Refugee Fictions: Brexit and the Maintenance of Borders in the European Union

Shaw, Kristian (2020) Refugee Fictions: Brexit and the Maintenance of Borders in the European Union. In: Borders and Border Crossings in the Contemporary British Short Story. Palgrave, pp. 39-60. ISBN 9783030303587

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This chapter will examine the key cultural issue that defined the EU referendum: immigration. By analysing short stories concerning the Syrian refugee crisis, the chapter will discuss how fears surrounding freedom of movement and the act of border-crossing were exploited in the summer of 2016 in order to justify a form of cultural retreat from undesirable corollaries of globalization.

Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes’ short story collection, Breach (2016), details the lives of displaced migrants as they attempt to navigate European border controls and enter Western nation-states. Breach was specifically commissioned by Peirene Press to respond to ‘the fears of people in this country who want to close their borders’. Various stories in the collection are set within the ‘Calais jungle’ and even within the UK itself, demonstrating the dynamic interplay between localized space and sweeping transnational mobilities. These fictional accounts offer a haunting critique of populist national responses to border-crossing and a dismissal of those seeking asylum.

The chapter will draw on the work of political scientists and sociologists Ulrich Beck, Chris Rumford and Daniele Archibugi to reanalyse the positioning of the EU as a cosmopolitan supranational polity and questions claims that it is capable of reconciling existing tensions between national and cosmopolitan forms of belonging and identification in light of the Syrian refugee crisis and British immigration policies. To further this argument, economic migrants from the selected short stories will be considered in relation to Rosi Braidotti’s notion of the nomadic subject, whose identities are affected and constructed by routes rather than roots.

In so doing, the chapter will demonstrate the significance of borders to Britain as a nation-state and the psychogeographical importance of borders to European society more generally. It will be argued that the act of border-crossing was utilised during the EU referendum campaign as a scare tactic and instrument of control in the formation of a Fortress Europe (with reference to the Schengen immigration zone). By discussing contemporary refugee narratives that respond to the brutal injustices of forced migration, the chapter will therefore expose the difficulty in forging a sense of belonging in a political climate of atavistic nationalism and widespread xenophobia.

Keywords:Borders, Globalization, Immigration, Refugee, Brexit
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
L Social studies > L241 European Union Politics
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:34129
Deposited On:14 Nov 2018 10:51

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