Last week I attended ‘On migrations: Images, subjects, objects’, an event co-organised by the Dublin City Council Arts Office in association with PhotoIreland Festival 2012 and GradCam. Listening to papers on ‘diaspora space’ among indigenous Irish people in the north inner city and on ‘collaborative’ photography projects with residents of direct provision hostels, a line from the Israeli poet Nathan Alterman rang in my head: ‘Here are the trees with their murmuring leaves / Here is the air dizzy with height. / I do not want to write about them / I want to touch their heart’.
But the poet, like us academics, did continue to write. Indeed, writing was his stock in trade, as it is ours. And writing ‘about them’ is just as invasive as the poet’s wish to ‘touch their heart’. So I reflected aloud about the permission we give ourselves to turn others, in this specific case migrants, into the objects of our ‘desire to know’, as Alice Feldman of UCD expressed it. And – although I was a founder member of the Trinity Immigration Initiative, for which I managed a project on migrant networks assisting in their own integration, and although I am deeply committed to supporting migrants in Ireland and elsewhere – I made a decision there and then that I will never again research and write about migrants. Read more