Seeking Asylum: Mapping the Hidden Worlds of Migrant Detention Centers in Recent Literary Representations

  • Terri TomskyEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Human Rights book series (PSLCHR)


This chapter examines the challenge of scale to contemporary representations of human rights crises, specifically in the context of the large numbers of asylum seekers crossing into Europe and North America. Focusing on a long poem by Dionne Brand and a graphic novel by Tings Chak, I show how these texts break from the typical refugee narrative, which seeks to humanize and individualize the sovereign human subject. I argue that, by dispensing with humanizing narratives, Brand and Chak shift away from notions of readerly empathy with a subject in order to illuminate structure and form. Their representations of migrant detention infrastructures challenge the reader to comprehend global scale and so reveal the politics that give rise to the securitization structures that manage the crisis of dispossession.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and Film StudiesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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