Over the course of the three workshops, the project will address the following research questions:

  1. What are the specific obstacles women face when reporting their testimonies of sexual violence as part of the asylum process?
  2. In what ways might the arts and humanities be utilised as a means to bring to light the issues women encounter when narrating their experiences?
  3. Research has shown legal avenues for expression are too constraining. The project poses the question: in what ways can the arts and humanities move beyond the legal parameters of expression and offer voice to women in the asylum process?
  4. How might cross-sector discourse and knowledge exchange inform a understanding of the issues women encounter when telling their narratives that involve sexual violence?
  5. How might creative outputs that represent the issues surrounding women’s testimonies be used in campaigning for positive change?

Workshop I: Asylum, Translation, Voice and Testimony (Université Paris 8), 06 September, 2018

The objective of this international workshop is to examine the restrictions imposed upon women’s voices in the context of reporting sexual violence as part of their migration experience in the UK and in France. Professor Rashida Manjoo (former UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women) will address the gender injustice dimensions of the asylum process in a keynote paper. Key speakers include Debora Singer, MBE, (Senior Policy Adviser, Asylum Aid); Rehab Jameel (Protection Gap Advocate and member of Asylum Aid’s Women’s Advisory Committee); and Professor Jane Freedman (Université Paris 8). The workshop will bring together academics from France and the UK, immigration lawyers, and representatives from public facing bodies, women refugees and asylum seekers, and creative writers. It will facilitate a cross sector and interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and experience in relation to taking testimonies and translation. Case studies of women’s testimonies will be examined with regard to language, translation and testimony. These will be examined alongside the current procedure of seeking asylum, in particular the interview process.

Workshop One Programme in French

Workshop One Programme in English

The workshop was interpreted in French and English. A detailed report on the workshop, including images and recordings of the keynotes and panel discussion can be found on the Workshop One page.

Workshop II: Conveying Arabic Testimonies in Human Rights and Humanitarian Work, and the Legal and Campaigning Implications for Asylum (University of Westminster), Saturday 7th March, 2020.

Expert speakers bring cross-disciplinary academic and practitioners’ perspectives on the particular challenges of recording, transmitting and publicising testimonies of human rights and humanitarian problems from the Middle East and North Africa. With sensitivity to both long-term political situations and recent crises in the region, the workshop will use the prism of language to examine the conditions and practices for successful human rights and humanitarian work in the field of Asylum, with particular reference to women’s testimonies that involve narrating sexual violence. Among the topics covered will be organisational language policy, speakers’ language attitudes, fieldworkers’ linguistic skills (and their perceived scarcity), and the receptivity of audiences ranging from governments (as targets for advocacy and as actors), to media and the concerned public. Language ideologies surrounding Arabic will be highlighted for their relevance in the gathering of testimonies in the field, in the human rights’ and humanitarian workers’ processing of the testimonies, and in their broadcasting. Particular attention will be given to the transmission of first-hand testimonies of Arab women who have suffered human rights violations, with several participants presenting cases from fieldwork in the UK asylum courts and in refugee camps in the Middle East. Creative writers will be invited to participate in the workshop and to produce a piece of work that responds to the findings. Opinions such as 2016 Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham’s “Everything that starts with ‘al’ in the Middle East is bad news. Al-Qaida, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula…” illustrate the mixture of ignorance, prejudice and securitisation that Arabic in particular contends with.

Participants to be confirmed.

Workshop III: Sexual Violence and Testimony: Empowering Asylum Seekers and Voicing Narratives Through the Arts and Humanities (University of Westminster), 19th June 2020.

The final workshop will function as plenary forum whereby participants from across the disciplines of law and literature, and members of NGOs come together to explore the way in which the arts and humanities can empower women’s voices. The workshop format allows for practical collaboration and discussion between writers and participants from public-facing bodies as a means to experiment with new ways of voicing women’s narratives. Artists and writers will be invited to participate alongside scholars from law who specialise in asylum and gender whose research focuses on language and asylum claims, alongside leading figures from public facing bodies, such as Debora Singer. Through a series of papers and roundtables, the workshop will create a cross-disciplinary forum for knowledge exchange. The final roundtable will discuss forms of narrative and performance that can empower women’s voices and which can be used by NGOs in their campaigns.

Participants to be confirmed.

Further details of these events including the programme and booking page will be posted here shortly.