EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P003)
Anthropologists between the Middle East and Europe: war, crises, refugees, migration and Islamophobia [AMCE]
Location U7-10
Date and Start Time 20 July, 2016 at 14:30
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Pedram Khosronejad (Oklahoma State University) email
  • Leonardo Schiocchet (Austrian Academy of Sciences) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

In this panel, we aim at engaging in constructive new thinking by understanding how anthropological investigations may impact and spark debate within the European public sphere, inspiring policy makers, faith communities, and media representatives.

Long Abstract

D. Chatty recently stated that while the 20th century has been called the 'century of the refugee', the 21st century looks set to become known as the 'century of displacement and dispossession'. Postcolonial heritage fuelling conflicts in the global South tints much of this displacement and dispossession. However, much of it has also been caused by new wars in the global South involving the global North. Recent ongoing wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and increasing political, religious, and ethnic clashes and refugee catastrophes from the Middle East to Europe, signal radical geopolitical change. How should anthropologists and their professional associations relate to such changes? Should we remain "aloof from" or actively engage in the "great issues of our times" (Fried, Harris, and Murphy 1967:ix)? As regional specialists and social theorists, anthropologists have both moral and professional concerns for the effects of war. Anthropology then, with its emphasis on lived experience, is currently facing a dilemma: on the one hand we must collect and interpret critical data, while on the other hand ethnographic research is both difficult and sensitive. Bold yet comprehensive positioning is thus critical, given our ethical responsibility to contribute to the understanding and resolution of such complex problems. In this panel, we aim at engaging in constructive new thinking by understanding how such anthropological investigations may impact and spark debate within the European public sphere, inspiring policy makers, faith communities, and media representatives.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Position yourself and be positioned: ethical and practical questions in migration anthropology in the 21st century

Author: Silja Klepp (University of Bremen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims at reflecting fieldwork experiences and dynamics of positioning in two politically charged field sites: the border region in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Pacific region where the island state of Kiribati is perceived as one of the first “victims” of climate change.

Long Abstract

The first part of my paper reflects on how to carry out fieldwork in a space where migrants as our collaborators and informants are in a vulnerable and precarious situation - the border zone between Africa and Europe, between Libya, Malta and Italy. Between 2006 and 2010 I carried out field work in these three countries. Especially in Libya I had to opt for explorative methods, having always security questions of my informants and myself in mind. And how to deal with a field where human rights violations are a daily and often deadly practice? Choosing a proactive way of engagement and scholar activism was a way to cope with ethical questions and also of knowledge production. Taking this attitude to Kiribati in the Pacific to the research topic of climate change and migration created new challenges and questions of self-positioning and of being positioned - this time by a community of islanders that is fighting for climate justice.

Lifejackets on shore: anthropology, refugees, and the politics of belonging in Europe

Author: Sholeh Shahrokhi (Butler University)  email

Short Abstract

As scholars of cultural change anthropologist are intellectually equipped and ethically obliged to critique power formations across contested geopolitical boundaries. This paper explores how new bids for citizenship emerge out of political claims of belonging and legacies of nation-states in Europe.

Long Abstract

In a recent interview on a new art installation protesting Europe's diminishing interest in im/migration politics and a general decline in empathy for the political refugees out of the Middle East, artist-activist Ai Weiwei stressed, "we are all refugees as humans in some moment in history" (Feb. 2016). Indeed, what does it mean to speak of displacement and forced migration across conflicted geographies, as a condition of human life in contemporary history?

The question of belonging is not a new interest in Anthropology (e.g. Rosaldo 1989; Ong 2003; Bourgois 2007) but as the European demographics continue to grow more racial and ethnically heterogeneous, new anthropological interventions between macro-politics and everyday humanity is relevant and necessary. In an era where media pundits ride the waves of sensationalized journalism to offer sound-bite politics, anthropological interventions enable us to explore new forms of power relations against structured forms of distinctions based on ideas about race, gender, and religiosities across the globe. Anthropologist are intellectually equipped and ethically obliged to contribute to critique of power formations across contested geopolitical boundaries. By tapping into new forms of knowledge acquisition and collaborative knowledge productions, anthropology of the contemporary (Marcus 2015; Rabinow 2008) enables us to question old narratives of race and identity in the face of the upsurge in refugees arriving from the Middle East and North Africa in the political North. This paper explores how new bids for citizenship emerge out of the conflicting political claims of belonging and legacies of nation-states in Europe.

