Migration in the visual arts: Re-narration and subtitling in social documentaries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In today’s multilingual and multicultural settings, migration is often misunderstood and manipulated by a variety of promotional multimodal forms which describe the culture of migration as a negative process, resorting to distortions of language and corruptions of images instead of exalting the difference as a concept that is involved with connotations of enrichment and creativity. The aesthetics of migration has recently opened up in Europe as a consequence of the movement and transfer of cultural and artistic themes and figures in web newspapers and advertisements, the visual and performing arts, video arts, films and installations. Based on this, the present investigation will focus on the modalities by means of which documentaries represent multimodal communicative texts that deconstruct the stereotyped framing of immigrants through procedures of re-narration and subtitling as instruments of knowledge. Drawing on the theories of translation as re-narration and knowledge (Baker 2016; 2014; 2006), audiovisual translation from a site of representational practice into an interventionist and participatory activity that promotes activist political commitments (Pérez-González 2014), documentary subtitling and translation as a domain in its own right and a field of semiotic construction (Espasa, 2004), the aim of this paper will be to highlight social documentaries techniques and the narration of stories through the voice of the characters and the art of subtitling. Sue Clayton’s Hamedullah. A Road Home (2012) and Luca Vullo’s From Sulphur to Coal (2008) will be scrutinised as documentaries that testify to the practice of the re-narration of distorted truths about asylum, deportation and Sicilian working-class labour exploitation from the unsaid and unheard perspective of the Other. The rationale will be to draw attention to documentaries as creative forms of representation, which act as catalysts, not only for social encounters, but also for the generation of new aesthetic and cultural phenomena, shaping identities, spaces, and communities (Mosland 2015), which are set in motion by transnational and transcultural communicative acts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAudiovisual Translation: Dubbing and Subtitling in the Central European Context
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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