Refugee Life Writing in Australia: Testimonios by Iranians

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    Date(s) - 4 Nov 2013
    3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

    Room E561, Menzies Building (Building 11)

    Category(ies) No Categories

    Laetitia Nanquette

    Laetitia Nanquette

    Since 1992, the detention of unauthorized migrants until they get a visa or get deported got mandatory in Australia. This policy started up a controversy and led to many debates. It has also created an interest in the life of refugees and many Australian writers started to compile anthologies of texts by adult and children refugees. In the last twenty years, dozens of such anthologies have been published. Accounts by refugees to an Australian writer, which I define as testimonio, have also exploded.

    As the demographics of asylum-seekers in Australia are changing and Iranians now form the majority of asylum seekers in Australia, I will focus on their literary production on the subject. I will show that Iranians started to produce testimonios because the Australian context was conductive to it, whereas it is not a genre practiced at all in the other Iranian diasporas. I will question the voice refugee writers are given by Australian novelists/activists who help them to write and/or publish their life stories and ask how their writings contribute to the genre of testimonio, recently developed to tell the history of contemporary traumatic migrations to Australia.

    To reflect on this new trend of life writing, I will use two examples: Moza’s Story. An Ashmore Reef Account (2005), which describes with the help of an Australian writer an Iranian refugee’s imprisonment in Iran and long journey to Australia; and the anthology edited by novelists and human rights advocates Thomas Keneally and Rosie Scott, Another Country: Writers in Detention (2004). This anthology, supported by Sydney PEN, encompasses letters, diaries, drama, essays, and stories, often by seasoned writers in their origin country, half of them from Iran.

    Laetitia Nanquette is Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She was trained in France, the UK, Iran and the US. She holds a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Her monograph entitled Orientalism Versus Occidentalism: Literary and Cultural Imaging Between France and Iran Since the Islamic Revolution was published in 2013.