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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Behind the border? Memory and narration of diaspora, exile, transnationalism and crossing borders

Location Lossi 3, 425
Date and Start Time 01 July, 2013 at 10:30


Ulla Savolainen (University of Helsinki) email
Outi Fingerroos (University of Jyväskylä) email
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Short Abstract

The aim of this panel is to challenge the polarized debate about diaspora, exile, transnationalism and other concepts around the phenomenons of mobilization, and to find more versatile alternatives to generalized understandings relating to one's sense of belonging to place(s).

Long Abstract

The assumption that people will live their lives in one place, no longer holds. Rather, people increasingly belong to two or more places at the same time; for some, home is a foreign country, and many have moved away from their home because of war, crime, or catastrophe. This is what many researchers refer to as diaspora, exile, or transnationalism.

The theme of this panel focuses on these concepts that we use to refer to a home abroad, as well as life behind the border. The aim of the panel is to challenge the polarized debate about diaspora, exile, transnationalism and other such common concepts around the phenomenons of mobilization and people crossing borders, and to find more versatile alternatives to generalized understandings relating to one's sense of belonging to place(s).

The suggested topics for discussion are, for example: What are the inner meanings of border crossings and how people narrate their real-life experiences of moving from one place to another? What do the concepts of diaspora and exile mean in practice and how are they experienced (if they are) and narrated both personally by the people crossing borders and theoretically by researchers? What happens when people move across borders and stay permanently abroad, and what does it mean when home is not in one place but rather in several places or between places? How do people act in diaspora / exile / a foreign country and how do they narrate their experiences of being in a foreign place?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Belonging or longing to belong? Young, mobile transnationals searching for their place in the world

Author: Saija Benjamin (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

How to construct meaning around belonging when life context is extensively mobile and intercultural? This paper displays initial results of a study on internationally mobile adolescents with transnational roots.

Long Abstract

Within the group of labor migrants, there is a pool of "executive nomads" who pursue their professional assignments from one country to another, and again to another. While labor migration is a common occurrence, it is the children of the labor migrants that are of research interest in terms of belonging; born "en route" someplace in the world and growing up amidst international relocations, these children are migrants with no place of departure and no place of settlement. Many of these children also have transnational roots, a fact that further blurs their conceptions of 'home' and belonging.

The unusual migration pattern of these individuals and the putative absence of a 'home country' in its traditional sense enables examination of meaning making around belonging and identity from a new, more globalized perspective.

This paper discusses the initial results of a study conducted in Czech Republic and Finland among transnational and internationally mobile adolescents. It presents an early understanding of the ways in which these young people construct meaning around their 'selves' and negotiate their place and belonging in the world.

Constructions of "home" between places: young Afghani asylum seekers imagining "home" while transiting Greece

Author: Eleni Bolieraki (EHESS)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is an attempt of explaining young Afghani asylum seekers’ strategies of survival and of constructing a sense of belonging while transiting Greece and while negotiating new identities.

Long Abstract

This paper presents a case study about young Afghani asylum seekers temporarily residing in Thessaloniki, Northern Greece. It is an attempt to elucidate the process of imagining "home" as a strategic subversion of fear and anxiety in transit, and its effect on new forms of communities.

On hold for indefinite periods of time while transiting inevitably Greece in their passage from Asia to Europe, young Afghani asylum seekers try to re-invent their Selves under uncertain circumstances. While facing discrimination, social exclusion and stigmatisation, their strategies of self-affirmation and empowerment waver between invisibility and visibility in everyday life. Alongside with the negotiation of new identities, this social group aspires to construct a feeling of being "at home", a feeling so allegedly desired and missed in exile, as temporary as that might be given the fact that Greece is not the final destination for its majority. Bound in time and space and in this precarious situation, the subjects of this research share a feeling of "home" through everyday practices, rituals, routines and emotions and not through space. Social interactions and bonding, creative representations of the group's uniqueness, narrations and transitional objects: these are some of the means exploited to reach some kind of embracement of the new reality they are faced with and through these the group seeks "home" in solidarity. Close relationships based on trust and mutual understanding allow the substitution of long lost family bonds identified as "home" in the subjects' consensus, thus modifying the perception and experience of home beyond borders.

Poetry of exile: Angiolo Orvieto and his Italian Jewish identity

Author: Claudia Gori  email

Short Abstract

My paper analyses how the poet and intellectual Angiolo Orvieto (1869-1967) narrated his Italian Jewish identity. Orvieto’s Italian sense of belonging is thus confronted with the poetry of exile, which he developed as a Jew. Orvieto’s narrative is explored in its linguistic and cultural aspects.

