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Seeing like a poet: Migration through the creative lens

In the messy world of migration politics, art has the power to stir debate, promote action and open our imaginations to new political possibilities. In his 1999 book Seeing Like a State, James Scott argued that ‘state simplifications’, in terms of state numerical and standardised abstractions of people and places, ultimately fail in their attempts to ‘improve the human condition’. Turning this argument on its head exactly 20 years later, Routed is publishing a monographic issue focusing on forms of art that allow us to see migration ‘like a poet’: revealing the emotions and tensions inherent to both the migrant condition and the ways in which migration is understood and acted upon.

This issue features the work of four poets, who through words and images present their visions of movement and space, belonging and otherness, hopes and fears.

Previous issues:

Routed #5: Historical mobilities: Looking beyond the here and now of migration​

With the media dominated by popular narratives of migration crises, it is easy to focus on the here and now of migration and lose track of context, especially the historical one. This risks reinforcing the notion of the exceptionalism of the current situation and discourses that overestimate the impact and the scale of the issue; yet migration is far from being a new phenomenon. ​This issue looks beyond the current headlines to how migration and mobility have been present throughout history. Here, we put the migration stories of today into the context of the past, highlighting similarities and differences, bringing to light forgotten stories, and showing how our ‘today’ is influenced by the ‘todays’ of the past. Read more here.

Routed #4: Climate change and mobilities


Across the world human-induced climate change is transforming the planet’s environments and ecosystems and affecting migratory movements of people and animals. At the same time, migratory movements can transform local environments by putting pressure on finite resources and exacerbating the conditions for environmental damage. In this context, the phenomenon of ‘climate refugees’ has emerged prominently among other forms of mobility. Politics has also taken on transnational dimensions with social movements mobilising between continents calling on their respective governments to do more to reduce fossil-fuel dependency. Read more here.

Routed #3: Immobility of migration

While migration is often synonymous with movement, in reality, many people ‘on the move’ struggle to realise their aspirations and remain stuck. When movement is not an option, migration creates spaces of immobility filled with tensions, resignation, suffering, struggles and waiting. These include makeshift camps, processing centres, jails, workhouses and boats stuck in ports. In turn, people use their agency to reshape these and other immobile spaces that emerge in the process of migration. Read more here.

Routed #2: The new world politics of movement

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted in December 2018, became a milestone in the history of migration politics. It represents an effort to ‘regularise’ migration, which has been lauded by many members of the international community. At the same time, it has provoked an unprecedented level of far-right populist backlash, causing many states to withdraw from the agreement. Read more here.

Routed #1: Roots & Routes

In our first issue, we question existing perceptions of migration as a binary choice between roots and routesstaying and moving, belonging and leaving, being stuck and running free. Are we humans really faced with such a dilemma? How do politics, markets, and cultures create it and reshape it? What are its consequences over people's lives, and how do migrants think of themselves in the light of it? What alternative ideas are emerging? Read more here.