Debordering futures conference: Q&A with Lina Fadel – The Other Side of Hope

Q: Hi Lina, we’re thrilled you accepted our invite to join us at the Debordering Futures conference. As a migrant scholar working with anti-oppressive creative methods, poet and editor at the UK-based literary magazine The Other Side of Hope: journeys in refugee and immigrant literature, we are so happy you co-moderated the poetic panel ‘Creative Inheritances and Healing Collective Trauma’. We are also humbled and moved that the magazine will dedicate a section to publish contributions from our conference and look forward to working together with you as the editor for this piece.

Lina: Thank you for the warm welcome! I’m delighted to have been a part of the Debordering Futures Conference and excited to collaborate with you on publishing contributions from the conference. Together, we’ll amplify diverse voices and foster dialogue on vital issues.

Q: The magazine The Other Side of Hope is a distinct literary, community and knowledge-production project, as well as UK’s first ever literary magazine of Sanctuary, accredited by City of Sanctuary UK. You gave such a heartwarming overview of the magazine that people can access and listen to. Can you tell us a little about the magazine, and share a particularly memorable moment from your time with the other side of hope which has moved your life and work?

Lina: At first glance, The Other Side of Hope is a literary magazine with a specialisation. But then when you look a little more closely, you’ll find that The Other Side of Hope is a project of sanctuary, hope, empathy and understanding. It’s our gift to those who have big and beautiful voices but have been silenced by war, injustice, racism and much more. The other side of hope is a platform and a home for those voices. Our mission goes beyond publishing these people’s written work; our mission is to highlight voices from marginalised communities, because we recognise that doing so, not only elevates their unique narratives but also challenges existing power structures. We are a community project and a literary magazine so I guess it’s fair to say that we sit somewhere between literature and community.

The Other Side of Hope is quite an unusual magazine because from a design point of view it’s really a straight-up text-based literary journal, but it’s also quite an extraordinary project, built on love and inclusivity. We are a project run by a team of migrants and refugees and publishing work written by refugees and immigrants. And we do so both in print and online.

So many memorable moments, indeed! One that stands out is the joy of meeting our writers face-to-face during our launch events. There’s something special about connecting the beautiful poems and pieces we publish with the faces of their creators. It’s a powerful reminder of the human stories behind the words.

Covers of past issues

Past issues of The Other Side of Hope

Q: As a researcher your methodological choices are ‘deceptively simple’ and you ‘defend the use of fragments’ to interrupt assumptions on ‘how knowledges are produced and reproduced’ in your article Re-Search on the Hyphen: ‘(Re)writing the Fragmented Self within Contexts of Displacement’. This seems to evoke poet Bhanu Kapil’s writing practice she described as ‘Diasporic form: an attempt to remember something that nothing in your environment prompts. […] to incubate fragments.’[1] How do you perceive the interplay between your artistic practice and your academic research? Is there an intriguing story where the two are impacting one another? Has your definition of knowledge changed over time and how?

Lina: The interplay between my artistic practice and academic research is deeply intertwined with my personal journey as a migrant academic and Arab woman navigating multiple worlds. Writing poetry has been instrumental in helping me reconcile the complexities of my identity and experiences, from grappling with the emotional impact of war back home to forging a new life in the UK.

Indeed, I defend fragments because they define and mirror my own hybrid existence, where fragments of memories and experiences intersect to form a nuanced understanding of self and place. Over time, my definition of knowledge has evolved to encompass multiplicity and resilience, embracing the fragmented nature of existence as a source of insight and creativity.

For me, knowledge is as much about withholding as it is about creating and sharing. It’s about navigating the complexities of ethics, intentionality, and the interplay between knowing and not knowing. Isn’t knowledge, after all, relative?

The ongoing dialogue between my artistic and academic pursuits continues to shape my research methodology, enriching both my scholarly inquiry and creative expression. My poetic self also guides me when I write my academic papers and think about my methods, just as my academic self is present when I wear my poetic hat. I’ve come to realise that I can no longer separate the two—and I wouldn’t want to. This reconciliation between my selves defines the kind of academic I am and the methodologies I want my work to embrace: fragmented, revolutionary, hybrid, and poetic.

Q: How do you see activism entwined in your work given your experience with performance as resistance that our readers can hear more at Visualising War and Peace: Combating Reductive Refugee Narratives? In the vein of debordering activism vs. academia, how do you traverse the anti-colonial nature of your projects within the constraints of the academic institutions within which some of us are situated?

Lina: Activism is inherent in my work, as I strive to challenge colonial structures and amplify marginalized voices through both my academic research and artistic endeavours. Within academic institutions, I navigate the anti-colonial nature of my projects by leveraging my position to advocate for anti-colonization, equity, and social justice. For example, in 2022, I performed my own one-woman show at the 75th Edinburgh Fringe as an act of resistance and activism – I wrote about this experience in ‘A Syrian academic at the Fringe: why I put on a show to reclaim the stories of refugees like me’.