Long Abstract

My paper explores how the Italian Jew Angiolo Orvieto perceived and narrated his identity during the twenties and the thirties of the Twentieth century. As a poet and intellectual, Angiolo Orvieto (1869-1967) took a crucial position in the Italian intellectual debate of his time, by founding, in Florence, two literary journals "La Vita Nuova" (1889-1891) and "Il Marzocco" (1896-1932). In these two journals he testified his Italian sense of belonging and the process of the inclusion of the Jews in the Italian nation, since the Unity (1861). During the early years of the Twentieth century, however, the poet also began to describe and "rethink" his Jewish origins as a sentimental struggle between Italy and Palestine, both in his literary writing and in his intellectual activity in the political debate. He did not become a Zionist, but he established many relations with some Jewish organizations, becoming an active member of the Jewish diaspora. His national sense of belonging became difficult during the fascist regime, when Orvieto did not renounce to his Italian identity and did not officially opposed the regime. The sense of exile thus transpired in his poetry as an impossible and irreconcilable condition. In this paper I will pay specific attention to Orvieto's private archive and to the ways in which he testified, linguistically and culturally, his identity. These documents will be thus linked to Orvieto's poetry, giving importance to the poet's expression and narration of sentiments.

Ethnographic lessons of perceptions on self among Russians crossing national borders: a multitemporal perspective on human mobility and memory

Author: Helena Jerman (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

Looking at the Finnish-Russian borderland as a transnational space, my presentation is based upon my research on perceptions on the self and lived experience among Russians crossing national borders.

Long Abstract

Looking at the Finnish-Russian borderland as a transnational space, my presentation is based upon my research on perceptions on the self and lived experience among Russians crossing national borders physically and/or mentally. Claiming that there is a need to understand long-term effects of migration, a continuing process spanning several generations, I take a multitemporal perspective on mobility and belonging. Methodologically, ethnographic interviews with young, middle aged and elderly representatives of first, second and third generation new and old Russians in Finland show how the conceptions and actions of the participants play an important part of the research. In this respect memory has become the main tool of my study in exploring perceptions of self and its enactment. I support the notion that memory can be regarded as synonym with the fragmented process of identity formation. Leading a more or less transnational life members of the Russian diaspora are not independent of historical and political contexts neither in their 'homeland' nor in their present 'host' country. On the contrary, my empirical material shows that human experiences of complex belonging are shaped and articulated within contesting political and social discourses. In my paper I discuss one of the suggested topics of the panel: What happens when people move across borders and stay permanently abroad, and what does it mean when home is not in one place? How is citizenship related to otherness and belonging? Ultimately, the negotiation of power relations in a multi-national social space, conditions the ways people shape their selves.

World War Two refugees from Latvia: different perspectives on the home leaving and escape

Author: Maija Krumina (University of Latvia)  email

Short Abstract

The purpose of the paper is to examine different perceptions of the escape of Latvian World War Two refugees and to analyze the reasons both of the canonical perspective and different versions of the escape stories. Analysis is based on the sources from the National Oral history archive.

Long Abstract

During World War II, when Soviet troops approached Latvian territory, approximately 250 thousand people left country. At the end of the war, approximately 150 000-200 000 of these refugees had reached Allied zones of occupation in Germany, where they lived in DP camps for several years before moving to USA, Australia and other countries. In the context of refugee narratives, the years spent in DP camps were essential because that was the time when exile ideology was formed. The impact which this ideology and also other factors such as repeated retelling and comparing of the same stories left on the escape narratives can be also observed in the life-story interviews of the exile Latvians which are gathered in the National Oral History archive of Latvia. Despite their uniqueness, large part of these stories corresponds to the canonical reception of the home leaving and escape. However, some life-story authors express different perspectives on these events. For example, the youngest generation refugees (children and youngsters) took going abroad more like an adventure, not something undesirable and deterrent like most of the other refugees. These people also do not interpret the events of the fleeing so tragically in their life stories as the other ex-refugees.

Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to examine these different perceptions of the home leaving and escape and to analyze the reasons both of the canonical perspective and different versions of the escape stories. Analysis is based on the sources of the National Oral history archive.

Contours of belonging: Lithuanian immigrants in England, Ireland, Norway and Spain

Author: Jolanta Kuznecoviene (University of Vytautas Magnus)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation is focused on the analyses of social, economic and emotional linkages which Lithuanian immigrants accumulate in the new societies and on explanations they used to give for feeling or not feeling themselves as part of the new community. being at home or far away from home.

Long Abstract

The presentation is based on findings of the national research project on migration, started in 2009. The research is focused on the analyses of social, economic and emotional linkages which immigrants accumulate in the new societies and on explanations they used to give for feeling or not feeling themselves as being part of the new community. The case of Lithuanian immigrants suggests that for some of them incorporation may begin with crossing the border however it never ends. Those immigrants use to claim that they are never going to accumulate enough linkages of incorporation to allow them to become full member of the society in large. They reject the notion of home as a place where they live. Home is their past and connection to it, it is memory, origins, continuity.Nevertheless the majority of immigrants feel themselves as part of the new society. Their sense of being a part of community is related to how well they overcome feelings of alienation, develop network of friends, acquire local cultural knowledge and how they learn to navigate in the society. Other immigrants, motivating their feeling of being part of the society stressed the importance of family ties. As this paper suggests, the majority of immigrants, by choosing particular linkages to the new society draw on certain pathways of incorporation to it and use diverse motivations of considering themselves as part of it.

