Migrating Dreams and Nightmares: Co-organised by Nirmal Puwar and Mariam Motamedi Fraser

The Methods Lab, Sociology, Goldsmiths

Migrating Dreams and Nightmares: Materials and Movement takes its conceptual and methodological inspiration from John Berger and Jean Mohr’s classic A Seventh Man (1975). In this book, Berger and Mohr cite a migrant worker: ‘A friend came to see me in a dream. From far away. And I asked him in the dream: “Did you come by photograph or train?”‘ In these simple sentences, Berger and Mohr identify a complex web of conscious and nonconscious, bodily, visceral, emotional and affective expressions of migration. This is what Migrating Dreams and Nightmares aims to explore through a series of events and an exhibition. It asks, firstly, after the myriad ways in which dreams and hopes, horrors and nightmares are enfolded into experiences of migration; and, secondly, how migration dreams and nightmares are translated and transformed through their movement (their migration) through and across a variety of media and materials. How does the voice, the photograph, the prayer, the letter, give flesh differently to experiences of migration? What kinds of methodological issues are raised when, as researchers, we work with ‘the same’ theme (migration) across different materials and forge collaborations with different kinds of practitioners?


Words and images from A Seventh Man, which was translated into different languages, have been re-enacted in the Kingsway Corridor by the artist Antoinette Brown, in collaboration with Nirmal Puwar. Chalk, blackboards and wire jolt the words out of the book and onto the walls of the academy. Contemporary graffiti from Larache’s harbour sits amongst selections from the book. In addition, Sadek Rahim’s sponge boats from his project No Crash! Boom! Bang!, originally installed in the Bibliothèque Nationale d’Alger, hang in the arches of the passageway.

In a linked-in off-site exhibition in the Stuart Hall Library Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta have responded to Berger and Mohr’s book and Syed’s longstanding interest in tunnels to examine the hopes and fears driving the movements of current migrants and refugees.


Migrating Dreams and Nightmares Launch Event + Drinks

12 November 2015, 2.30pm–7.00pm, RHB Small Cinema, Goldsmiths.

Bridget Anderson, Hsiao-Hung Pai, Manuela Bojadzijev, Ruben Andersson, Julia O’Connell-Davidson, Martina Tazzioli, Sebastian Bachelet, Daniel Trilling & Amarjit Chandan.                                     

Stuart Hall Library Research Network Meeting – Migration Dreams and Nightmares

19 November 2015, 6.30-8.30pm, Rivington Place, London EC2A 3BA.

Panel discussion to mark the opening of Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta’s exhibition on contemporary migration.

Material Dreams and Nightmares + Drinks

25 February 2016, 4.00pm-7.00pm, RHB Small Cinema, Goldsmiths.

Charles Hirschkind and Iain Chambers

Translating Dreams and Nightmares + Drinks

17 March 2016, 4.00-7.00pm, RHB Small Cinema, Goldsmiths.

Rey Chow, Sukhdev Sandhu, Paul Bowman, Alia Syed and Antoinette Brown

All events are free and open to the public.

To reserve a place, please email l.odonnell@gold.ac.uk


With grateful thanks to the people without whom this project would not have materialised. To the artists: Antoinette Brown, Sadek Rahim, Alia Syed. To those who helped with the translations: Imran Ayata and Manuela Bojadzijev, Amarjit Chandan, Gilles Fage (Fage éditions and Nouvelles éditions Scala), Duran Kim (Duran Kim agency) and Teresa Pintó (Agencia Literaria). Thanks also to Nick Brown (Stuart Hall Library), to Di Robson and Gareth Evans (Artevents) for their loan of Mohr’s photographs, and to Jean Mohr and John Berger for granting us the liberty to re-shuffle the text and images. Thanks to the Sociology Department, the Research Office at Goldsmiths, the Women’s Art Library and the journal Sociological Review for financing the project.

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