The Asylum and its Discontents: Reflections on Michal Heiman

Abstract: Michal Heiman’s project, Return: asylum (the Dress, 1855-2018), consists of photographs of women and men clothed in a dress similar to one worn by women inmates at the former Surrey County Lunatic Asylum in the 1850s. Traversing time, space, gender, race and institutional practices of asylum, the artist takes the viewers on a ride in a time machine that is not a technological devise but a discourse on memory and on owning the future: s/he who wears the dress has the potential to return as witness, reader, artist, prosecutor, gate-keeper or rebel, thereby transforming her exceptional story into ours. Return: Asylum is an act of resistance: it engages human imagination in re-presenting the regenerative power of human solidarity as an alternative to current political practices that sacrifice the right of asylum—the only right that since the dawn of political life, as noted by Arendt, “has ever figured as a symbol of the Rights of Man”—at the altar of a security theology.

This content is restricted to site members. If you are an existing user, please login. New users may click here to subscribe.

Existing Users Log In

About Orna Ben-Naftali

Orna Ben-Naftali is the rector of the College of Management Academic Studies (The Collman), Israel, and the Emile Zola Chair for Human Rights at the Striks School of Law, The Collman. Her latest book (co-authored with Michael Sfard and Hedi Viterbo), The ABC of the OPT: A Legal Lexicon of the Israeli Control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory (Cambridge University Press, 2018), proposes that this control is a legal laboratory and explores the role law has played in the making and sustaining of this regime.