Art for Coexistence

Art for Coexistence

Unlearning the Way We See Migration

By Christine Ross

An exploration of how contemporary art reframes and humanizes migration, calling for coexistence—the recognition of the interdependence of beings.





An exploration of how contemporary art reframes and humanizes migration, calling for coexistence—the recognition of the interdependence of beings.

In Art for Coexistence, art historian Christine Ross examines contemporary art's response to migration, showing that art invites us to abandon our preconceptions about the current “crisis”—to unlearn them—and to see migration more critically, more disobediently. Viewers in Europe and North America must come to see migration in terms of coexistence: the interdependence of beings. The artworks explored by Ross reveal, contest, rethink, delink, and relink more reciprocally the interdependencies shaping migration today—connecting citizens-on-the-move from some of the poorest countries and acknowledged citizens of some of the wealthiest countries and democracies worldwide.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Laura Waddington, Tania Bruguera, and others, demonstrate art's power to mediate experiences of migration. Ross argues that art invents a set of interconnected calls for more mutual forms of coexistence: to historicize, to become responsible, to empathize, and to story-tell. Art history, Ross tells us, must discard the legacy of imperialist museology—which dissocializes, dehistoricizes, and depoliticizes art. It must reinvent itself, engaging with political philosophy; postcolonial, decolonial, Black, and Indigenous studies; and critical refugee and migrant studies.


$38.00 X ISBN: 9780262047395 424 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 23 color illus., 55 b&w illus.


  • “At this time of divisive differentiation, how might contemporary artists contribute to the creation of the community that the world so urgently needs? Christine Ross boldly takes up this question at its sharpest point: the worldwide 'migration crisis' in which coexistence is cruelly denied and acutely felt. Key works by Banksy, Isaac Julien, John Akomfrah, Tania Bruguera, Olu Oguibe, Forensic Oceanography, Ai Weiwei, Kader Attia, Candice Breitz, Stan Douglas, Kent Monkman, and several others are convincingly read as exemplary demonstrations of what it is to 'unlearn' colonization, as potent calls for empathy, and as modeling aspects of a more mutual coexistence.”

    Terry Smith

    Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Pittsburgh; Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art, and Critical Thought, European Graduate School; and author of Art to Come: Histories of Contemporary Art

  • “With an emphasis on coexistence, varying worldviews, and art-as-a-call-to-listen, Christine Ross addresses one of the greatest emergencies of our time: migration, our concepts about which must be 'unlearned.' Ross's extraordinary analyses are vitally important to understand if we are to move forward productively.”

    Santiago Zabala

    ICREA Research Professor of Philosophy, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; author of Why Only Art Can Save Us and Being at Large

  • “An invaluable and compelling conceptual road map to art and migration theories. Ross displays an appreciable finesse in her analysis of the rationales behind forced displacement and she manages to avoid the empathetic vulnerability trope often associated with migrants to revisit migration experiences via the lens of art. A rare and necessary approach.”

    Marie Ruiz

    Associate Professor, Université de Picardie Jules Verne; co-editor of Art & Migration: Revisioning  the Borders of Community with Bénédicte Miyamoto