Displacement or replacement: soundings on a fractured culture

Alex Law, Owen Logan*, Martyn Hudson, Kirsten Lloyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Artistic and literary portrayals of displacement win considerable appreciation within the terms of liberal criticism. Forcibly displaced persons and migrants meet the rhetoric of understanding and compassion. By contrast this paper examines the influential discourse of le grand remplacement, or great replacement, authored by the gay French writer, poet and self-portraitist Renaud Camus. His theory of cultural replacement has been adopted by far-right or ‘alt-right’ political groups internationally and gains ideological traction more broadly. From this perspective Europeans face an existential threat from immigration policies which encourage homogeneity rather than cultural autonomy and a genuine diversity of societies. We analyse critical responses to replacement discourse taking account of the fracture between political and economic liberalism, a fracture evident in the willingness of key liberal thinkers to suspend the rule of law and suppress human rights (Landa 2010). We argue that the arts and letters provide inadequate cultural compensations for this fracture. Preferred cultural responses suffer from a ‘reality blindness’ discussed by the refugee sociologist, Norbert Elias, (1887-1990) and may displace more meaningful calls for deliberative democracy. It is argued that academic and cultural discourses on displacement should reflect more on educational reform, particularly to issues of inequality and access which compound the liberal fracture explored here. On the basis of collaborative ethnography with randomised citizen juries and selected focus groups we argue that Elias’s concept of ‘civilised controversy’ (Law 2018) should be tested via the democratic commissioning of artistic and cultural production in the public interest (Logan, Hudson, Law & Lloyd 2023).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2023
EventUnderstanding Displacement in Visual Art and Cultural History: 1945 to Now - University of Manchester, Manchester , United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Oct 202325 Oct 2023


ConferenceUnderstanding Displacement in Visual Art and Cultural History
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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