SIEF2017 13th Congress: Göttingen, Germany
26-30 March 2017

Materializing exile: production of difference and diversity in the city
Location VG 4.104
Date and Start Time 28 March, 2017 at 08:30
Sessions 2


  • Katarzyna Puzon (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
  • Erin Cory (Malmö University) email

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Short Abstract

By engaging with the question of exile, this panel explores how experiences of migration and refugeeness refashion constructions of home, nation and belonging, and how practices of displacement and expatriation engender difference and diversity, with focus on materiality and visuality in the city.

Long Abstract

The 20th and 21st centuries have witnessed several mass displacements of people - across cities, regions, countries, and continents. These movements have necessitated a renegotiation of what "home" means to, and looks like, for both displaced people and inhabitants of the areas in which they settle. By engaging with the question of exile, this panel aims to investigate how multifaceted experiences of migration and refugeeness refashion constructions of home, nation and belonging, and how difference and diversity are engendered through practices of displacement and expatriation, with special focus on their material and visual dimensions in the city. Thus, this panel will consider new modes of dwelling and home-making in urban environments in an age of unprecedented migration. How have cities changed - materially and ideologically - with the movement of people? What are the visual "tells" of this change? What does it mean to be or become at home? How do locals and newcomers visualize and experience their changing urban homes? What are the implications of these material and visual changes on diversity/integration initiatives? How are museums and heritage - as 'differencing machines' (Bennett 2006) - involved in the production of difference and diversity? What role do objects and (urban) spaces play in the processes of home-making?

We welcome contributions that address these questions, in particular through the lens of the city by critically examining the dynamics of diversity and difference-making.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Materializing Exile

Authors: Katarzyna Puzon (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)  email
Erin Cory (Malmö University)  email

Short Abstract

This brief introductory talk seeks to set the stage for discussion across the seemingly disparate contexts and concerns of our panelists' papers by setting out the questions and concerns that connect them.

Long Abstract

While much recent work on exile centers on the ongoing refugee crisis produced by Syria's civil war, the 20th and 21st centuries have witnessed several mass displacements of people - across cities, regions, countries, and continents. These movements have necessitated a renegotiation of what "home" and belonging mean to, and look like, for both displaced people and inhabitants of the areas in which they settle. Addressing the salience of urban space in these endeavours, we attempt to explicate how difference and diversity are enacted and produced in and through the city. In this introductory talk, the organizers will lay out some of the concerns and questions central to the varied contexts represented by the panel's papers. The aim of this talk is neither to preclude, nor to predict the conversations we hope to have after the panelists' presentations. Rather we aim to draw some initial connections between the contexts, methodologies, and contributions of the papers, as a way to encourage discussion around particular themes, and towards future collaborations.

Cultural heritage as a human right: cultural production in Greece's solidarity refugee squats

Author: Olivia de Dreuzy (Centre for International Heritage Activities)  email

Short Abstract

This conference proposal examines the establishment of 'refugee squats' appearing throughout Greece in response to the current refugee crisis in which a number of unique cultural initiatives are manifested.

Long Abstract

This conference proposal is based on my Masters thesis in Cultural Heritage Studies (University College London) concerning cultural production in self-organised 'refugee squats' in Athens and Mytilene, Greece and how these squats provide unique platforms for the manifestation of cultural and human rights. These settlements were established by activists and refugees alike in response to the 'European Refugee Crisis'. On the fault line between this wave of migration and its 2010 economic crisis, Greece currently hosts around 60,000 'persons of concern' within its borders prompting the establishment of these dwellings in abandoned schools and hotels (UNHCR, 2016). My case studies include Pikpa Solidarity Camp (Mytilene, Lesvos) and a solidarity network of nine squats in Athens.

In addition to being unique heritage assemblages, the settlements simultaneously push for a new mentality in treating unused public space. In the form of an online ethnography, I analyse the squats' performances of demonstrating, educating, cooking, and recycling of objects. Despite their role in promoting a politics of recognition for the marginalised through these practices, the squats are at constant risk of closure and in need of institutionalised safeguarding. By drawing and building on Jacques Derrida's (2001) 'cities of refuge' and Henri Lefebvre's (1996) 'right to the city', I propose that refugees arriving in Europe have a 'right to the cities of refuge' in which one may recreate a grounded homeland through the expression of certain cultural practices. The very act of occupying these urban territories and promoting unique forms of cultural production begins to fulfil this demand.

Dwelling in the post-war city: difference, home-making and urban reconstruction in Sarajevo

Author: Gruia Badescu (University of Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores dwelling and home-making in relationship to the experiences of IDPs and returning refugees in the city of Sarajevo. It discusses their experience of the city as a new home and examines the spatial and social reconfiguration of the urban as part of home-making.

Long Abstract

This paper explores how practices of displacement and repatriation engender difference and diversity, with focus on materiality in the city undergoing reconstruction. I explore dwelling and home-making in relationship to the experiences of IDPs and returning refugees in the city of Sarajevo. After the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many IDPs in the city remained in Sarajevo, as they had found cool ground, stability and opportunity in the city. Furthermore, refugees from Sarajevo and elsewhere returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina and settled in the city. Home-making in a city affected by war came with multiple challenges, including also the reticence of the local population to welcome the newcomers. The paper analyses how old and new Sarajevans experience the shifting urban materiality, as well as the new types of social diversity and difference. It focuses on the creation of mechanisms of social exclusion of newcomers, based on perceived notions of "non-urbanity" and "unculturedness", opposing the frame of ethnicity and religion as main form of constructing exclusion. It discusses how materiality and difference constitute at once premises and challenges for rootedness and a feeling of home for the formerly displaced dwelling in the city.

