EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Emotional attachments in a world of movement

Location Wills G27
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Dimitrina Spencer (University of Oxford) email
Maruska Svasek (Queen's University Belfast) email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on insights from interdisciplinary studies of emotions, we will explore the emotional dimensions of belonging and non-belonging in periods of rapid change and the ways in which migrations shape emotional attachments.

Long Abstract

In a world faced with the increasing mobility of people, objects and ideas, individuals develop diverse emotional attachments which are lived and expressed in myriad ways. Drawing on insights from interdisciplinary studies of emotions, this session intends to explore the emotional dimensions of belonging and non-belonging in periods of rapid change. Such changes may be caused, for example, by migrations or forced migrations which cause individual migrants and refugees to be confronted with new social and material environments. How do they maintain contact with their loved ones abroad, how do they interact emotionally with other migrants, and how do they come to trust or mistrust members of local communities? In other words, how do transnational experiences frame and shape emotional attachments? Other forms of rapid change do not necessarily cause people to move to other places, but they do radically transform their local environments. War, sudden economic deprivation or confrontations with an influx of new people, objects and ideas may generate complex emotional processes. What consequences do such transformations have for the ways in which people attach themselves to (or detach themselves from) places and people? Why do some passionately propagate or reject new ideologies? And, last but not least, how can we conceptualise emotional attachment to better understand these processes? The contributors to this session will address these and other relevant themes, aiming to contribute to the study of emotional dynamics in situations of rapid change.

Chair: Maruska Svasek and Dimitrina Mihaylova


The making of emotional landscapes: German World War II refugees and their changing relations to 'places of memory'

Author: Anja Peleikis (Martin-Luther-University Halle)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper will explore the question of emotional attachments to places and landscapes in the context of displacement, migration and return visits. While transnational migration studies have focussed strongly on the political, social and economic effects of movements between 'places of migration' and 'places of origin', the proposed paper argues that 'places of origin' can also provide existential emotional security in a world of increasing mobility and change.

Taking the example of German World War II refugees from former East Prussia (present-day Lithuania), the presentation will show that people's birthplaces have remained important over a period of 60 years despite the refugees rapid economic and social integration into post-war Germany. During the Cold War most of the refugees gave up their "dream of return", there remained at the same time a continued feeling of nostalgia and homesickness. The paper will show how their birthplaces have become 'nostalgic places of memory' and how emotions of longing and loss have been transmitted to children and grandchildren.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the 'lost homeland' has become far more accessible and many of the former refugees - if health and age still allow them - have travelled to their birthplaces, often together with their offspring, carrying with them their memories and place-images to the present-day locality.

Visiting the birthplace for the first time in 45 or 50 years has the power of mobilising deep emotions that were often hidden, unconscious or unspeakable before. Being confronted with the present-day post-socialist Lithuanian villages, these former inhabitants are often forced to face the traumatic breaks and ruptures in their own lives. Given the case study of the village of Nida (Ger. Nidden) on the Curonian Spit, I shall argue that most of the former German inhabitants are not interested in financial compensation or in getting back their houses and land. To the contrary, at the end of their lives their return to their village of origin often symbolizes a journey back into their personal pasts and a search for emotional peace and finally coming to terms with their traumatic war experiences, flight and loss of their homeland. The paper will analyse how the former refugees cope with these experiences and will reveal how specific 'places of memory', like the church and the graveyard, have received new symbolic and emotional meaning. Finally, the presentation will show how the 'new' Lithuanian population relate to the 'homesick tourists' and what kind of emotional attachments they have developed to their 'places of living'.

Tibetan emotions and Indian influences: the shaping of sensibilities in the Tibetan diaspora

Author: Timm Lau (University of Calgary)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper presents Tibetans in the diaspora in India as significantly engaged in complex emotional processes connecting different central themes of their lives: Tibetan moral notions, a mythologized Tibet as homeland, as well as the shaping of aesthetics and sensibilities through the "creative coexistence" with their Indian social environment (Clifford 1997:276).

Although Tibetans in India overwhelmingly evaluate Indian persons in negative terms, Indian popular film, music and television are ubiquitous and well-loved in Tibetan everyday life. While the former process represents an important aspect of the discursive creation and maintenance of Tibetan identity in the diasporic setting, the latter influences are important in shaping Tibetan diasporic sensibilities. This paper will illustrate this in relation to Tibetan diasporic aesthetics and historicity.

