Figures on the threshold: Refugees and the politics of hospitality, 1930–51

Katherine Cooper

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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If, as Peter Gatrell has suggested, the figure of the refugee was defined and even constructed during the twentieth century, then the Second World War was a crucial period in this process (Gatrell, 2013). This article looks at three representations of refugee figures from this period, Graham Greene's novel The Name of Action (1930), Rebecca West's short story ‘Around Us the Wail of Sirens’ (1941) and Storm Jameson's novel The Black Laurel (1947), evaluating them in light of recent scholarship around hospitality and asylum to suggest that these refugee characters subvert the norms and customs of British hospitality. It argues that in these three texts, refugees act as ‘threshold figures’, exposing the realities of war and the inadequacy of British social processes to contain them. In doing so, they point towards a different way of representing the refugee as an active agent, rather than a passive recipient in both political processes and social interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-204
Number of pages16
JournalLiterature and History
Issue number2
Early online date15 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Refugees
  • hospitality
  • domestic spaces
  • war
  • second world war

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