Accepted paper:

Refugees and Asylum Seekers: The theater group RefugiActo and the struggle for social visibility through performance


Cristina Santinho (ISCTE)

Paper short abstract:

From refugees and asylum seekers experience in the theater group RefugiActo, we intend to discuss how individuals, who have been voted to a double invisibility, both in social and political terms, express their agency through performance.

Paper long abstract:

Immigration, in Portugal, has been for more than a decade, widely discussed in several contexts: in the Academy, Mass Media as well as in social and political realms. However, there are "forced migrants" - refugees and asylum seekers - who for long, have been afflicted by a double invisibility. On the one hand, social invisibility, enshrined by society's lack of knowledge regarding what it means to be a refugee. On the other hand, political invisibility that accentuates the lack of recognition of refugees as a collective demanding group. However , about 6 years ago, refugees and asylum seekers formed a theater group, named RefugiActo. This group has enabled refugees and asylum seekers to claim rights, in this sense giving them agency, through the performance of sketches that alert the public towards their social situation and the difficulties they face while trying to integrate and adapt to Portuguese society. The purpose here is to discuss the dual performance experienced by refugees and asylum seekers: 1) The performance implied while narrating their history of trauma to the Border Control officials, as a means to legitimate their entry in Portugal 2) The performance through theater plays as a way to claim their political and social visibility in Portugal. Both constitute a form of agency in a globalized society where protectionist policies regarding refugees are practically non-existent (contradicting the intents of the Geneva Convention intended).

panel P224
Performing creativity and creating performances: dialogues and tensions on experiencing culture and making places