Arab Mediterranean youth in Italy: challenging dominant narratives about migrations and belonging between Europe and Northern Africa/Middle East

Authors: Daniela Cherubini (University of Milano-Bicocca)  email
Paola Rivetti (Dublin City University)  email
Ilenya Camozzi  email
Carmen Leccardi (University of Milano-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

The paper discusses the potentialities of qualitative social research in challenging dominant narratives about migrations and relations between Europe and Northern Africa &Middle East, by drawing on authors' experience within a research project on young people in South & East Mediterranean countries

Long Abstract

We will contribute to the discussion on the potentialities of qualitative social research in challenging dominant narratives about migrations and relations between Europe and Northern Africa and Middle East, by drawing on our research experience within the FP7 project "Empowering the new generation: towards a new social contract in South and East Mediterranean countries (SAHWA)" (www.sahwa.eu).

We will focus on the preliminary results of a qualitative research on young people of Arab Mediterranean origins living in Milan, Italy. The case study involves in-depth interviews to young men and women, as well as discourse analysis of media contents and blogs by the Arab Mediterranean youth in Italy. It explores their views on the Arab uprisings and their aftermaths; particular attention will be devoted to the experiences and narratives of transnational participation and multiple belonging. We will question how these narratives and experience challenge the dominant public representation of second generation youth living in Italy (with special focus on young people with Northern African origins) and the current tensions crossing the dominant construction of Italian national identity. We will look at how young people's experiences and narratives challenge a public discourse that fails to recognize the interconnectedness between the two shores of the Mediterranean. In fact, this public discourse continues representing the relation between Southern Europe and Northern Africa/Middle East in terms of crisis and within an "emergency frame", which consistently marginalises the living experience of ordinary people and the everyday life of the new generations.

Refugee women from Chechnya in Poland - heroine or outcast? Life in the conflict of traditional gender roles and being a research object

Author: Katarzyna Kość-Ryżko (Institute of Archeology and Ethnology)  email

Short Abstract

Refugee women very often break the strong cultural taboo.After settling in a new place they experience conflict between different culture patterns. The very important role in the acculturation play researchers giving meaning to their lives and defining their status. This is a great responsibility.

Long Abstract

Events such as war, violence and exile forced to reevaluate existing indicators of identification based on local traditions and group affiliation - functional in culture of origin, but not necessarily in the new place of settlement. This raises a lot of problems which refugee women have to face in wishing to function efficiently in a new culture. The situation is additionally complicated by expectations of receiving society members who share some imaginations and ideas about them. The acculturation processes depends upon many factors but very important role play "intermediaries" (researchers, including anthropologists, NGO activists, journalists, politicians), giving specific content and meaning of the terms defining and determining status of the newcomers (not only legal, but also social, psychological and ontological). It's a big responsibility, effects of which can be observed presently in many European countries no matter of their ideological attitudes toward mobility and multiculturality. In my presentation I discuss the relationship between description language of refugee women used by researchers and journalists and the real consequences of this in their functioning in the host society. I also analyze the categories used by women in self-description. My aim is reflection on the role of the anthropologist in moderating public discussions and dealing with social pressure to express an opinion in line with the collective expectations. I exemplify presentation using cases from research which I have conducted during several years in the environment of refugees from the Caucasus, and particularly among single women with children.

Volunteering among refugees in Vienna and Bavaria as an ethnographic encounter: exploring borderlands between civic engagement and academia

Author: Sabine Bauer (Austrian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

Based on personal ethnographic encounters as an activist and a volunteer with the so-called “refugee crises“ in Vienna and Bavaria in summer 2015 I reflect on the difficulties of combining engagement with academia.

Long Abstract

In 2015, more than one million refugees made their way through Europe. For many, Vienna was the first stop after a hostile passage though Hungary and served as a "bottleneck" in the journey northwards. For this group, the remote area of the Austrian-Bavarian border became a compulsory stop of initial registration and were requested to stay in camps. During this journey, local and national authorities, activists and volunteers shaped the refuge experience, often acting upon their own agendas and changing in composition and political alignment.

