The Visual Culture of Migration: Private and Public Negotiations
Migration is triggered by social inequality and at the same time migration produces new inequalities. Visual figurations of migration or of migrants are used – in official and public or individual perspectives – to challenge inequality or to make it a topic of discussion, to constitute communality anew and to position the individual in an everyday life shaped by migration. In doing so, migration is usually staged either as a problem or as a spectacle. In both cases the figure of the migrant, however, acts as a projection figure, in order to explain processes of change (for example as scapegoats), to advertise and guide “integration” and to position one’s own self and replenish it with qualities of the other.
Nevertheless, migration is not only a central figuration in the framework of a discourse about the societal, cultural other. It is also subject in discourses by the other, which take account of the perspective of this other. To this effect immigrants use visual culture in order to achieve socialisation and in order to claim public presence – for example in the form of “ethnic” festivals, public parades and manifestations or in the form of more enduring urban inscriptions such as cultural centres. And in the private realm, too, visual culture (Skype, cell-phone videos, Internet blogs) is used in order to cope with a family and communal life that is marked by transformation. In this way new communities are constituted and family is practised over wide spatial and temporal distances in transformed ways.
The panel discusses such relations between representations of migration in visual culture and a tactical use of visual media in order to master change in connection with migration. Representation from outside and self-representation are confronted with one another and become perceptible in their differences as well as in their mutual borrowings.
Visual Sociology Working Group, International Sociological Association
Session organizers: Anna Schober and Jörn Ahrens Sociology department
Justus Liebig University Giessen
Karl-Gloeckner-Str. 21 E,
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