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Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary. Aesthetics, Affects, Archives

Project description

Investigating normalising dynamics in diasporic artistic practice

Migration to the Global North is perpetually framed as ‘new’ or extraordinary. Works by non-white artists are overwhelmingly described in ways that set them apart from society at large. The EU-funded TODO project asks what happens if, instead, we apply a normalising perspective to contemporary literature and art in the diaspora with a special focus on Germany, the UK and the USA. In light of the decline of empire, neo-imperialism, and the more recent rise of the New Right, TODO considers how queer aesthetics can help acknowledge negative emotions and affects resulting from racism and how art can contribute to a new notion of community and to counter-archives that go beyond national and heteronormative constraints.


Migration is almost always framed as the result of exceptional circumstances, as in the 2015 refugee crisis for instance. This impacts the reception of narratives produced by those living in the diaspora. Works by Black and ethnic minority artists are overwhelmingly associated with labels that set them apart from the unmarked norm. These frameworks favour generational models such as the Windrush generation in Britain, so-called guest worker literature in Germany, and ethnic and area studies designations in the US. Such formulas reinforce an understanding of migration as perpetually new. By turning to what we call Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary, this project asks what happens if we instead apply a ‘normalising’ perspective to the study of contemporary diasporic art. Extending PI Haschemi Yekani’s pathbreaking work on entangled tonalities in the rise of the British novel, TODO mobilises three conceptual terms: aesthetics, affects, and archives. This, firstly, disrupts models of national canon formation and considers (queer) diasporic artistic practice and aesthetics as entangled with post-World War II global histories of the decline of empire, neo-imperialism, and the more recent rise of the New Right. Secondly, drawing on innovative methods from autotheory and queer diasporic critique, TODO stipulates that “ordinary” diasporic texts promote an affective bearing that exceeds the binary of romanticising the homeland of once and neoliberal ideals of assimilation and integration. Thirdly, the analysed texts complicate official historiographies and contribute to an archive of the lived experiences of migrants and their children across generations, exposing the continuity of racism. Artistic practice can acknowledge negative affects and contribute to a reimagination of community that goes beyond national and heteronormative constraints. Thus, the project underlines the relevance of Tales of the Diasporic Ordinary to challenge racism and foster new modes of belonging.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 999 957,50
Unter den linden 6
10117 Berlin

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Berlin Berlin Berlin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00