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The 2024 ASCA Award Committee--Anna Greszta,  Divya Nadkarni, and Gaston Franssen—awarded publications by Nadica Denic, Slava Greenberg and Shahin Nasiri.

2024 ASCA Article Award: Nadica Denić

Epistemic Decolonization of Migration: Digital Witnessing of Crisis and Borders in For Sama. In Blaagaard BB, Marchetti S, Ponzanesi S, Bassi S, editors, Postcolonial Publics: Art and Citizen Media in Europe. Venice: Edizioni Ca' Foscari. 2023. p. 95-112.

It is evident that migration is one of the key issues of our age. A far more complex, underlying issue pertains to the question how knowledge about migration is produced. What, exactly, do we know about migration? Which media, actors and institution set the parameters of the conversation about migration and to what extent are migrant voices included in this conversation? This year, the ASCA Best Article Award is awarded to a study that investigates how forms of digital witnessing can intervene in migration discourses and policies. The author of this article does so by focusing on For Sama, a 2019 documentary directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. This documentary captures key events in the life of al-Kateab and her family as they grapple with the impact of the Syrian Civil War and the lived experience of migration as a profound crisis of everyday life. The author argues, and convincingly demonstrates, how al-Kateab, by this act of witness, gives voice to the migrant reality and succeeds in addressing audiences on her own terms. By doing so, the documentary contributes to the process of epistemic decolonization of migration. Considering the timely and urgent topic of this article, and its profound and deeply emphatic analysis, we unanimously agreed that the ASCA Best Article Award should be awarded to the article ‘Epistemic Decolonization of Migration: Digital Witnessing of Crisis and Borders in For Sama’ by Nadica Denić.

2024 ASCA Book Award : Slava Greenberg

Animated Film and Disability: Cripping Spectatorship. Indiana University Press, 2023.

Slava Greenberg. Animated Film and Disability: Cripping Spectatorship. Indiana University Press, 2023.

Can one see with ears and hear with eyes? A seemingly simple question that follows from Slava Greenberg’s book confronts and reconfigures one's implicit sensory hierarchies of being-in- and experiencing the world. A reading that makes one question their understanding of the everyday is a good one; a reading that induces (self-)reflection on the reader’s own positionality is a remarkable piece of intellectual work.

Slava Greenberg explores the complexities of disabled bodyminds representations in what may be the most transgressive cinematic convention – animation. As a powerful tool of imagination that goes beyond the possibilities of physical bodies, not only human ones, Greenberg's cases are a fun ride, ranging from ancillary (and fascinating) insights about mainstream productions like Pixar’s Nemo and Netflix’s hit BoJack Horseman to in-depth case studies of avant-garde animations like Rocks in My Pockets. Here, animation becomes not only an entry into the world of crip filmmakers but also a means to evoke in spectators an alternative understanding and awareness of their own bodies. Greenberg subverts conventional perceptions of gaze- and able-centric spectatorship, and by rethinking both audio and visual pleasures, asks what happens if we sensory disorient and crip (blind, deaf) the spectator?

The book is erudite in execution, ASCA in spirit, and empathetic in its message: animated lived experiences and their innovative artistic forms, when confronted with critical disability studies perspective, give us a powerful tool to envision futures that will accommodate diverse bodyminds.

2024 ASCA Dissertation Award:  Shahin Nasiri

Rethinking Freedom from the Perspective of Refugees: Lived Experiences of (Un)freedom in Europe’s Border Zones

Shahin Nasiri’s thesis, “Rethinking Freedom from the Perspective of Refugees: Lived Experiences of (Un)freedom in Europe’s Border Zones,” speaks to a question that has long been at the center-stage of political theory and political philosophy: what is freedom? Where Shahin consolidates his groundbreaking contribution is in asking: what is freedom from the perspective of refugees, political subjects who have attempted to escape acute conditions of unfreedom? The question of freedom, Shahin argues, is at the heart of “every genuine inquiry into the meaning and significance of refugeehood.”

At stake in refugees’ aspirations of freedom and experiences of (un)freedom, Shahin argues, is a crucial epistemological and political issue: Eurocentric conceptions of freedom take racialized concepts of citizenship and statehood as prerequisites. In drawing out this epistemological limitation, Shahin argues that refugees are excluded not only from the domain of political membership, but also from any agential claims to freedom. In response and in challenge, Shahin pushes at the limits of the concept of freedom. How can the very nature of freedom be rearticulated, Shahin asks, by taking as a paradigm the lived experience and perspectives of refugees? Rather than simply taking refugeehood as a state of unfreedom, the thesis asks to understand “the heterogenous practices and projects of freedom that are expressed in [refugees’] lived experiences of flight and practices against acts of border making.”

This project is much more than one that champions for the cause of refugees in today’s time of increasing political polarization and indifference, particularly in the Global North, to the plight of refugees who are seen either as abject subjects in need of protection or as disruptive “enemy-like strangers.” Shahin’s work is a theoretical and philosophical undertaking, as much as it is an ethically driven one. The interpretive phenomenological method that Shahin takes up and further develops through his interviews with in-flight refugees in Lesvos and other parts of Greece allows for a paradigmatic development of a concept of freedom from the lived experiences of refugees. This we might say, is a powerful example of what a decolonial theoretical practice might look like. The concept of freedom receives its critical substance as entangled with and constructed through the refugees’ everyday practices of being in community: navigating abandonment, making friends, sharing resources, etc., from outside of the hegemonic frameworks and privileges of citizenship and state-membership.

Subsequently, Shahin’s project poses a timely challenge and offers a corrective to the paradoxes of un-freedom implicit in human rights discourses. It further contributes to broadens critical theoretical discourses on solidarity, community, political friendship. The committee particularly noted Shahin’s warm and solidary handling of complex theoretical material alongside sensitive personal narratives of refugees, to advance a thoughtful and nuanced rethinking of the concept of freedom.