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cide to return to some of the old texts, myths to make sense of what often appears as a new iteration of an old story. For example, in October 2016, a new version of Aeschylus’s ‘The Suppliants’ was staged at the Lyceum theatre, Edinburgh; the production, a new collaboration between David Greig and Actors Touring Company (following their widely acclaimed 2013/14 production of ‘The Events’) subsequently toured in Britain and Ireland during 2017. The play tells the story of a chorus of African young women (performed by amateur actors, volunteers from the local community) who flee rape and forced marriage and seek asylum in Greece. Like numerous other adaptations or stagings of canonical texts, the production returned to an ancient text in order to make sense of the contemporary plight of migration; publicity material of the production note that the women ‘speak to us through the ages with startling resonance for our times’, emphasising the continuity of suffering across centuries. S.E. Wilmer notes the importance of the ancient Greek texts not only because ‘[they] depict uprooted and homeless persons seeking protection, they also demonstrate the importance of hospitality or ‘xenia’ and the ritual of supplication or ‘hiketeia’ as a moral practice in ancient Athens’ (2018: 11). In other words, those old texts about migration offer insight into the politics and ethics of welcoming (or not) those who were victims of violence and they constitute testaments of an advanced society that (according to the stories we are told) appeared to remain open to those in need. The paradox of hospitality, resting on the unequal relation between host and guest, remains a conundrum in conversations around asylum and it exemplified in the ancient Greek text particularly at the moment when the king of the city has to make a decision as to whether to accept the women- or not. He says: ‘to bar you brings horror, but welcome brings war. Fear grips me hard now. I have to be careful. Act or not to act, what can I do?’ (Greig, 2016: 22) Some reviewers hailed the production as a ‘feminist protest song’, while others noted their unease or dissatisfaction with ‘this difficult piece of humanity’s ancient past’ (Haydon 2017). In her review of the November 2017 Young Vic production, Maddy Costa points at the problems that emerge when considering how we appropriate and rely on old myths to make sense of the complexity of the present: I find myself wondering why it is that we must build cultural sympathy for the plight of modern refugees upon an ancient story about women threatened with rape, and what it means to generate empathy through that threat. Indeed, the production was telling (again) a story of savage, powerless women who become agitated when they are subject to male violence – and that kind of story perpetuated categories of victim and perpetrator (but also benefactor) across centuries, drawing analogies between then and now, misinterpreting and misrepresenting contemporary politics. There is a significant question to raise about the need to return to old (patriarchal) texts in order to understand contemporary predicaments; is a reenactment of classical 5th century BC tragedy an appropriate device in order to make sense of forced displacement in the contemporary world, still marked by racist and colonialist strategies? In such moments of staging foreignness, one should ask what is the implication of relying on myths, or what Cox describes as an ‘echo chamber of archetypal, often heroic, narratives’, this ‘symbolic system by which we recognise (the Latin etymology is ‘know again’) migrants and migration’ and consequently read ‘the political present’ (Cox 2014: 9). This is not only about how we perceive the migrant, the Other – it is also about how

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Profile for Border_Crossings

THE PROMISED LAND: Intercultural Learning with Refugees and Migrants  

Project e-book for THE PROMISED LAND - a cross-sectoral project funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union. The book explores...

THE PROMISED LAND: Intercultural Learning with Refugees and Migrants  

Project e-book for THE PROMISED LAND - a cross-sectoral project funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union. The book explores...

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