Further, the important Tibetan emotional concepts surrounding harmony and unity in sociality and marriage are drawn out from their central place in older Tibetans' narratives surrounding fraternal polyandry as the ultimate form of marriage and an essentially Tibetan practice. These narratives tell us about ideals of Tibetan sociality, but they also reveal the role of such emotional concepts in relating to Tibet as idealised place of origin, and of the understanding of the 'Indian present' in relationship to the Tibetan past and cosmological time: In an age of moral decline which is perceived in the present in India, Tibet is represented as unchanged and uncorrupted in relationship with the moral notions surrounding polyandry. Representations of marriage are thus shown to be relevant to emotional expressions of attachment to the mythologized homeland of Tibet, and of evaluations of the perceived dis-located present.

Finally, younger Tibetans' attitudes regarding romance and marriage, the present in India and their relationship to Tibet reveal the relevance of the third generation of Tibetans in India. This paper tries to sketch the development of sensibilities specific to the generation of Tibetans born and raised in India, and their negotiation of emotional attachments to the mythos of Tibet, and to life in India.

Clifford, James. 1997. Routes - Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass. And London: Harvard University Press.

Rishtas: adding emotion to strategy in understanding British Pakistani transnational marriages

Author: Katharine Charsley (University of Bristol)  email
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Long Abstract

The popularity of transnational marriages, which in most cases involve first cousins or other kin, distinguishes Pakistanis from other British South Asian groups. This paper aims to explain the popularity of such marriages which normally involve the migration of the Pakistani spouse to Britain, and intends to explore the notion of 'emotional attachment' as a possible tool of analysis. Apart from stressing the importance of kinship obligations and socio-economic strategies, the paper will show that transnational marriages are also motivated by the emotional ties of kinship.

The analysis will focus in particular on the Urdu/Panjabi concept of rishta, which conveys ideas about a 'good' match and about emotional connections between people. It will argue that attention to emotional discourse between siblings, between parents and children, and between prospective spouses in the context of marriage arrangements augments the understanding of what is at stake for those involved in transnational marriages. The analysis also complements accounts that emphasize parental exegesis by offering a multi-generational perspective.

Towards a typology of transnational affect

Author: Selvaraj Velayutham (Macquarie University)  email
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Long Abstract

Towards a Typology of Transnational Affect

Amanda Wise and Selvaraj Velayutham

In this paper we develop a conceptual typology of what we term 'Transnational Affect'. One of the fundamental features of transnationalism is the ongoing long distance connections that exist among certain migrant populations. The field of transnational studies has offered insights into how social actors engage in everyday practices and social networks that span national borders. Transnational migrants characteristically participate in an array of activities—mediated by flows of material objects and symbolic ties—to reproduce their transnational social fields.

Scholars of transnationalism have generally understood it to be motivated by questions of identity, belonging, social memory, and sociality. However, over the last two years we have written a number of pieces which deal with the bodily and emotional (or affective) dimensions of transnational practice and have come to believe that this represents a productive new theoretical and empirical focus. We believe this approach can contribute to our collective understanding of what motivates, compels and structures transnational actors' participation in transnational social fields.

In this paper we develop the notion of transnational affect to describe this emergent field of research. We define transnational affect as the non-material and embodied experience of intensity—feelings, emotions and embodied responses—which are structured by and contribute to the perpetuation of material and symbolic transnational connections. We argue that an array of affects such as shame, honour, pride, guilt, and obligation structure inter-subjective relationships and modes of reciprocity within transnational social fields.

In this paper we present a typology of Transnational Affect to capture the range of ways affects work to structure and reproduce forms of embodied, emotional community across borders.

Dr Amanda Wise is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University. Email: amanda.wise@scmp.mq.edu.au

Dr Selvaraj Velayutham is an ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University.

Email: Selvaraj.Velayutham@scmp.mq.edu.au

The 'housing' of memory and sentiment among displaced Serbs in the United States

Author: Birgit Bock-Luna (European University, Frankfurt)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I explore identity, memory, and emotion among Serbian migrants residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. I emphasize the prevalence of an ethnic group that constructs its difference (and inaccessibility to outsiders) through the insistence on an absolute separation from others or "obstinate otherness." This difference has to be understood through the prism of national upheaval and ethnic violence in the homeland.

First, I describe the significance of a "deep history" in the constitution of Serbian identity and long-distance nationalism in the wake of the violent disintegration of the homeland. "We are history!" exclaimed one young Serbian woman and thereby underlined that according to her, the collective Serbian body does not "own," but embodies or "is" history. In order to understand the centrality of a collective Serbian identity that is based on visions of the past and suffering, I introduce Appadurai's concept of the "community of sentiment." This phenomenon shows that long-distance nationalism is not only a cognitive phenomenon, but also an emotional one. As such it is enacted in ritual, music, dance, and narrative.

