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Arts, music, and migration

Migration A–Z


  1. Ben Gidley

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm039

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Gidley, B. 2013. Arts, music, and migration. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


The experience of human migration has been a major theme of artistic production for probably as long as movement has been a feature of human life. Storytelling and song, the visual arts, then literature and theater, and more recently cinema and television have all registered the importance of migration. Thus, some of the earliest surviving examples of the arts address themes of exile and travel. For example, the Bronze Age Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, dating from as early as 2100 bce, records the journeys of the hero Gilgamesh, while nostos (homecoming) is a major theme of ancient Greek literature. This includes Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, dating from the 8th century bce or earlier, telling the story of the hero Odysseus (known to the later Romans as Ulysses), and his long journey home from battle. This has been a major influence on Western literature and arts ever since, and Odysseus' journey has frequently served as a metaphor for migration, exile, and return. Similarly, the Norse sagas, dating from the period around 1000 ce, feature tales of voyages, including the migration from Denmark to Iceland.


  • cross-cultural;
  • cultural diversity;
  • race;
  • postcolonialism;
  • empire;
  • American borderlands;
  • faith