Dynamic concepts of 'home': immigrant narratives from the north-east of Scotland

Author: Nicolas Le Bigre (University of Aberdeen)  email

Short Abstract

Immigrant narratives derived from field interviews reveal the breadth of interpretations of ‘home’. This paper demonstrates the multiple characteristics of ‘home’, and thus diverges from the idea of static ‘homes’ anchored only in physical geography.

Long Abstract

Immigrants, both recent and established, interpret the concept of 'home' in myriad ways. Indeed, the notion of 'home' is dynamic, and its understanding depends on time, geography, life experience, relationships, and current context among other things. By basing my analysis on my own one-on-one interviews with immigrants in the North-East of Scotland, I will examine how contributors themselves view and shape their concepts of 'home'.

In listening to these interviews, it becomes clear that the idea of 'home' exists equally in the plural. For many immigrants, different 'homes' co-exist and perform diverse and often symbiotic roles in their everyday lives. These 'homes' may be may be birth-countries; in some cases they are ancestral; for many they include current geography; and for growing numbers of immigrants who have lived in several different regions and countries, they may also include some of these 'in-between' places.

This paper will discuss how first-person narratives reveal contributors' coping strategies and understandings of 'home'. It will also examine contributors' third-person narratives describing how family members emphasise their own understandings of home, and how this affects the contributors' connections to 'homes', old and new.

I will argue that in discussing the realities of work, family and leisure, and the abstractions of memory and identity, these narratives demonstrate that 'home' does not exist as one static idea but as many concurrent places and dynamic concepts. Recognising this multiplicity of 'home' allows for a more comprehensive analysis of immigrant narrative, and gives a nuanced picture of immigrant life.

Locating Armenia in/from Turkey: "homeland" and "homelander" concepts of post-genocide Turkish-Armenians and post-socialist Armenian immigrants in Istanbul

Author: Salim Aykut Ozturk (University College London (UCL))  email

Short Abstract

This paper proposes to examine how “Armenia” is imagined and brought into existence in by diverse Armenian populations in contemporary Istanbul, Turkey.

Long Abstract

Contemporary Istanbul not only is home to 70,000 post-Genocide Turkish Armenians, but also 20,000 recent (illegal) Armenians from the Republic of Armenia (RoA) who have immigrated to the city despite the political conflict between the two countries (no diplomatic relationships, a closed border and a disputed history). For many diaspora Armenians around the globe, homeland is not a fixed territory, however the materialization of the RoA in the form of a nation-state have shifted the centre of attention to the Armenia side of the Turkey-Armenia border. However, for many Istanbulite Armenians, "homeland Armenia" is still in Turkey, and they still feel connected to this homeland by living in Turkey. Moreover, many of them do not want to be associated with the RoA, its distance to the West and its Soviet history. On the other hand, many Armenian immigrants in Istanbul express their feelings about homeland in a more flexible way, referring to both sides of the border as homeland in different contexts.

Based on ethnographic research among Armenians in Istanbul, I would like to speculate on the location(s) of "Armenian homeland" and definition(s) of "Armenian homelanders." Neither Turkish-Armenians nor Armenian-Armenians form homogenous groups, and their self-definitions of "homeland" and "homelanders" have been deeply related to their perceptions about each other and the countries they are coming from. In this paper, I will critically examine the factors that shape these differences in perceptions of the other, and the imaginations about the homeland and the homelander.

Home is where the heart is: Jewish tours to Israel

Author: Anna Pokorna (Charles University)  email

Short Abstract

Jewish youth tours to Israel became part of Jewish revival in Eastern Europe. How do the visits to the state of Israel, for centuries homeland existing only in religious imagination, however, to assimilated Czech Jewish youth largely unknown, change their sense of belonging to Jewish community?

Long Abstract

Globalization changes our perception of space. Diasporas do not have to be tightly tied to physical spaces conceived as home. While concept of home still lies at the heart of diaspora imagination and remains its organizing principle it may turn in more of an imaginary transnational space with no actual ties, such as living relatives, properties, or friends, to the physical space of home. Jewish relationship to Israel has always been more imaginary than actual. Until the state of Israel was established in 1948 it existed only in religious imagination preserved in texts and rituals. Due to Soviet occupation and isolation in most of the countries of former Soviet block it remained so even after the establishment of the state. However, when the Berlin Wall fell, once imaginary "homeland" fully materialized even for Jews of Eastern Europe and various Jewish international bodies started to use the tours to physical space of the state of Israel to revitalize silenced, in Wasserstein's words, vanishing Jewish identity in Jewish youth in Eastern Europe.

In my contribution, I am going to examine what is the sense of belonging that tourist experience of "homeland", narrated for centuries in Jewish text and ritual but to most of Czech Jewish youth today unknown, is, what kind of transnational space it creates, and how Jewish youth incorporate their imaginary lost and found homeland into their biographies, connect it to their family memory, eventually leading to migration or at least to instilling the state of Israel into their Jewish identity.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.