Dr. Ayona Datta - London School of Economics, UK
Dr. Kathy Burrell - De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
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.
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