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Accepted Paper:

On the Materiality of Migration and Emotion  


Peter J Braeunlein (University of Goettingen)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on the following questions: in what ways objects/images store or provoke emotional experiences in the context of migration? How reinforces sensory, bodily and emotive engagement with objects/images personal identity in an unfamiliar cultural setting?

Paper long abstract:

My paper focuses on the complex intertwining of migration, material culture and emotions. Human mobility no matter whether forced or voluntary most often lead to intense emotional and transformative experiences. As the nature of migration is shaped by its materiality, the varied forms of experience and sensation are "both embodied and constituted through the interactions of subjects and objects" (Basu & Coleman). In this process objects and images are "moving" in a double sense: they stir emotions and entail the movement of the people and things. Objects and images contain personal and collective memories, recall loss, activate the sense of belonging, facilitate transnational connectivity and may offer protection in turbulent times. Certain objects and images can trigger affects and emotions such as trauma, fear, despair, or homesickness but also religious sentiments, hope, aspiration and well-being. In host societies public debates on the appropriate quality and amount of material and financial aid (clothes, shoes, food, housing) for refugees and asylum seekers are highly emotional. In social media fierce disputes arise on "illegitimate" possessions of refugees such as iPhones and brand-name clothes. Hereby, it is material culture which provokes affects such as resentment and social envy.

In the first part of my paper I will give a brief overview on the state of the research on the relation between migration, materiality and emotion. In the second part I will present examples from the current research project on "The Materiality of Migration" (Goettingen/Germany) which illustrate various aspects of that relation.

Panel P105
The Materiality of Migration: From 'bare necessities' to 'promising things' [ANTHROMOB]