This involves constant interrogation and, where possible, disruption of existing power dynamics within our institutions. I scrutinize my research closely, asking whether it authentically represents my unique experiences and values, or if it is driven solely by pragmatic considerations aimed at maximizing income generation through favourable scores in research assessment exercises.

These questions are a constant source of reflection for me. I am unwavering in my commitment because I strive for my research to be true to the researcher I aspire to be: authentic, daring, and embracing my difference as if it were gold dust, not something to be ashamed of or hide in order to belong to the institution or gain approval from those in positions of authority. My approach is deliberate and infused with a loving dedication to who I am as a person, shaped by my experiences of migration and exile.

Q: The Other Side of Hope values the lives that the world often chooses to ignore, wither wittingly or unwittingly. There are many uncertainties following the pandemic, ongoing denialism of racial colonial present, as well as challenges like readership reach. After years of engagement with immigrant literature/publication, how do you perceive the notion of ‘ignorance’? How do you navigate these complexities as we move towards a future that aims to connect with more beautiful strangers?

Lina: The Other Side of Hope embodies a steadfast commitment to amplifying the voices and experiences often sidelined and overlooked. In today’s socio-political and academic landscape, characterised by calls to decolonise our institutions and confront colonialism and injustice, the imperative to share these rich stories has never been greater.

Amidst the revival of empire in various facets of society, we are compelled to reckon with the suffering of those living on the margins. It’s a reminder that we cannot afford the illusion of knowledge. Maya Angelou likened ignorance to a prison, and Confucius described it as ‘the night of the mind.’ However, to me, the illusion of knowledge poses an even greater danger—a false sense of understanding that conflates knowing with knowledge.

Ignorance, a systemic issue entrenched in societal structures, marginalises certain narratives and perspectives. Navigating these complexities is challenging, yet essential. It requires confronting and dismantling systems of ignorance while harnessing the transformative power of storytelling to connect with those different from us.

Without fostering empathy, understanding, and solidarity, our pursuit of a future where every voice is valued and heard remains incomplete. It’s through genuine connection and collaboration that real solutions emerge.

Q: It seems that a move to draw outside the lines whether in academic or creative writing often turns into unsolicited advice to ‘discipline’ one’s writing and methods to white hegemonic standards[2]. Otherwise, such writing is quickly and prejudicially pigeonholed as ‘identity politics’ and ‘self-expression’ devoid of intellectual value or artistry. What room is there to build towards anti-oppressive diasporic methods and creative praxis that defy a box-ticking exercise of methods and publishing, to build towards a ‘scholarship that is not made out of scholarship’ (as we know it)? What is your take on anti-colonial anti-racist and debordered future of the academy?

Lina: We still very much live in colonial times – the ‘post’ in colonial is not a realistic depiction of our times. Therefore, the future of the academy hinges on its unwavering commitment to anti-colonial, anti-racist, and debordered principles. This commitment must extend to the research we conduct, the methods we employ, and the way we communicate our findings.

We have a duty to dismantle oppressive structures and cultivate an environment where knowledge production is inclusive, equitable, and reflective of diverse experiences. By centring marginalised voices and embracing alternative methodologies, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and transformative scholarly landscape.

There is ample room for change and for building towards the anti-oppressive diasporic methods you mention. However, we must actively make room for this change to happen. It requires a steadfast commitment and a willingness to explore methods that expand, rather than restrict, the possibilities for generating new knowledge. This includes embracing research that does not conform to traditional norms or follows its own unique rhythm.

Q: We wish to invite conference speakers and participants, who self-identify with personal lived experiences of migration and displacement, to contribute short pieces for the special creative issue of the magazine arising from the Debordering Futures conference. Can you tell us a little about what you will be looking for in contributions? What is in the future for projects like the other side of hope that dismantle the boundaries between creative, community, and academic practices?

Lina: In seeking contributions, we are particularly interested in pieces that challenge conventional boundaries and offer fresh perspectives on themes of migration, belonging, and identity. We welcome diverse forms of expression, including poetry, prose and visual art that illuminate the complexities of the human experience.

We expect to receive submissions by the end of June 2024. For any enquiries, please contact the editor Lina Fadel:

Artwork of a person standing in a red sea.

Cover artwork by Alice Attie for The Other Side of Hope volume 3, issue 2, December 2023. Online edition


Dita N Love is one of the co-convenors of the Debordering Futures Conference and a Junior Research Fellow in Education, Homerton College, Associate member of ACRG and CDH, with anti-disciplinary research practice across abolitionist youth education, contemporary intergenre poetry and trauma-informed social justice.

Linh S. Nguyễn is a Harper Collins children’s author and PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, studying the epistemology of love.

Ms. Jolin Tang is a poet and a current student pursuing an MPhil in Arts, Creativity, and Education at the University of Cambridge. Jolin is passionate about exploring how poetry works in both artistic practice and academic research. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing in English (2022, University of Hong Kong) and has been writing poetry and lyrics in both Chinese and English for more than eight years.

[1] Lee Tsai , J., & Kapil, B. (2021). Remnants as an Articulation [Interview]. Poetry London, 98.

[2]Hong, C. P. (2014). Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde. Lana Turner7(3).

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