SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Feeling right, or not, in exile: Aesthetics, displaced objects and Karenni refugees in northwest Thailand.

Dr Sandra Dudley (University of Leicester)

Date: 18 March 2009Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 18 March 2009Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B104

Type of Event: Seminar

Drawing on my work with the highly heterogeneous population of Karenni refugees from Burma living in camps on the Thai border, this illustrated paper focuses on sensory experience of the material world in exile. I explore the ways in which Karenni refugees perceive, use and manipulate material artefacts in order to maintain a sense of continuity between the displaced present and the pre-migration past. The continual cognitive and imaginative movements Karenni refuges make between past and present, are focused on artefacts such as ritual and domestic objects, dress and food. These sensory and temporal mediations work hard to make the displaced present more bearable and to create a feeling of ‘home’. Yet there is a paradox too: the very material objects and sensory experiences that used to both represent and shape the resolution of differences between ‘home’ and camp, simultaneously act as powerful and painful reminders of the very disjunctures that refugees are seeking to ease.

Organiser: Dr Crispin Branfoot and Dr Elizabeth Moore

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