Narration can have a powerful effect on the experience of being on the move away from one’s home; it can aid in trauma recovery, protect collective memory, and serve as an important vector for political agency. Precisely because narrative is such a powerful tool, however, it can also be a treacherous one. The most dangerous narratives about migration can be persuasive even when they are inaccurate. For instance, even though migration to Europe has halved in the last two-years, xenophobic politicians such as Victor Orban, Marine Le Pen, and the recently deposed Matteo Salvini deploy tropes of rising existential threat. These stories about migration are not restricted to the political fringes. When the incoming president of the European Commission announced a new position, the “vice-president for protecting the European way of life,” it became clear that a fictional threat (to a fictionally unitary “way of life”) could nevertheless be written into the structure and priorities of European institutions.
Brittany Murray is a scholar of French & Francophone Studies who teaches forced migration at Vassar College. Her first book project was Taking French Feminism to the Streets: Fadela Amara and the Rise of Ni Putes Ni Soumises, and she is working on a book about the 1970s, a decade of economic upheaval, changing gender roles, and new migration policy in France. She is also the Program Coordinator for the Consortium on Forced Migration. Displacement, and Education.
Matthew Brill-Carlat is the Coordinator of Research and Pedagogy with the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education. He is a recent graduate of Vassar College, where he majored in History. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Matthew lives in Poughkeepsie, NY.