Karina Horsti Lecture

Debris of the Border: Seeing, and Seeing with, Objects Discarded by Migrants
17 Apr 2017 - 5:00pm to 7:15pm
Annenberg School for Communication, Room 108

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The Center for Advanced Research in Global CommunicationScholars Program in Culture and Communication, CAMRA, and Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to present a lecture by Karina Horsti, Academy of Finland Fellow at the University of Jyväskylä


This talk discusses the social life of objects left behind by present-day migrants and rescuers in the European border zone. I explore how the objects – for example, life jackets, or pieces of wood originating from migrant boats in the Mediterranean sea – generate affective and political responses depending on where and how they are found and displayed, and who sees them. I examine how their cultural and political significance changes. I compare the display of objects in different contexts: a boat cemetery in Lampedusa that has become a site for so-called dark tourism; the activist collection PortoM, where the objects become testimony of fatal bordering; the Galata Maritime Museum in Genova where the objects are displayed in the context of an exhibition on Italian emigration; and art installations in Germany and Finland. In addition, I analyze a project by the Italian Archivio Memorie Migranti (AMM) to conserve objects. The AMM treat the objects as someone’s property while at the same time acknowledging their cultural and historical value. My analysis of the places and exhibitions is informed by interviews with curators, and by my seeing the objects and walking through the exhibitions with people who experienced dangerous border crossings. Such participatory method of thinking and seeing with helps to refract my own gaze, and it helps me to understand how objects are animated as they are being seen. While symbolizing suffering by means of objects (such as shoes, or suitcases) is a well-established practice in museums dedicated to genocides, memorializing an ongoing mass death raises issues of solidarity. What kinds of politics, relationships and identities emerge when objects are exhibited and seen as testimonies of dangerous border crossing?


Karina Horsti is Academy of Finland Fellow at the University of Jyväskylä and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (2016). Her research interests focus on qualitative and critical media studies in the contexts of migration, race/ethnicity, and humanitarian action. Her current research examines public remembering of forced migration and the commemoration of migration tragedies in Europe. She has published on anti-immigration movements, the remembering of border related death, multicultural policies, and the representation of migrants from media and cultural studies perspectives. She directs Nordic explorative workshops Borderscapes, Memory and Migration, (2016 – 2017). Her work has appeared in New Media & SocietyMemory Studies, Citizenship Studies, Patterns of Prejudice, European Journal of Cultural Studies, International Journal of Cultural Studies, and other journals. In addition to scholarly work and teaching she collaborates with refugee activists and artists. A documentary film Wreck (2016) that she co-scripted with the director Jan Ijäs has been shown in a number of festivals, including Edinburgh Film Festival.

There will be a reception for those who have attended the lecture in the ASC Forum from 6:15 - 7:15 pm.

Space is limited, RSVP to marina.krikorian@asc.upenn.edu

Dr. Horsti will also present a CAMRA Lab, "Participatory and Creative Methods in Migration Research," with a screening of Wreck on Tuesday, April 18th from 3:15-4:45 pm, details here.

This event may be photographed and/or video recorded for archival, educational, and related promotional purposes. We also video stream many of these video recordings through the Annenberg web site. By attending or participating in this event, you are giving your consent to be photographed and/or video recorded and you are waiving any and all claims regarding the use of your image by the Annenberg School for Communication. The Annenberg School for Communication, at its discretion, may provide a copy of the photos/footage upon written request.