Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Mobile sentiments: transformations of affect amid transnational migration
Location Roscoe 3.3
Date and Start Time 08 Aug, 2013 at 09:00
This panel examines the affective and emotional responses of people to migration, attending to how these are constituted, transmitted and circulated, as well as to the roles of memory, history, place, polity, governance, and the imaginary, among other social phenomenon, in these processes.
Many emotions connect humans to places, whether homes, landscapes, or nations, and these are unsettled and transformed with transnational migration. This panel proposes to explore the dimensions of 'mobile sentiments' - what we see as the affective and emotional responses of people to the places and experiences of migration - in several ethnographic contexts. How are mobile sentiments constituted, transmitted and circulated within migrant communities? How and why do people express links to home and place in migrant contexts, and how do these differ from those 'at home'? Through what processes do host nations become home nations? How are emplacing sentiments in migration shaped by those at home, as well as by the circumstances of movement? How do notions of time and history, as well as place and space, influence the affects of migration? What are the roles of memory, nostalgia, and the imaginary in the construction of migrant attachments to place, landscape, nation, etc? What are the affective dimensions of governing mobile subjects through settlement, citizenship, multiculturalism, and other policy frameworks?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Social Suffering and the Governance of Affect: Multicultural Discourse and the Tamil Diaspora in Canada
This paper examines transformations in the social suffering of Canadian-Tamils in Canada. It considers how Canadian multiculturalism as a contested site governs affect in the Diaspora post-war and enables Diasporic mobilization, including its’ gendered and generational dimensions.
The defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka in May 2009 was a watershed in Tamil recognition struggles. In Canada, the Diaspora assembled as it did worldwide to protest and mourn the death of family members and the demise of its nationalist claims. This paper examines transformations in the social suffering of Diasporic actors in Canada. It considers whether Canadian multicultural discourses frame and contain the emotive terrain of Tamil identity making. Multiculturalism arguably governs 'affect' in the Diaspora post-war to constitute the conduct of diasporic actors and cultivate their identities through emotionally laden registers of belonging that supports nation building ties. The nation building imperative privatizes suffering so that Tamil bodies - asylum seekers and citizens alike, are contained by an "economy of fear" (Ahmed, 2004) that marks the Canadian 'mainstream'. Yet, multiculturalism is a contested site which ethno-cultural groups, including Canadian-Tamils, mobilize and re-interpret. This ethnographically situated account foregrounds the gendered and generationally situated ways in which suffering, fear and the realities of care were produced, shared and eased within diasporic space, before and after the civil war. Affective ties that circulate within and beyond the Diaspora are filtered through a dynamic and transnational diasporic imaginary that complicates and disrupts the circulation of affective ties towards Canadian nation building.
Remembering and Revisiting the Places of Emigration: Soviet Jewish American Perspectives on their Migration Experiences
I argue that for Soviet Jewish Americans, visiting the sites of their transmigration is a form of redeeming the hardships of immigration and affirming their “immigrant success.” Exploring such place attachments reveals émigrés’ far more ambivalent evaluations of their migration experiences.
Between 1971 and 1990, hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews immigrated to the U.S. through Vienna and Rome. During this unavoidable transmigration of two months to two years, families anxiously awaited visas in a radically different cultural and material setting. Though émigrés explored their temporary host countries on their meager finances, most vowed to come back "as first rate people," rather than as stateless refugees. Using the concept of emplacement to explore why émigrés formed intense attachments to the temporary places of transmigration, this paper focuses on the return trips to Italy and Austria, which many Soviet Jewish Americans did make ten or twenty years later. I argue that return trips were essential in redeeming the hardships of their immigration, fortifying notions of their "immigrant success"—a widespread self-image within the community. I interrogate this self-conception to reveal that émigrés' memories of transmigration reveal far more ambivalent evaluations of their migration experiences.
A Rocky Terrain: Affect and Morality in Long-Distance Communication
Based on ethnographic research with Peruvian migrants in the US and their family members in Peru this paper explores the social and affective consequences of long-distance communication.