I engaged this scenario as a political activist involved in charity work in Vienna and the Bavarian border region. To begin with, I found impossible to tackle academically my activities such as circumventing European border controls, political discussion with local politicians, and emotionally challenging volunteer work among traumatised children in Vienna and as a translator for Syrian women in a Bavarian refugee camp. My engagement through the network of volunteers made it difficult to address hierarchies, conflicting agendas and power struggles in which this network was embedded. Finally, exploring the misery of the people I tried to help and the trust they put on me to foster my own academic career brought me into an ethical dilemma. In this communication, I seek to discuss the possibilities and limitations of readdressing this encounter anthropologically. I therefore intend to use my ethnographic notes to reflect on the difficulties of combining charity and activism with academic work as an anthropologist and further interrogate how experiences such as mine could be best translated into meaningful work on refugees.

Êzîdîs on the edge of the Universe: the Êzîdî genocide in Iraq

Authors: Fazil Moradi (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
Kjell Anderson (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies)  email

Short Abstract

In this article we examine the atrocities committed against Êzîdîs in light of their history and ethnography, as well as the ideological foundations of the perpetrator group, the “Islamic State”.

Long Abstract

The Êzîdîs have long lived on the margins. Indeed they have often been excluded from the universe of mutual acceptance and universal human rights. This life on the edge is a product of both their relatively small numbers and their belief in a non-dualistic cosmology. Such minority marginality has made the Êzîdîs perennial victims at the hands of the more powerful, monotheistic ethno-religious groups, which surround them. In fact, Êzîdîs' oral history holds that they have suffered 73 Fermāns ("Orders of extermination") throughout their history. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS) has heralded a new age of Êzîdî victimization.

The 74th Fermān is underway. It is characterized by a systematic policy aimed at the destruction of Êzîdîs' collective and individual existence through massacres, ethnic cleansing, sexual violence and rape, mass enslavement, and forced conversion. As it is highlighted in this article, such a policy arises directly from the nature and system of beliefs embodied by Islamic state. Indeed, the ideology of the Islamic state requires the destruction of the Êzîdîs as a heretical, or even satanic, group. This characterization of Êzîdîs is nothing new but the wholesale destruction being visited on the Êzîdîs does bear the modern character of a totalizing ideology. The violence will also be assessed in terms of the objective and subjective elements of the crime of genocide.

Refugees in Tunisia: border perspectives on migration policies

Author: Valentina Grillo (Universität Wien)  email

Short Abstract

Theories, methodology, and results of a fieldwork research on ‘migration management’ will be at the core of the present contribution. Refugees’ ‘border perspectives’ on the migration apparatus can, in particular, shed more light on the policies that international actors ‘exported’ to Tunisia.

Long Abstract

Political, military, geopolitical and strategic perspectives were provided exhaustively to analyse the 2011 Libyan war. However, this conflict was rarely presented in terms of people displacement. The subsequent displacement led to a considerable formulation of migration policies in the region and, in particular, Tunisia, one of the closest Arab countries to the European Union (EU) and the US. Anthropology does not only have the potential role to offer an interdisciplinary point of view on the matter, but to also combine it with border perspectives.

The present contribution will, firstly, present background theories. Then, it will outline the methodology that needed to be readapted to the challenging fieldwork conditions. Conducting research with refugees in Tunisia is one of them. Nevertheless, it will provide 'border perspectives' on power structures and, in particular, the 'migration apparatus' that was 'exported' to Tunisia. Finally, results and interpretations will be outlined with reference to the material collected during a three-month fieldwork in South Tunisia. The latter will focus on refugees' forms of reaction, but also on different notions of refuge. Refuge in terms of Tunisians' attitudes towards refugees will not necessarily involve nationality matters, but religious, linguistic, economic and socio-historical criteria. These border perspectives of people who participate in power systems as (1.) marginal actors from the global south, pave the way for further exploration of (2.) the dynamics of migration policies promotion against irregular migrations that, while based on neo-nationalist ideas within the EU, start (3.) from different premises when exported to countries, like Tunisia.

Diasporic counterpublics: Iranian asylum Seekers in Turkey

Author: Navid Fozi (Middle East Technical University)  email

Short Abstract

This is a field research on Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey-transit migrants composed of religious minorities and LGBTQ. I address issues including Turkish policies and transit processes; homeland, host country and international politics; as well as membership criteria and identity development.

