Unwelcome mats: A decolonial intervention, challenging the refugee welcome narrative


Abstract


Discourse surrounding the ‘refugee issue’, particularly within self-declared left-leaning, liberal movements, has often centred on the rhetoric of welcome. The narrative however has been adopted, reproduced and circulated without critically interrogating the framing by which such welcome is called upon. This article argues, rather than being inclusionary, the idea of welcome within the Australian context is in fact an exclusionary practice. Welcome as an extension of border imperialism. It explores the inherent paradoxes, assumptions and colonial undercurrents though a public intervention, Unwelcome Mats, commissioned as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival.  Unwelcome Mats was an intervention that saw  a series of welcome mats printed with the word ‘unwelcome’ and placed at buildings where the act of welcoming is and has been a point of contention, including the Immigration Museum, Old Parliament house and the Department of Citizenship and Border Protection.  Unwelcome Mats, instead of a one-dimensional welcome, sought to instead ask: who has the imperial, historical power to welcome?


Keywords: decolonial, refugee, public intervention

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