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Displacement and belonging: Refugees in contemporary literature


Admission requirements

BA Humanities


In this course we investigate the broad spectrum of representation of the current refugee crisis, in literature and other media. On the one hand, refugees in the public space are regularly described as "tsunami", "plague" or "flow". A rhetoric of fear is employed effectively. On the other hand, we are encouraged to have an eye for the human aspect, with attention being paid to "the story of the refugee as an individual." Migrants are portrayed in photos on the one hand as massive and threatening groups at border posts or on rickety boats, which has the effect of "dehumanization". While on the other hand the photo of one drowned boy seems to make the personal drama tangible.
In this course we investigate the language, imagery and rhetoric of the refugee debate and its effects. How do newspapers and other media represent refugees and how are migration and migrants discussed? In addition, we look in particular at the impact of the social and public debate in literature. Which discourses do we see reflected in this? Are prose and poetry used to reflect on the current refugee crisis? Are literature and other art forms part of the social debate? If yes, in which specific way? Do literary writers, for example, try to counterbalance the dehumanization of refugees by producing a new discourse?

Through various theoretical texts we explore aspects such as refugee framing, the politics of fear (Ahmed) and the idea of hospitality (Derrida). We apply those concepts in the analysis of recent literary works that deal with the refugee crisis, in which various genres are discussed (prose, poetry, non-fiction, documentary, etc.). Think of the novella The clandestines by Youssouf Amine Elalamy, the Dutch novel De ontelbaren by Elvis Peters or Aleksanders Hemons The making of Zombie Wars. If you wish, you can extend your own research for your paper to for example a graphic novel like Leila Abdelrazaqs Baddawi.
In the second half of the course we shift our focus slightly from the academic to the societal, and you are invited to orientate on the professional life after your MA. We will practice with popularisation, education or communication (journalism) of the ideas of the first term.

Course objectives

Learning objectives

  • At the end of this course you can analyse and interpret literary and general cultural representations of migration and refugees.

  • You can apply theoretical concepts in the interpretation of these novels.

  • You can develop a research questions that is embedded in current, international discussions in the field of research.

  • You can make connections between research and research results and political issues and current events in society.
    You have practiced with bringing your academic skills and knowledge in a professional context of education or communication.


Master Dutch Studies

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Study load: 280 hours:

  • Attending lectures: 40 hours (13 x 3 hours) (including excursions)

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and theory: 110 hours

  • Writing assignments: 50 hours.

  • writing a paper: 50 hours (including reading / research)

  • Time for professional orientation: 30 hours.

Assessment method


  • Fieldwork assignment (50%: 40% individual, 10% group presentation)

  • Paper (50%)


See the explanation under the header assessement.


A resit possibility is offered only for the paper.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used.

Reading list

See Course description. Further reading will be announced through BB.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For information about the content of this course please contact Arnoud Arps

For practical matters you may contact the secretarial office of the Opleiding Nederlandse Taal en Cultuur/Neerlandistiek. It is the Onderwijsadministratie P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272 2144. E-mail.


Not applicable