Anthropology As Necessary Unlearning In Refugee Camps, Courts And Schools

Evening talk

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Helena Tuzinska

Anthropology As Necessary Unlearning In Refugee Camps, Courts And Schools

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - 18:45

This talk will explore the mechanisms through which refugees and asylum seekers lose their voice from the moment they are asked to fill in a questionnaire or explain their case to an immigration official. Their spoken sentences are rendered incomprehensible and in some cases apparently untruthful from the outset, in being disconnected from their original context. The stories told by refugees are not recorded in full as delivered but are instead summarized and re-told in terms deemed appropriate by the immigration authorities. Too often, the written interview record conflates what the applicant said with the interpreter's re-telling and the decisoin-maker's summary. Decision-makers allow themselves levels of linguistic flexibility which is not allowed either to translators or to applicants. As a result, indigenous concepts of space, time, religion, vocation, ethnicity, class, morality and justice are too often lost in translation. Effective training of police officers, teachers, translators and court officials is required. This re-education should focus primarily on 'forgetting' - deliberately setting aside culturally prevailing forms of cultural knowledge and expertise as the condition of genuine listening.

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Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.

Next evening class

Chris Knight

A Plains Indian Myth: When Women Lost Their Power
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

'The Wives of the Sun and Moon' is one of the key myths of Claude Levi-Strauss' monumental study, Mythologiques. This evening will begin with a story-telling followed by a workshop and class discussion to decode the message of the myth. Originally, according to the Arapaho Indians of North American Plains, marriage was not a fixed state but a periodic alternation between one kind of relationship and another, a once-a-month honeymoon followed each month by divorce and re-union with kin. Everything started going badly wrong when hunting and gathering gave way to gardening, the lunar calendar gave way to a seasonal/solar rhythm - and womankind became subject to wedlock as a permanent state.