ESF-LiU Conference on Home, Migration and the City: New Narratives, New Methodologies (ESF-LiU Conference o)

Venue: Scandic Linköping Vast

Location: Linköping, Sweden

Event Date/Time: Aug 06, 2010 End Date/Time: Aug 10, 2010
Registration Date: Apr 16, 2010
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There has been a recent surge of scholarship from human geography, sociology, history, architecture, and cultural studies that focuses on migration as a social, political, cultural and material process. This area of research on migration examines migrants’ transnational spatial practices, social and political identities and relationships with the state. Central to this research has been a recognition that at the heart of migration lies a fundamental transformation in spaces and places that are linked to the social and cultural meanings of home and belonging.

Migration brings about a material change in the places and locations through which notions of identity, individual expressions and belonging are transformed. Through the movement of people, for instance, cities, homes and localities become re-narrated through migrants’ stories, photographs, music, artwork and films. Cities in particular, as places of origin and (re)settlement become key sites of migrants’ experiences of ‘home’(s). The experience of Europe over the past fifty years is a good example; urban spaces have increasingly become contested locations where the spatial and material nature of identities are negotiated – Muslim/Christian, European/non-European, first/second generation of migrants. Much migration research, moreover, connects home and nation by investigating migrants’ connections with past, present or imagined ‘homelands’. Home can now also be described as translocal, transnational and diasporic – shaped by consumption, remittances and social networks. The domestic spaces inhabited by migrants are especially important for their roles in constructing attitudes and behaviours towards ‘others’ when strangers share living spaces in the city. Home can even be redefined through its ‘socio-technical’ differences across national spaces. This conference offers an opportunity to bring these social, spatial, material and technological facets of migration together – to consider migrants’ identities and experiences of homes and cities, and the material, aural and visual landscapes of mobility and movement.

This conference takes ‘narratives’ – broadly defined as stories, diaries, myths, photographs, music, films, media images and representations of movement – as the analytical starting point for new research on migration. Narratives have several dimensions. Firstly, migrant narratives need to be understood as inherently spatial. As is widely acknowledged, migrants’ stories of movement are often stories of different places at different moments, and thus are essentially ‘spatial stories’. Secondly, this spatiality of migration narratives is multi-scalar; it can relate to belonging on a national, political scale, represent locality dynamics, more small-scale, personal experiences of migration, or even the material narratives of migration, such as stories of significant objects and material culture. The political element of the larger scale narratives is especially important; it is these that foster the exclusion and inclusion of migrants in societies. Thirdly, the performative element of migrants’ narratives is very strong; not all narratives are textual but instead are enacted through music, theatre, film, food, or dance. Finally, such narratives can also be highly visual, corporeal, and embodied, whether through media representations, artwork, or architecture. Such a broad conceptualisation of migrant narratives demands new interdisciplinary theories and methodologies to understand the interconnected landscapes of home, migration and the city.


