a refugee camp. By looking specifically at the project “Exile Voices” and the subsequent photo exhibition that took place in Paris in 2015, it argues that that international refugee law has not failed in dealing with the refugee crisis. Rather, the crisis revealed the limits of the international and European legal frameworks subsumed within the concept of the Nation-State. Despite the increasing internationalization of governance through the multiplication of regulatory tools in a growing number of areas, domestic interests still prevail over international legal obligations because of the Nation-States struggle for power. Drawing on the work done by scholars in the fields of legal aesthetic and legal iconology, I will explain how visual arts are being enrolled by international law in order to bypass those limits and in fact, act as a technique of legal authorization.

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