Long Abstract

This talk draws on my fieldwork with Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey: transit migrants composed of religious minorities, LGBTQ, political dissidents, and ethnic groups who pursue a permanent resettlement in a third country. It explores issues including transit processes and the right of asylum; homeland, host country and international politics and policies; as well as transnational practices and identity development. My analytical framework builds on two theoretical/conceptual interventions that address (con)temporariness of diverse migrants in a globalized context. First, accounting for the religious, gender, and ethnopolitical multiplicities schematizing the Iranian migratory terrain, I problematize the analytical utility of 'asylum' and 'refugee' as homogenizing legal and political categories. While others have addressed this shortcoming, a theoretical solution has not yet been advanced. Second, I approach the transitory migration period between seeking and receiving asylum as a phase in formation of the global Iranian diasporas. Accordingly, a diaspora concept is employed to analyze a voluntary resettlement in a formative cultural continuum rather than an abrupt expulsion of a monolithic collectivity. Avoiding dichotomous models of home/host or geography/genealogy, I employ a processual and imaginary concept of diaspora in order to articulate the place of the third country in the development of the diasporic subjectivity, which entails national and legal loyalties, as well as emotional ties.

Renéee hirschon and the discovery of the refugee in the post-Ottoman space

Author: Onur Yildirim (Middle East Technical University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is an attempt at highlighting the significant role played by an eminent social anthropologist, namely, Renéee Hirschon, in introducing the refugees as a social category into the agenda of scholarship on the post-Ottoman states and societies.

Long Abstract

This paper is an attempt at highlighting the role played by an eminent social anthropologist, namely, Renéee Hirschon, in introducing the refugees as a social category into the agenda of scholarship on the post-Ottoman states and societies. Her ethnographic research focused primarily on the refugees who were settled in a refugee settlement in Greece after the Greek-Turkish Exchange of Populations in 1923. Her interest in the human dimension of the event deviated her significantly from the existing scholarship on the subject that had dwelt until then on the diplomatic and political aspects of the phenomenon with no reference to the people who bore the brunt of the war, expulsion, resettlement and, so-called, national integration. Furthermore, she drew attention to the gender aspect of refugeehood which again had been a non-issue not only among the students of the Greek-Turkish Exchange of Populations but also among those interested in forced migration and refugee movements. As the refugees have once again come to the center of attention it is important to remember the pioneering scholarship of anthropologists such as Renée Hirschon who reminded everyone some three decades ago that refugees were more than numbers and their storyline had to be told and incorporated into the broader narrative of events so as to form a less distorted picture. In line with the objective of your panel I find it extremely relevant to explore the career and accomplishments of a prominent anthropologist who influenced a whole generation of professionals and no-professionals almost three decades ago.

Civil society and uncivil times

Author: Brian Callan (Loughborough)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing upon insights from practitioners and scholars working in Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Romania, Calais & the US, this paper addresses non-violent, grassroots movements operating in spaces of repression and instrumental brutality in the ongoing transnational crisis.

Long Abstract

The beginning of this decade witnessed a wave of civil mobilization across the globe. Resistance to capitalist excesses, technocratic austerity and embedded authoritarian regimes, seemed to unite and inspire civil societies around the Mediterranean rim. There was hope and fear of radical change and talk of revolution on the streets and in academia. Five years later improbable alliances pummel Syria and Iraq. Brutal conflict forces millions to flee to nearby camps, across seas and along cold, distant back-roads. Right-wing sentiments close European borders and invoke states of emergency. Lethal terror claims sovereignty in the east and falls upon the citizens of Turkey, Beirut, Paris, and tourists from St. Petersburg. The corpses of children are washing up on the shore.

This paper offers insights on profound, uncomfortable and pressing questions addressed by practitioners and scholars from Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Romania, Calais, the US and Mexico, this paper brings nuanced detail to the simplified polarised proclamations which claim to define this complex, transnational crisis. With an emphasis on events around the Mediterranean rim, we ask how non-violent resistance resists instrumental brutality, and if it prevail? Can there be understanding between migrants driven by desperation, volunteers compelled by compassion, and local communities overwhelmed by a sea of need? How are antagonisms reinforced and restrained by local and distant events, technologies and institutions? Answers to these questions are as yet unknown, but clearly these are voices which must be heard.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.