On Stories, Storytelling, and the Quiet Politics of Welcome
Keywords:Storytelling, refugees, welcome, narratives, encounters
Focusing on a collaborative storytelling project with refugees and asylum seekers in the London borough of Waltham Forest, this paper explores the potential offered by creative storytelling and story-sharing for providing alternative narratives and spaces for inclusion, welcome and mutual care against a backdrop of hostility and exclusion. It challenges tendencies within prevailing discourses to either treat asylum narratives as ‘bogus’ or to essentialise individual refugee stories through the prevailing tropes of ‘victim’ or ‘hero’. Instead, we draw attention to the actual process of making, telling and sharing stories between refugees and local residents, in the Global Story Café project led by Stories & Supper. The paper examines how the spaces that emerged through sharing stories with refugees and asylum seekers in a series of creative workshops and targeted storytelling cafes with public participation opened up possibilities for what we refer to as a quiet politics of welcome – a form of welcome that moves beyond notions of charity or sympathy, disrupts perceived host-guest binaries and instead demonstrates the importance of ‘being with’. The paper highlights the need for more engagement and understanding of these ‘quiet’ acts of welcome, which can provide insights for challenging the overriding discourses about, and practices towards, refugees and asylum seekers.
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