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Affective Multimodalities In Third Space with Asylum Seeking Youth

Abbas Karimi, a former unaccompanied asylum seeker and research participant whom we met in Istanbul, Turkey during field work (2015-2016) has produced a wide array of multimedia to be heard in seek of a sponsor and thus have been able to arrange for his resettlement to the US with the UNHCR. Today Karimi becomes the first refugee Paralympic swimming champion. He co-creates media work and narrations like these supported by our applied research initiative. We currently collaborate on an interactive multimodal website  for Abbas Karimi's refuge story and swimming journey to championship.

A politically urgent yet humanly moving story of refugee youth who once met at an unaccompanied minor asylum seeking state care shelter in Istanbul, Turkey. The book is co-created together with the participating youth and it is a collaborative visual and multimodal ethnography by Eda Elif Tibet and Abdi Deeq as the co-authors.


The book navigates the youth’s (in)formal educational biographies through the following of their learnings for survival. It looks at the various solidarity movements the young men become part of, to their brotherhoods and transnational diasporic connectivities they make through this shelter; paradoxical third space (adopted by Homi K.Bhabha) that is experienced as a school, pathway to resettlement, detention, deportation, a crossway, a station, a meeting hub and even a home.


Authors showcase how trajectories constantly keep changing due to sudden transnational policy shifts. The field work starts during the “big migration” summer of 2015 triggered by the circulation of a viral photograph showcasing Aylan Kurdi a 5 years old Kurdish Syrian’s lifeless body lying on the Beach in Bodrum after a capsizing boat journey towards the Mediterranean. His image was captioned and hashtagged; #humanitywashedashore (Chapter 1 & 2).


Affected by the image , migrant crowds marched towards Europe within an organized movement asking for safe passage. Angela Merkel announces the opening of Germany’s borders whilst she prepares to sign the EU & Turkey deal (2016). Soon after a failed / staged coup d e’tat takes place in Turkey (2016) leading towards a constant state of emergency, the beginning of a 828 km long wall is being set between Syria and Turkey. Upon its completion, the border is to become the longest after the Great Wall of China and the US-Mexico border. The field work takes place within such a historical period.


Some of the youth whose lives this book gives in depth accounts to are; Abbas Karimi an armless Afghan athlete who becomes a Paralympic swimming champion once resettled to the US, a talented Iranian goalkeeper who becomes a smuggler himself to then find asylum in Europe after three failed attempts towards the Mediterranean (he once nearly drowns), Somali brothers; of one that crosses to Europe and one remains in Turkey who becomes the co-author of this book, the Syrian trio whom are detained in refugee camps, criminalised to become homeless to then reunite with their families.

The book is a solid product of the solidarity movements taking place in protest of paradoxical events around the world from welcoming refugees to state sovereignty. The book showcases how migrant youth are often seen by state workers, media and local communities as threats or as passive seekers of charity and therefore most often are criminalized.


The manuscript follows the youth into immense difficulties from police interrogations to imprisonment to boat crossings in the Mediterranean to detention into the refugee camps.Both individually and collectively, various forms of agency manifestations are showcased to what the authors call as to “learning to be freed” is part of what sets this story apart from most what is written in European languages “on” and “about” refugees , but rather “together with” refugee youth as co-ethnographers.

Adopting the pedagogies of Freire and Spivak, the book represents youth as influential co-creators of groundbreaking scholarly work and as sources of undeniable wisdom which came in too early as of the intense life experiences they had to endure. It showcases youth’s extraordinary talents ,intellect, awareness to postcolonial connectivities and creative ways in overcoming difficulties and in surviving harsh realities, all in their own cultural productions.

The manuscript is illustrated and voiced through photographs, art work, radio shows, podcasts and audio visual reenactments and performances of which they are explored within a new methodological concept this book brings forward: “affective multimodalities” (Chapter 3).The authors decontextualize the conventional forms of anthropological context scripting of nations and states that are default settings of methodological nationalism, and rather focus on the new context creations by the youth that are unbounded and spatial in their discovery and narrative.

The book treats each participant as threads to (re)building , illustrating and translating Homi Bhabha’s theory of third space within in-depth life stories and life happenings (Chapter 4).

The authors have become the right persons to write this book as they have chosen to erase the hierarchies between the researcher and the researched, and rewind to set up a public exhibition of the photographs being produced during field work “Erase and Rewind” that is explored through what Bhabha calls to be a displaced angle of vision ,in looking particularly into the migrant artists’ work

(Chapter 5).


Whilst Eda Elif Tibet has been the only researcher who obtained official access to a state care shelter for unaccompanied asylum seeking youth in Istanbul Turkey ; Abdi Deeq has become the co-ethnographer , an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker himself during the time of the field work, with access to the live worlds of the youth residing in the shelter. He joins the 1% of refugee youth in the world whom ever had access to higher education as he currently pursues a BA degree on Cinema and TV in Turkey. Hence this duo-ethnography discusses the transformative potential of adopting a relational ontology by building alliances through co-creative and affective multimodal engagements.


The activist ethnography relies itself on an extraordinary partnership (alliance) and an affective multimodality that aims to decenter and transcend the default narratives of who refugees are with various forms of media expressions produced by the youth themselves. This is a daring ethnography that speaks of radical inclusivity and promotes further visibility for those “unvisibilised" as Shahram Khosravi puts it, and as a way to liberate and transform therefore to heal our bordered societies.

A participatory film made by unaccompanied minors in Turkey as part of SNSF PhD Dissertation by Eda Elif Tibet with " Team No Borders".
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