P32
The ethnographic framing of the migrant subject

Convenors:
Anita Bressan (University of Sydney)
Chair:
Anita Bressan, Ghassan Hage, Meenakshi Thapan
Location:
CSSS Class Room No.104, First Floor, SSS-II
Start time:
4 April, 2012 at 8:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Can the migrant speak? Inclusion and exclusion in the subjectivization of migrant identities

Long abstract:

Judith Butler's concept of framing can be applied to the study of migrants, to uncover how the gaze of the dominant culture articulates the possibilities that they are offered in their new country. The framing imposed on the migrants contributes to the formation of the intelligible subjects by establishing the possibilities of self expression one is left with: in order for "colonized" subjects to become recognizable ones, they must adhere to the normative scheme upheld by the recognizer, which (inevitably?) re-arranges meanings by interpreting cultures, their performances and artistic manifestations. Parallel to this, as exposed by authors such as James Clifford and Paul Rabinow, ethnography, inescapably imposes on the subject the epistemological framing entailed in the power position from which it is carried out: subjectivization recreates and reinstates the same conditions of power imbalance that it often seeks to overcome, rendering vane the attempts to give voice to the other(-ed). With reference to the study of migrations, this panel will investigate the way in which the interlacements between national, cultural and gender belonging produce subjectivities (and their other), and how such process affects (self)recognition. Moreover, it will exemplify the ruses implied in ethnographic work, for which it will try to propose pragmatic, contextualized solutions. With the purpose of highlighting the expedients that can help rendering (progressively) intelligible the 'cultural excesses' otherwise relegated to the world of the unspeakable, it will illustrate the possibilities offered by self-reflexivity, and by the inclusion in the field of the research of (the unearthing and disentanglement of) the power hierarchies that differently position the agents involved.