Marc Bauer; Detail, Aquarius 2018
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How does language affect the way we think about migration?
Drawing on ideas present in the exhibition Mal Etre/Performance by Marc Bauer, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at University of Sussex Dr. Charlotte Taylor and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at De Montfort University Dr Simon Goodman, share their thinking.
Dr Simon Goodman’s work focuses on the arguments that are used to prevent refugees from seeking safety in the UK and on the ways that refugees respond to these negative arguments. He has published a range of work on this topic, including co-authoring the book The Language of Asylum: Refugees and Discourse.
Dr Charlotte Taylor’s work investigates the language we use for talking about people who move. Like artist Marc Bauer, she sees the way we represent reality as defining our way of thinking but while he explores this connection through visual images, her work examines the language used. Her research also speaks to that of the current exhibition because both take a historical perspective; investigating the extent to which we, and our ways of thinking about migration, are affected by past constructions.
This understanding can then lead us to reflect on a key theme from the exhibition; empathy, and what enables and impedes this kind of alignment and identification. At the most basic level we might consider how the names we use for people who move indicate empathy (or lack of): For instance, why don’t we used ‘evacuees’ any more when we talk about people who are moved from conflict zones? And would it change how we think about those people and our relationship to them if we did?
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