Material culture, migration and the transnational imaginary
Julie Botticello (Royal Museums Greenwich)
Ivana Bajic-Hajdukovic (European University Institute, Florence)
David Parkin (Oxford University)
Auxilia AX2
Start time:
26 August, 2010 at 11:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Material objects are used to objectify memory; as things with their own trajectories, migrating objects are also used to create new links and new relations, positively or negatively affecting imaginations of community and belonging, making migration a crisis of local/global identification.

Long abstract:

This panel considers the "crisis of passage" that occurs through migration, the roles material objects play to surmount this, and that of the imagination, instrumental in facilitating global connections. Migration is a crisis because those who move are in situations out of the ordinary, with no safety nets to fall back on, with hardly any institutional support, uprooted from their social and physical landscapes. Migrants must develop their own strategies for dealing with complex situations and emotional turmoil. Objects play a tremendous role here to effect self-remembering, self-representation and home (re)making. The forms these take can be religious artefacts, healing materials, clothing, food, photographs, music. These 'mementoes' remind people of who they are and where they come from and to whom they are connected.

Migration is not just about citizens crossing borders from homeland to host-countries; it incorporates global movements of things, ideas and people: transnational movements affecting those who move as well as those who don't. Migration as the crisis of passage moves the traditional paradigm of migration into the realm of the imaginary, in which distant and previously unknown peoples can become connected through materials circulating in this global domain. The same types of objects cited previously can similarly be used to express outward belonging and membership to "imagined communities" not able to be experienced personally, changing persons and altering their concepts of local and global belonging.

We welcome papers addressing this crisis and how ordinary people respond to their extraordinary situations through the multiple meanings objects provide.