Anthropology of moving house: the re-making of home among the mainlanders' diaspora in Taiwan

Author: Elisa Tamburo (SOAS, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores how home is recreated after forced displacement through an ethnographic exploration of mainlanders’ military villages in Taiwan, known as juancun. It further examines how villagers live relocation and remake home in high-rise buildings 60 years after their first settlement.

Long Abstract

How is home recreated after forced displacement? And how do the same displaced people face a second relocation sixty years after? My paper engages with how experiences of forced migration refashioned constructions of home.

By focusing on the dialectic between architecture, objects, memory and everyday practices I explore processes of home-making in a military village in northern Taiwan. After its retreat in 1949, the Nationalist government crafted these settlements - juancun - to shelter military personnel and their families who had relocated in great numbers to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war. Built with makeshift means and as a temporary solution, these juancun recreated a little China, which accentuated cultural difference and spatial separation from the Taiwanese.

Sixty years later, with the makeshift houses deteriorating, the rich, lively and spontaneous social texture of juancun, which had been facilitated by the spatial organization of the self-help, unplanned, vernacular, single-storey houses, is threatened by redevelopment in standardized high-rise buildings.

The Ministry of Defense's juancun reconstruction policy also resulted in a dramatic change of the city landscape: among the 800 juancun originally present in Taiwan, only a handful are destined to preservation.

I thus explore how the inhabitants face relocation to modern high-rise apartments, and suggest that market-driven standardization of homes and vertical spaces change considerably sociality, neighbors' relationships and everyday routines. Following Lefebvre, I conclude advocating for a notion of progress not limited to technical development but rather directed to a qualitative improvement of sociality and everyday life.

The temporality of Los Angeles' Mongolian landscapes

Author: Chima Michael Anyadike-Danes (The University of Sheffield)  email

Short Abstract

What are the consequences of Los Angeles’ settler-colonial history for its Mongolian immigrants' attempts to construct a home for themselves? This presentation explores how Mongolians attempt to weave themselves into the landscape through activities and events. And how they often go unacknowledged.

Long Abstract

Los Angeles' Koreatown is extremely densely populated, with more than 100,000 people, from places as varied as Bangladesh, Nicaragua, and the Mexico, residing within its few square kilometers. The majority of the city's Mongolians dwell in this multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic landscape. While they have done so since the late 1990s their presence is rarely acknowledged.

My presentation explores this phenomena, analyzing it through the lens of settler colonial studies literature on presence and elimination. This perspective offers insight into what I regard as Los Angeles' enduring way of seeing. A form of vision that equates physical presence with particular types of landscape management. Specifically, the economic development of an area through culturally specific businesses.

The city's Mongolians, despite their desire to create a 'Little Mongolia', tend not to engage in these sorts of activities but that does not mean that their presence does not diversify the landscape. Instead, drawing on bodies of anthropological and geographical literature that has been influenced by the Heideggerian notion of dwelling, I contend that Mongolians are constantly (re-)creating a Mongolian presence in Koreatown's landscape through the tasks they undertake. However, the impressions that their activities leave are subject to persistent erasure. Finally, I suggest that this fleeting quality is enhanced by the variety of other populations, with their own projects, who are also constantly acting to remake and claim Koreatown.

Diversity at the heart of Christianity: catholic management of migration and multiculturalism in Rome

Author: Jan Bock (Cumberland Lodge)  email

Short Abstract

Rome used to be a rather homogeneous city, shaped by Christian culture. The recent arrival of Muslim migrants has led to contested changes of the cityscape. I examine how Catholic integration initiatives for refugees, supported by the pope, seek to manage diversity and emergent forms of belonging.

Long Abstract

Rome is a major European capital, marked by migration and cultural diversity, but also the centre of Catholic Christendom. My paper explores this tension through the lives of ethnic and religious minorities in a city visually, materially, and socially characterized by the legacy of 2,000 years of Christian culture. Nuns, monks, priests, and pilgrims are a ubiquitous sight on Rome's streets and squares, lined with baroque churches, convents, monasteries, seminaries, Catholic charities, and other references to the Christian faith. If Rome has been a cosmopolitan city for centuries, hosting people from around the world, then these foreigners used to be temporary visitors united by their Catholicism (leaving aside the small, secluded Jewish community). Since the 1990s, however, this has changed. Alongside Muslims from South-East Asia and the Middle East, migration from African countries has visibly increased. Tens of thousands of refugees have arrived in Rome, where the pope has called on Christians to offer them hospitality. The chronically strained city administration has failed to cope with the management of cultural difference and multiculturalism, leaving the task to Catholic and other civil society initiatives. This paper explores a Catholic integration project in a diverse neighbourhood, which seeks to facilitate integration for predominantly Muslim African refugees. I examine how this initiative envisions autonomous living, difference, home-making, and belonging in a predominantly Catholic city, further exploring how public space and popular imaginations of Rome have become contested over the increasing visibility of non-Catholic culture and multiculturalism at the heart of Christianity.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.