Complicating the Narrative: Representation, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Witnessing
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Refugee and forced migrant issues have emerged as part of the nation’s consciousness with the rising number of asylum seekers arriving in European countries, the uncertainty over the position of undocumented migrants in the United States, and the increase in asylum seekers crossing the United States-Canada border. The limited space and opportunity refugees and forced migrants have to represent themselves can lead to generalizations and over-simplified narratives about their lived experiences (O'Neill, 2008). Focusing on Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2003), this paper examines how graphic narratives written by forced migrants can complicate generalizations and act as a witness to their experiences. Simon’s (2005, 2014) writing frames my thinking on witnessing and Hall’s (1997a, 1997b; Jhally, 2014) ideas of representation, meaning, and power frame how I think about the representation of forced migrants. I explore the following questions in this paper: How does Persepolis bear witness to the complexity of Satrapi’s experiences of forced migration? What might a possible response to this work of witness look like?