Playing Children: Statelessness & the Performance of Childhood

Suhaila Meera

Half of the world’s 25.9 million recorded refugees are under eighteen. The past two decades have seen an increase in artistic renditions of stateless children that nuance, complicate, and resist mass media depictions. Each chapter of my dissertation examines theatrical and cinematic representations of young people navigating borders, in exile, or seeking asylum from Syria, Palestine, and at the India/Pakistan/Kashmir boundaries. The Good Chance Theatre’s international production The Walk is a traveling arts festival led by a 12-foot-tall puppet named Little Amal. Amal is inspired by a 6-year-old Syrian refugee girl in the company’s play The Jungle (2017), set in the eponymous migrant city in Calais, France.  Amal will traverse a path commonly taken by Syrian asylum seekers —from Gaziantep to Manchester — and be welcomed by local communities along the way. I will join her final weeks in France and the United Kingdom. Artworks like The Walk illustrate how categories of performance, childhood, and the nation-state constrain while they come apart at the seams; that, like a child outgrowing their clothes, any imagination of the world as divided by national boundaries, by “their” children and “ours,” no longer fits.


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