Second, I turn to the material side of memory by analyzing the salient importance of houses, landscapes, and architectural artifacts that displaced Serbs keep in their exilic places to transform them into spaces. Significant in the life stories of elderly displaced Serbs is the memory of war and expulsion during World War II. With the onset of the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1991, past stories of violence, flight, and destruction became crucial in transforming "dormant transnationals" who had for decades put their victim narratives aside, into long-distance nationalists. Thus, "unsettled accounts" of the past were followed by yet new unsettled accounts in the present, whereby the legacy of the "truth" of World War Two overshadowed the recent events. Interestingly, the 'emotional attachment' to a far away home in their narratives of suffering was reflected in the material objects decorating their new houses. More than just a memory practice, I argue that the remembrance of lost houses is also a central marker in staking claim to a "lost world," claims that have been especially dangerous in the wake of the bloody conflicts in the 1990's.

Mapping emotional attachments: Polish New Yorkers

Author: Izabela Kolbon (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper is based on ethnographic research on first-generation well-educated Polish immigrants living in New York City. It aims to explore the ways in which their emotional attachments has been shaped and transformed by the experience of migration. Special attention will be given to the transnational dynamics of immigrants' emotional trajectories. The focus will be on the following issues. What kind of emotions are involved in forging and sustaining a sense of belonging to the social settings embedded in the country of origin (e.g.love or moral obligation towards memebers of family, nostalgia, attachment to particular places, strong cultural identification and what kind of social actions do they prompt? What is the dialectical relationship between a sense of belonging to the country of settlement and of non-belonging to the country of origin, and how it has been changing? Then the processes of establishing emotional ties within the social and geograhical spaces of the country of settlement will be examined. Stress will be put on the informal networks as a relevant source of emotional support (the case of a group of friends who call themselves 'extended family' will be analysed). Migration entails, often dramatic, changes both in the life of those who migrate and those who are left behind. What are then emotional benefits and costs of migration? To what extent these emotions are shaped by social relations of transnational character? Are the liminality and ambiquity defining features of immigrants' experience and in what terms it is described by the people under investigation? The emotional trajectories of recent Polish immigrants have been strongly influenced by a wider political and economic context. The large-scale transformations of the last twenty years brought freedom of movement, easy access to fast means of transportation and communication and new structural constraints, in consequence, lives of immigrants and their emotional attachements have been reshaped once again.

Emotional attachments in new ageing communities

Author: Caroline Oliver (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores the ways that emotional attachments in migration are shaped and developed in responses to changes over the life course. The analysis is based on ethnographic research on retirement migration from Northern Europe to Spain. It explores how migration in this instance is vested with intense emotional significance, laden with hopes and aspirations for good retirement. Seductive place-based images of Spain and attractions of a like-minded migrant community promise desirable qualities of experience in later life. The paper explores the making - and breaking - of new emotional attachments amongst migrants in two ways. First, I demonstrate how questions of belonging for these migrants are indexed to personal and existential experiences of ageing. Thus emotional attachments to place and homeland are subject to re-evaluation and are regularly revised according to individuals' bodily ageing. Second, I show how new relationships are influenced by deep-rooted feelings and emotions about identity, particularly in relation to 'taste' and, ultimately class, which for some people may disrupt the extent to which they can feel 'at home'. In exploring these themes, the paper reveals how emotional attachments forged in transnational and migrant contexts can be interpreted through reference to the life course.

Desires, changes and uncertainties: retired European women on the Costa Blanca

Author: Inma Hurtado Garcia (URV)  email
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Long Abstract

One of the most common important movements in the Spanish Mediterranean coastal is the International Retired Migration (IRM) receiving retired northern Europeans who seek a pleasant and healthier environment than their own. These life-course and residential mobility behaviour are now more encouraged because the space-time flexibilities and the aim of a personal self-realisation, creating based lifestyle diasporic communities. The reasons to move from one environment to another, the life period in which they decide to move, in many cases selling everything in their origin countries and the ageing process that follows place them to an important life decisions. The choices related on the place they settle, the relations that keep or not in their origin countries, the way they begin a new social life and the way they deal with the everyday difficulties confront them to reconsider from the emotional attachments important aspects of their life. Contradictions and feelings about family, care, sense of vulnerability, seek of a new community, solidarity, past and future places,uncertainties. My proposal focuses on these emotional aspects of this type of migration in the local context of the Costa Blanca focusing it on the contradictory relations with the host society. How their desires influence their way of life but at the same time, how their possibilities and needs shape their lives in the new context. The aim of the paper is to present particularly the perspective from those women who have experienced individual, social or family transformations that are inscribed in the sense of their migration option.