Refugee Tales

edited by Sandra Mayer, Sylvia Mieszkowski, and Kevin Potter

Refugee Tales. Mayer, Sandra (Editor); Potter, Kevin (Editor); Mieszkowski, Sylvia (Editor). University of Groningen Press, 2023. (European Journal of Life Writing, Vol. 12).

From the journal website:

This cluster took off from an interdisciplinary and international workshop hosted at the University of Vienna in May 2022. Some of the original contributors turned their presentations into articles for this cluster; other articles were recruited later on. The original idea for both the workshop and cluster was inspired by the UK’s Refugee Tales project, founded and organized by David Herd and Anna Pincus. Some of the articles collected here discuss the life writing aspect of this project from different angles and positions: Patience Agbabi as contributing author to the first Refugee Tales volume, Sandra Mayer as a scholar of literary celebrity, and Sylvia Mieszkowski as cultural analyst. Other articles take a look at other projects in which displaced persons work on life narratives alongside citizens of the host countries: Jessica Gustafsson writes about the Swedish Flyktpodden podcast and Helga Ramsey-Kurz about the Austrian ARENA initiative. Two articles provide the collection with an opening frame, as they focus on the paradoxes that are perpetually produced by immigration law and the cultural conceptions of ‘the refugee’ in the European context (Judith Kohlenberger) and in Austria, specifically for minors (Ayşe Dursun and Birgit Sauer). An Afterword by one of the founders and organizers of Refugee Tales (David Herd) closes the cluster, offering an assessment of the project’s role in the context of the UK’s political situation in the summer of 2023, just after both Houses of Parliament passed the Illegal Migration Bill, which the UN has publicly denounced as contrary to international law.

Sandra Mayer, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Sandra Mayer is a literary and cultural historian at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage (Austrian Academy of Sciences). Her research focuses on life writing, authorship and celebrity, transnational encounters and reception processes, and digital editing. She is the author of Oscar Wilde in Vienna (2018) and has (co-)edited books and special issues on ‘Literary Celebrity and Politics’ (2016), ‘The Author in the Popular Imagination’ (2018), Life Writing and Celebrity (2019), ‘Life Writing and the Transnational’ (2022), and Authorship, Activism and Celebrity: Art and Action in Global Literature (2023). She is co-editor of the Auden Musulin Papers, a scholarly digital edition of letters and literary papers by W. H. Auden in the estate of Stella Musulin ( In her current book project, she explores the intersections of literary celebrity and political activism in and through autobiographical narrative from the nineteenth century up to the present.

Sylvia Mieszkowski, University of Vienna
Sylvia Mieszkowski is Professor of British Literature at the University of Vienna. She is deputy-speaker of the interdisciplinary research platform GAIN (Gender: Ambivalent In_Visibilities) and a member of a second research platform – SOLE: The Stress of Life – hosted at the University of Vienna’s Faculty of Psychology. Most recently, she published ‘Compassionate Projection: Zadie Smith’s The Embassy of Cambodia’ in Journal of the Short Story in English 75 (2022; open access: and co-edited Migrant States of Exception with Birgit Spengler, Lea Espinoza Garrido, and Julia Wewior as special issues 27.2 (January 2022) and 27.3 (July 2022) of Parallax. Two further special issues on Politik in der Populärkultur, co-edited with Sigrid Nieberle for Gender: Zeitschrift für Geschlecht, Kultur und Gesellschaft, and on Gender: Ambivalent In_Visibilities, co-edited with Elisabeth Holzleithner and Birgit Sauer for Journal of Gender Studies, are forthcoming.

Kevin Potter, University of Vienna
Kevin Potter is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Vienna. He is also an associated member of the Mobile Cultures and Societies Research Platform. His scholarly work has appeared in ARIEL, Poetics Today, Deleuze and Guattari Studies, New Formations, and Incontri. His public writing has appeared in Jacobin, ROAR Magazine, Monthly Review, The Millions, and Dissident Voice. His first monograph, Poetics of the Migrant (Edinburgh UP), is forthcoming in October 2023.