HMKK00018U  Visual culture/Theatre: Migration, Postmigration and Contemporary Art: Literature, Film, Visual arts and theatre

Volume 2018/2019

This course is split up in two parts, the first one takes place in the first 7 weeks of the semester and Anne Ring Petersen will be teaching, and the other part, takes place in the next 7 weeks and will be teach by Anna Meera.

Part 1

In recent decades, migration and postmigration have become perspectives of increasing importance in contemporary arts and studies of art and culture. At the same time, a surge of postcolonial critique has effectively managed to introduce new concerns into art and academia. In this course, we will examine these interconnected perspectives in and on contemporary arts by engaging with theoretical writings and a range of works drawn primarily from the visual arts. Literature and theatre (understood broadly and including performance art) will also be given some consideration.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, a growing number of people have left their homes to cross state borders and settle in another country. No matter whether they have moved in search of a better life or been forcibly displaced by war, destitution, persecution or environmental disaster, they have contributed to the pluralisation and hybridisation of cultures and identities in receiving countries. Adopting migrant and postcolonial perspectives, this course examines how contemporary artists have grappled with these transformations and the conflicts and issues they have brought to the fore. Furthermore, a postmigrant perspective will be introduced as a means of situating artistic interrogations of colonialism and postcolonialism within a more encompassing societal and historical process of transformation. The concept of postmigration does not refer to a societal state of affairs in which migration has ended, but to a set of problematics and struggles over identity, history, belonging and community originating in the obsession with migration, migrants and migrantisising discourses which permeates contemporary European societies. It thus provides a frame for understanding how postcolonial critique ties in with current pluralisation processes in society at large. 

The course aims to deepen insight into the effects of migration and postmigration as well as honing students’ methodological competencies in analysing artistic phenomena that can be viewed as the result of the confluence of different cultures blending together, or as spotlighting the fault lines of postmigrant societies. To this end, we will engage with some key concepts and theories relevant to the study of a range of cultural and artistic phenomena: migration and postmigration, citizenship, (trans)cultural identity and belonging, collective memory, post- and decolonial thinking, racialisation and whiteness, migratory aesthetics, hybridisation and cultural translation. We will read texts by scholars such as Homi Bhabha, Walter D. Mignolo, Paula Moya, Astrid Erll, Andreas Huyssen and Marsha Meskimmon. Indicative artists/projects included in the course: Ai Weiwei, Isaac Julien, Jeannette Ehlers, Nanna Debois Buhl, Danh Vo, Zadie Smith, 100% Copenhagen and aspects of postmigrant theatre in Berlin.

Suggested reading:

Sten Pultz Moslund, Anne Ring Petersen and Moritz Schramm, eds, The Culture of Migration: Politics, Aesthetics and Histories, London: I.B. Tauris 2015.

Anne Ring Petersen, Migration into art: Transcultural identities and art-making in a globalized world, Manchester: Manchester University Press 2017.

Part 2

The concept of postmigration does not refer to a utopian state of affairs in which challenges of migration have been, or can be, overcome. The postmigrant condition rather designates a set of structural problematics and struggles over identity, history, belonging and community originating in the obsession with migration, migrants and migranticising, which permeates current European discourses. 

In this course, we will engage with migration and postmigration as perspectives of increasing importance within art and academia in a globalising world where people move, nationally and transnationally, due to gentrification, urbanisation as well as economic(-), environmental(-) and humanitarian crises. We will examine a selection of post-millennial literary works and documentary films, which we will unpack by drawing on a range of theoretical writings. These writings include texts on postcolonial theory, critical theory and affect theory by Sara Ahmed, Sianne Ngai, José Esteban Muñoz, Gayatri Spivak, Hannah Arendt, Salman Rushdie and Frantz Fanon. 

Since a majority of the selected artworks explored in the course contain autobiographical elements, we will consider both social and emotional implications of relocation from the perspectives of people with migration experience as well as descendants of migrants with no or limited migration experience. Allowing theory and works to critically inform each other on a larger scale, we will also challenge the political and historical dynamics of prevalent notions of migrancy and the migrant, exploring to what extent narratives of estrangement and return, along with feelings of homesickness and longing, may be critically productive. For example, how are mechanisms of marginalisation exposed through critiques of assimilation or transnational adoption? 

The course aims to deepen insight into the effects and affects of migration and postmigration. The course will provide an overview of theoretical and analytical approaches to the field, which can be applied across genres. Key concepts and theories of the course include: migration and postmigration, affect(ive) theory on the critical productivity of negative affect, (dis)identifications, home and transgenerational memory, post- and decolonial thinking, racialisation and whiteness, nationalism and diasporic imaginaries. Writers, filmmakers and artists include: Athena Farrokhzad, Julie Sten-Knudsen, Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen, Grada Kilomba, Claudia Rankine, Teju Cole, Malene Choi, M.I.A., Nitesh Anjaan and The Blaze. 


The course will be held in English, however, students can choose whether to hand in the concluding exam project in Danish or English, and the teacher can supervise in both languages.

Each part of the course comprises a syllabus of 500-700 standard pages (of 2,400 keystrokes, i.e. 1,000-1,400 standard pages in total)

Type of assessment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 56
  • Exam
  • 84
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Preparation
  • 279
  • Total
  • 420