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An Icy Heaven: Arab Migration on Contemporary Nordic Stages

Publication Illustration
Litvin, Margaret & Snellman, Johanna.
Cambridge University Press
Year of Publication

At the height of the 2015–16 ‘refugee crisis’, how were immigrants and refugees portrayed and self-portrayed on Finnish and Swedish stages? The production and reception of two plays translated from Arabic – Karim Rashed's I Came to See You (2015) and Hassan Blasim's The Digital Hats Game (2016) – reveal a complex politics of representation in both scripting and staging.

Reading Blasim and Rashed's works in light of Arab–Nordic literary studies and migration theatre studies, we also set them against two other migration-themed plays staged in Stockholm: Swedish writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri's groundbreaking Invasion! (2006) and British playwright Anders Lustgarten's more recent Lampedusa (2015). Blasim and Rashed, we argue, had to navigate three traps or boxes endemic to Arab diasporic theatre: the audience expectations of biographical voyeurism, orientalism and the allegory of collective worthiness. Both aimed to reject the first two expectations and embrace the third, seeking to define new directions in Nordic–Arab theatre.