Refugees in Calais. A Learning Journey

University of Sheffield French students have created an insightful short documentary film about their research into the refugee situation in Calais.

three men crouching while eating from take away boxes. text reads: refugees in Calais. A learning journey

The short film Refugees in Calais. A Learning Journey documents a group of second year students of the School of Languages and Cultures as they researched the topic of migration in a French and Francophone context. They looked in particular at the representations of refugee camps in Calais. The film shows the students in discussion with the Swiss photographer, Elisa Larvego, who created ‘Chemin des dunes’ (Paths to the Dunes, 2016), a series of photographs depicting life in the Calais camps. With her images, Larvego challenges mainstream representations that often fail to address or question existing power differences. 

The project was designed and led by Sophie Watt, Amanda Tavares, Katy Hunter and James Pearson.

Dr Sophie Watt describes the project: "Our reasons for creating a course for undergraduate students around the representation of the Calais camps is threefold. First, we wanted our students to think about the power and politics of representation, in particular in connection with social and human inequalities. We invited them to consider alternative representations of the displaced people living in camps in Calais. Their regular sessions with Elisa Larvego proved a fantastic opportunity to explore this topic.

A scene in a classroom with a tutor in front of a screen and students viewed from the back

A second objective was pedagogical. With this module we wanted to explore new approaches to teaching a difficult subject such as the fight and plight of refugees. We wanted our students to engage with the topic of representation beyond analysis and description by asking them to design a teaching tool for secondary schools. If you have to produce material that will be used in a real life context, you'll have to think very carefully and responsibly about what you want to say and how you'll say it. In the near future, our materials will be available and we are hoping they will lead to discussions in schools about this important topic.

Finally, we believe that this project shows the strength of collaboration and partnerships. We worked together as academics, postgraduate and undergraduate students, technicians, and experts in digital teaching tools and pedagogies to create something really extraordinary."

Refugees on sand dune near Calais

Exhibition: The going towards, 31 October - 12 November 2023

The University of Sheffield's Dr Sophie Watt cooperated with the Site Gallery to deliver The going towards by artist Elisa Larvego. Featuring audiovisual work produced in Calais, France, The going towards amplifies the voices of refugees, volunteers and activists in order to expose processes of marginalisation in the area. This exhibition is part of Dr Watt's ongoing research to which our students contribute. 

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