Accepted Paper:

Inbetween home and work: translating migrant narratives in local workers´ histories  


Judith Laister (University of Graz)
Kristina Leko

Paper short abstract:

Based on an artistic-ethnographic research project in Graz, this paper opens a multi-layered translation process: between migrant narratives of home and work and the local workers´ history; between ideological and scientific discourses of the relation home/work; and between the fields of art and ethnology.

Paper long abstract:

In times of progressive mobility, both "home" and "work" are inevitably intertwined and highly contested concepts. While in scientific debates "home" and "work" are challenged as powerful categories, stabilizing rigid concepts of identity, in ideological spheres several political parties protect increasingly "our work" for "our people" ("work is home"). Both concepts feature a strong polysemic character, depending on each idiosyncratic context of usage. Against the backdrop of these contradictory meanings, the paper opens an ethnographic-artistic space of critical negotiation inbetween home and work. Based on the ongoing project of artist Kristina Leko "no history, no monuments", it confronts narratives of migrants about their individual notion of work and home with the local workers´ history. Core of the project are biographic interviews with migrants in an urban quarter of the Austrian city of Graz ("Annenviertel"), known as traditional workers´, todays immigrants´ and proposed urban regeneration district. They were conducted in the frame of a collaborative fieldwork between artist Kristina Leko and ethnologist Judith Laister together with a group of students of the Institute of European Ethnology (University of Graz). The results of the field research were presented in an exhibition in January 2012 and will be translated into an artistic intervention in public space on 1st of May 2013. On significant sites of the local workers´ history, the ambivalent and transgressive relations between work and home as contested concepts will be shown both as temporary performances and permanent installations.

Panel P49
Translating cultural imaginaries of home: near-homes and far-homes