A major concern among most of the worlds labor migrants is to follow the welfare of family members, kin, friends, and paisanos back home. This paper examines diverse experiences with long-distance communication among Peruvian migrants in the US and their family members in Peru and provides a gendered perspective of the emotional terrain of transnationality. Most migrants have left dependent children, husbands, wives, boyfriends or girlfriends, and elderly parents in Peru and a good chunk of their everyday lives in the U.S. evolves around the desire and the social and moral obligation to maintain such relationships. They do so by using a variety of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Based on ethnographic fieldwork with migrants in Washington DC and their family members in Lima and the rural Andean community of Urcumarca, I argue that while ICTs enable the production and maintenance of long-distance affective ties, cross-border communication is far from always warm, fuzzy, and unconditional. The time and space constraints that structure migrants' everyday lives in the U.S. also shape their transnational communicative practices in very important ways making long-distance communication an emotional terrain fraught with uncertainties, unfulfilled expectations, enduring tensions, and silences.
Long-distance care. The practices and narratives of immigrant engagement in development projects at home
This paper explores the role emotions play in Filipino immigrants’ practices and narratives of engagement in a development organization at home.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Filipino immigrants in Boston and the development organization they support in Manila, this paper seeks to analyze "long-distance care" for the home country as expressed by taking part in a development project. The template for "caring for the home country" is being created in Manila, and then reworked by the immigrants in the US, as the organization exists in a transnational space. Caring for the Philippines is thus expressed not only by giving money for the project, but also through changing one's life to live according to the "mission", giving testimonies at fundraising events, raising awareness among other compatriots, and also spending vacation at home doing work for the development organization.
I look both at the practices of immigrants, and the narratives they tell about their engagement to see what role emotions play in them. The display of emotions seems to be crucial, as the narratives told by the immigrants about their work for the organization often speak about "the change of heart", "the Filipino compassionate heart", "being your brother's keeper", "caring and sharing", "a debt towards the home country" etc.
Positioning Migrant Realities: Elite Migration to the Greater Metropolitan DC Area
I interview elite migrants from Buenos Aires and Beijing to understand how they make sense of their realities as they move throughout the life course. Highly skilled, they are often perceived as transient; however, through their cultural exchanges, they often position themselves as interconnected.
My research with elite migrants in the Metropolitan DC area explores their multi-dimensional realities (physical, perceptual, emotional). I interview elites from Buenos Aires and Beijing who move between multiple job markets and who often become connected to United States' society for longer stays than anticipated. However, because the more "settled citizen" often perceives them as being transient, they are not fully recognized as influencing or challenging U.S. identity as the consensual knowledge of conventional immigrants does. I explore this difference by asking elites to narrate their movement over the life course to understand 1) how they make sense of their realities through cultural exchanges in which some form of knowledge, practices, beliefs, etc. are imparted, shared, and often synthesized into new forms and 2) how they construct a sense of place and identity in a society that does not always recognize their realities but is interconnected with them nonetheless.
Landscapes of Affect, Homescapes of Longing: The Jat Sikh Diaspora's Rural Imaginary
This paper examines the rural imaginary - a means of negotiating displacement and reterritorialization in the Jat Sikh diaspora – in ethnographic and popular film evidence, interrogating the multiple locations of its affective contours, and problematizing the idea that diasporas are necessarily organized around nation-state boundaries.
As a long migrant community of farmers and landlords, Jat Sikhs across cities in India and around the globe share a nostalgic memory construction that I term the rural imaginary. This memorative construction negotiates the emotions of displacement and reterritorialization, celebrating community identity even as it laments the alienating modern aspects of the postcolonial condition. In the case of this agricultural community, the notion of diaspora sits uncomfortably at this nexus. Are Jats in diaspora only in transnational circumstances (as much of the diaspora literature would have us believe), or, are they in diaspora merely having left their villages? This paper, via an interrogation of the emotional responses to the experience of migration among Jats as presented in ethnographic and popular film evidence, questions whether a common nostalgic trope, the rural imaginary, is inspired by both rural-urban migration in India and transnational migration abroad. I demonstrate that the affective contours of Punjabi landscapes and homescapes are shared across multiple diaspora locations. This argument problematizes the conventional meaning of diaspora as organized around nation-state boundaries, and considers whether the exilic traumas and reconstructions of identity inherent to diaspora may be more appropriately understood as aspects of regional modernity in the Jat case.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.