Staging Migration

– rhetoric, representation and reception in Swedish children’s theatre. A research project within the research program migration and integration.

Project leader: Anna Lund External link.

Period: 2020-2023

Seat of learning: Stockholms University

Project title: Staging Migration. Rhetoric, representation and reception in Swedish children’s theatre

What is the project about?

Flight from war and across the seas, identity and outsidership, and what it might be like to have two home countries, or no home country at all, have frequently been staged in theatrical productions for children and young people in Sweden since 2015. In many parts of the country, young persons with experiences of flight and relocation encounter (as part of theater audiences) staged narratives that recreate migration, together with children born in Sweden. This often occurs during school hours.

But how this encounter turns out is a black hole for migration research and theatre studies. The purpose of the project Staging Migration is to produce empirical and theoretical knowledge of the potential of children’s theatre to stage an inclusive Sweden. The purpose is not just a question of determining what is required to understand why inclusion occurs or does not occur, but also how this occurs in practice.

The project seeks answers from three perspectives. A cultural policy perspective that raises questions about which stories about children and migration are considered as important to recreate and produce. Another perspective that focuses on the artistic content and practice and lastly a third perspective which concerns the stage/audience encounter.

The three perspectives collectively provide an insight into the strive within contemporary theater to be an arena for unheard stories, underrepresented bodies and experiences, and the role that children’s experiences of migration has for what is staged and produced, and for the post-event work carried out. These perspectives can also problematize this strive by illuminating whether and how social boundaries between “us” and “them” may be reproduced as an unintended consequence.

Research questions

  1. What cultural policy considerations are made in the light of applications rhetoric when decisions on grants to the performing arts for children with migration themes are made?
  2. Which artistic deliberations concerning representation on stage are made when migration is staged?
  3. Which deliberations are made by artistic teams when deciding how migration should be staged in productions and how are these received by the child audience?

The research questions will be answered by using diverse qualitative and quantitative methods, including text analysis, interviews, observations, and a survey to advance our knowledge on cultural aspects of the meaning and challenges of migration and integration.

Project participants

The subject affiliations of the project participants are sociology, theater studies and child and youth studies. The team share expertise within the field of children and youth theater and have many years of experience in empirical research within the framework of how cultural policy for young people is done in practice, the artistic characteristics of professional theater for children as well as knowledge concerning youth culture, multicultural school environments and social inclusion.

The reference group of researchers and representatives of theater that we have put together is also of importance for the realization of the project. The members of the reference group have shaped and continue to shape the fields we are investigating: theoretically, empirically and as artists. The composition of the reference group guarantees an elaborative dialogue between practitioners and researchers in the project and facilitate for the project to reach actors within the arts- and education sector.




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