Additional Information

This conference thus aims to question and compare such narratives and counter-narratives, in different contexts within Europe and beyond, through interdisciplinary perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. Methodological perspectives will therefore be central to the discussions during this conference, to encourage and disseminate interdisciplinary approaches to researching migration. The following questions will help to shape this conference: • How are narratives of migration used, shared, remembered, materialised, performed and represented in different contexts? • How do narratives shape belonging and attachment, inclusions and exclusions, around ideas of home(s) and the city? • How do we examine these diverse narratives of movement through theoretical and methodological innovation? Details This conference invites paper and poster presentations which investigate one more of the three conference themes; narratives of migration; materialities of home and movement; and cities, places, locations. It also invites submissions for a panel discussion with six young researchers working with new cross-cutting methodologies around these three themes. Theme 1: Narratives of Migration While migration has been a highly politicised issue for many nation states, it can be argued that researchers have traditionally focussed on disempowered and disembodied migrants who are forced or coerced to move across nations and spaces. Many of these narratives, usually of a historical nature, have privileged migration to America and post-colonial migration to former colonising nations. Research of this genre has tended to focus primarily on a ‘loss of home’ because of the nature of their migration as refugees or asylum seekers, whose return to a previous home was rendered difficult. Yet, recent movements of people across the world suggest that migrants are far more engaged in their own mobility, making strategic decisions in order to capitalise on their social and cultural networks and gain access to new spaces of social and political power. Thus we need to recognise migrants as also being people whose movement is facilitated by regional citizenships such as that of the EU, as well as professional and middle-class elites who are able to circumvent state controls on account of their access to cultural capital. Migrants’ narratives of movement reflect the varieties of experiences and perceptions from these wide-ranging positionalities and demonstrate the ways that these experiences can be shared, retold and remembered. We ask how these narratives are continuously negotiated in different cities, places and locations, and how they shape the construction and contestation of a number of hybridised and creolised identities around race, ethnicity, religion and nationality. The first theme of the conference will deal with a range of methodological approaches to understanding the narratives of home – textual, aural, performative, and visual, which scrutinise, document and theorise migrants’ perspectives of migration. This may include oral histories, autobiographies, personal photographs, memorabilia, food recipes, artwork, music and films, as well as a range of other non/textual material that attempt to redefine the social, political, cultural and imaginative constructions of migration and movement. Theme 2: Materialities of Home and Movement. For most migrants, building or inhabiting a ‘home’ in a new environment implies new ways of interacting with people, places, technologies, materials and built environments; it involves new kinds of behaviours in these places, new modes of movements through the city and new kinds of social relationships. In all of this, there is a transformation in the meaning of home and movement. Home is simultaneously a material and symbolic place, located in various spaces of the past, present and future. Various scholars acknowledge the material cultures of home present in photographs, memorabilia, furniture and so on, which are shaped through the material practices of moving and settling. During movement these become important bases for cultural understandings of relatedness. For migrants, the home comes together in a set of practices, enacted in different space(s)-time(s), through the deployment of particular resources to define a domestic environment – finding a place to live, inhabiting this place and moving into and from this place. Home and narratives of home are thus fundamental to migrants’ experiences of belonging and adapting to new environments. However, it is not enough to consider ‘home’ in isolation. As more and more attention is being paid to new mobilities and in particular the characteristics of travel times and spaces, this theme will also interrogate the notion of ‘dwelling in motion’ by investigating how migrants travel for migration and how migrants’ journey times and spaces are furnished. This theme will consider the varying constructions of home and sites of travel, by inviting a diverse array of approaches and methodologies. The questions we ask are – where do home-spaces end – how far do they extend – and how are the spaces between home, locale, and homeland experienced? How is home narrated, and how can researchers tap into this? How can sites of travel be researched? Theme 3: Cities, Places, Locations Places have long been recognised as being at the heart of migration experiences. Existing literature on migration points to the centrality of places in a number of ways, both in conceptualising ‘otherness’ and in anchoring memory and nostalgia. Research increasingly charts the complex link between migrants’ practices and places, and especially the different encounters with ‘others’ which occur within urban spaces, which are mediated through migrants’ transnational histories, cosmopolitan attitudes, diasporic belonging, national identity, and particular positionalities of gender, race, ethnicity and citizenship. Cities, as places of origin and resettlement, are therefore central sites in the everyday negotiations of belonging and home. On the one hand, migrants, through their everyday practices, can be seen as contributing to the production of multiple and divergent forms of cosmopolitanisms, produced on a series of scales within and beyond the nation. On the other hand, there have been increasing discussions of the ways that cities have been conceived and marketed as cosmopolitan spaces, which attempt to exclude particular forms of ‘otherness’ housed within migrants’ spaces. Under such circumstances, cities, urban spaces, and neighbourhoods have become the sites of powerful and exclusionary politics around multiculturalism, inclusion, belonging and the construction of history. Situated within broader debates around place and displacement, location and mobility, settlement and return, this theme will examine the various locations within migrant landscapes and the ways in which they reflect and influence cultures, politics, identities and narratives. The focus will be particularly on the varieties of ways that such landscapes are transformed and negotiated from the scale of the home, to neighbourhoods, to cities and homelands. Conference format: * lectures by invited high level speakers * short talks by young & early stage researchers * poster sessions, round table and open discussion periods * forward look panel discussion about future developments Invited speakers will include: * Dr. Zuzana Burikova Slovak Academy of Sciences, SK * Prof. Iain Chambers University of Naples "L'Orientale", IT * Prof. Adrian Favell Aarhus University, DK * Prof. Tovi Fenster Tel Aviv University, IL * Dr. Mirjana Lozanovska Deakin University, AU * Prof. Ulrike Meinhof University of Southampton, UK * Dr. Nirmal Puwar Goldsmiths College, UK * Prof. Zlatko Skrbis University of Queensland, AU