Children’s cultural imagination of the refugee crisis

Submitted by: Tatjana Kielland Samoilow
Abstract: How do children imagine being a refugee and which cultural tools do they use when shaping the imagination into a narrative? Since the intensification of the European migrant crisis in 2010, our societies have changed. In Norway as elsewhere, the crisis has effected demographics, politics, the school system and general everyday life. Furthermore, it has been a predominant factor in the media and has influenced the cultural imagination. Seen from a culture analytical perspective (e.g. Holm 2012), we make sense of catastrophic events through certain cognitive schemes, certain sets of interpretation, that exist prior to the crisis. Furthermore, use certain images, metaphors, narrative forms, genres etc. as tools in the sense making process. Such tools are also part of children’s culture. They present both at tool kit children can use when explaining and imagining events and they determine what sense making is possible. The paper presents the analysis of 43 fictional letters written by six graders (age ten and eleven) at a Norwegian school. The texts were produced during a writing workshop that was guided by a professional Norwegian author. They were then analyzed within a theoretical framework of cultural narratology (Nünning 2013) to see how the children’s texts participate in so called Erzählgemeinschaften (story telling communities). The analysis shows recurring patterns that are well known from media, as for example the description of the boat trip and the witnessing of small children in distress. Furthermore, the analysis shows that children use predominantly three ways of structuring the narratives that correspond to dominant narrative structures in children’s news media (e.g. the state tv-channel NRK Super) and in picturebooks on the refugee crisis. At the end of the presentation, the results will be discussed in light of theories on writing and Bildung (Aase 2012) in order to discuss implications for education.

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Holm, I. W. (2012). The Cultural Analysis of Disaster. In C. Meiner, & K. Veel (Eds.), The cultural life of catastrophes and crises. (pp. 15-32). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Nünning, A. (2013). Wie Erzählungen Kulturen erzeugen. In Strohmair (ed.). Kultur – Wissen – Narration. Perspektiven transdisiplinärer Erzählforschung für die Kulturwissenschaften. Bielefeld: Transcript.
Aase, Laila (2012). Skriveprosesser som danning. In Matre, Kibsgaard & Solheim (ed.). Teorier om tekst I møte med skolens les- og skrivepraksiser. Universitetsforlaget.

Keywords: children's writing, refugee crisis, cultural imagination, cultural narratology, letters.