'They Draw Blood’: Reimagining Asylum-Seeker Narrative through Safdar Ahmed’s Villawood

  • Shannon Sandford (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


During the federal election campaign of 2001, the Australian government framed the issue of displaced peoples as a crisis of national sovereignty, referring to 'floods' or 'waves' of asylum-seekers bound for Australia. This language served to reinforce a notion of ‘us’ threatened by ‘them’ that justified the Pacific Solution and continues to obfuscate the dehumanising, disempowering effects of mandatory detention today. Amidst the powerfully democratising, public spheres of Web 2.0, Safdar Ahmed’s documentary webcomic, Villawood: Notes from an Immigration Detention Centre, complicates this dominant rhetoric around asylum-seekers. Testifying to the traumatic precariousness of living in detention, it confronts readers with unflinching visual displays of subjects often silenced and invisible. This paper examines how the experimental form of webcomics presents a compelling new dimension of Australian literature, and how the technological mobility of Villawood’s publication online makes possible new engagements with the voices, stories, and bodies of asylum-seekers in Australia.
Period17 Nov 2020
Event title25th Australasian Association of Writing Programs Conference 2020: Rising Tides
Event typeConference
LocationGold Coast, AustraliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational