EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Migrants in the provinces: the adaptive potential of the province compared to the megapolis
Location U6-34
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Liudmila Zhukova (Russian State University for the Humanities) email
  • Konstantin Bannikov (Anthropological research center (ARC)) email
  • Elena Miskova (Moscow State University ) email

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Short Abstract

This panel will be devoted to the problem of cultural adaptation of migrants. We plane to focus on the adaptive capacity of provinces, and on the role of cultural and religious imagination in shaping of new local solidarity and patriotism.

Long Abstract

The current migratory crisis and problems of refugees exacerbated the problem of adaptation of migrants in foreign cultural environment.

The main flow of migrants goes to the megacities and the capitals. The cultural province and margins are less attractive. But it doesn't mean that modern province is less multicultural than the big city. Anthropologists face with the big variety of cultural contacts and interaction in the cultural autonomies and those places, which were culturally homogeneous in the recent past.

The cultural province obviously has the potential of its own to the adaptation and inclusion of migrants in a full-fledged social interaction. These interactions base on individual contacts. They include the mutual interest in the cooperation and stimulate learning of culturally rooted life strategies. Thus this interaction promotes tolerance. Besides the host population, rooted in the province, have its own experience of interaction with dominant social groups and sometimes the experience of resilience and also migrations. So the cultural and historical imagination is the sphere of everyday life and live narratives in the province.

The cultural province have also the experience of albeit temporary, but the inclusion of foreigners as the tourists in their environment. The tourist practices in many cases have been involved in the process of recruitment and return of the population in the province.

So the main goal of the panel is to discuss the potential of various cultural province to the potential of the resolution of one of the most severe current crises of migration.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Whose emergency? Migration management and marginality on Lampedusa, Italy

Author: Laust Lund Elbek (Aarhus University)  email

Short Abstract

Based on fieldwork on the Italian island of Lampedusa, this paper considers the relation between migration management and the concept of marginality. It is argued that marginality characterizes the spatial context for Euro-African border management and that this requires ethnographic attention.

Long Abstract

The island of Lampedusa is Italy’s southernmost outpost and among the most powerful symbols of the Euro-African border. During the past decades, hundreds of thousands of refugees have successfully made it to Lampedusa, while thousands have lost their lives in the attempt. Often, notions of ‘exception’ or ‘emergency’ are invoked by politicians and scholars alike to describe the situation on the island. Based on fieldwork on Lampedusa, however, I contend that the nature of this often-declared emergency is far from straightforward. For Lampedusans, the ‘emergency’ is more related to dysfunctional politics and the appropriation of the island by authorities concerned with border management than actual migration itself. From a local perspective, policies of migration management coalesce with a history of political and economic marginalisation in Southern Italy. Additionally, many perceive migration management as detrimental to tourism, the island’s main source of income. Following Das & Poole (2004), I argue that this discrepancy can be seen through the conceptual lens of marginality. 1) Marginal spaces are easily appropriated by the state and other actors exactly because of their marginality. 2) Conversely, for the inhabitants on Lampedusa, historically rooted notions of marginality feed into perceptions of politics and the state and thus also into perceptions of migration management policies. In general terms, the relationship between ‘the provinces’ and central power is rarely unambiguous and the spatial imaginaries of states are not necessarily shared in provincial areas. Thus, heightened ethnographic attention to such historical and contemporary centre-periphery relations is called for.

Migrants in the mountains: experiencing difference in a German refugee shelter

Author: Jan Bock (Woolf Institute )  email

Short Abstract

German communities support refugees, but many towns and villages also struggle with demographic decline. Newcomers are thus at once an opportunity to grow and a threat to perceived homogeneity. I explore encounters with diversity and new meanings of active citizenship in a small mountain village.

Long Abstract

The refugee crisis has not only affected large German cities, but also thousands of towns and villages. One of them is Sankt Andreasberg. A former mining community, the scenic village in the Harz Mountains has been in economic and demographic decline since the 1980s, with tourist numbers dwindling. In 2007, the Rehberg physiotherapy clinic - the largest employer - was closed. 120 people became unemployed. An investor promised to convert the building into a luxury hotel, but locals remained sceptical. Instead, in October 2015, the clinic reopened as an emergency refugee shelter. Housing 1,500 people, in the main from Syria, the local population doubled literally overnight.

This paper analyses refugees' experiences in the mountains as well as the shelter's impact on Sankt Andreasbergers, fragmented into supporters, opponents, volunteers, and the undecided. I document what happens when seemingly remote conflicts and poverty are abruptly transposed onto a small community, struggling with its own troubles. Villagers are forced into a situation where they can no longer ignore social change and migration, long confined to cities. I show how local residents, faced with what appears as an unprecedented integration challenge, reflect on local culture, identity, and political agency. I document aspirations and struggles to create Willkommenskultur - welcome culture - as well as disappointments and hopes among the refugees, who had expected Germany to be unlike this mountain village. I show that village life offers opportunities to engage with one another, reflect on difference, and practice new forms of active citizenship - for both residents and newcomers.

"The Armenians, unlike the others, do respect us": the adaptive strategies of Russian sectarians in Armenia

Author: Liudmila Zhukova (Russian State University for the Humanities)  email

Short Abstract

The paper deals with adaptive strategies of Russian sectarians living in Armenia since 19th century. We will discuss the ways of their adaptation to the very different culture, and the inner potential of Armenia as a former cultural province of Russian Empire to adapt the Russian religious minorities.

Long Abstract

In the 19th century the sectarians were the main part of Russian ethnos in East Armenia. They were exiled there by Russian authorities who had intended to stop sectarian's «dangerous» influence on their orthodox neighbors, and have found their new homeland in Armenia. The paper deals with the adaptive mode of two groups which are still living in Armenia - the Molokans and the Subbotniks. The sectarians identity was constructed by opposing themselves to the Armenian neighbors from the one side and to the orthodox Russians from another. This double denial helped sectarians to save their own originality and despite it to become the indigenous at the same time. The research is mostly based on fieldwork consisting of interviews with representatives and leaders of these sects in Yerevan and Sevan.

Afghan migrants in Iranian Baluchistan: adaptation to the Sarhaddi realities

Author: Vahé Boyajian (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences, Armenia)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation focuses on certain aspects of the everyday life of Afghan refugees and migrants in the Sarhadd region of Iranian Sistan and Baluchistan province. An attempt is made to highlight the challenges the refugees face in the process of adaptation to the social realities in a foreign environment.

Long Abstract

The presentation focuses on certain aspects of the everyday life of Afghan refugees and migrants in the Sarhadd region of Iranian Sistan and Baluchistan province. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the Sarhadd region of the abovementioned province in Iran in November-December, 2015, and October-November 2014.

An attempt is made to highlight the challenges the refugees face in the process of adaptation to the social realities in a foreign environment. During the process of the legalization of their stay in the Iranian province, the Afghan refugees face bureaucratic protractions. Many of them, deprived of any kind of identification documents, face the options either to be expelled back to Afghanistan, or, overcome the hardships of obtaining permission to stay. The Iranian state policy exercised in this regard is one to distribute the refugees and the migrants in various inland provinces of the country with a warrant not to leave their location for a certain period. Those who somehow manage to settle in Sarhadd region frequently find themselves in a hostile situation. They face the hardest ever challenge of integration into the Baluchi society where the social relations are regulated by tribal and clan priorities, spatial connections and segmentary lineage system on one hand, and the state administrative leverages, on the other. The derogatory attitude of the Baluch tribesmen towards the Afghans is often based on the ethnic affiliation of the migrants: most of them are not of Pashtun background, with whom the Baluch share almost identical behavioral code.

Contemporary African migrants in the USA: cultural adaptations in megacities and towns compared

Author: Veronica Usacheva (Russian Academy of Science)  email

Short Abstract

The paper examines the African migrants' experience in the megacities of the Northeast and Midwest and compares it with case study results of a small community of migrants in the southern state of Alabama. Paper presents the results of the research project supported by RFH, grant # 14-01-00070.

Long Abstract

International migration has become a permanent feature of the African landscape as thousands of Africans look beyond their continent to improve their standards of living. From 1980 to 2012, the African-born population in United States grew from just under 200,000 to 1.6 million. One of the recent trends in African migration to the USA: settling not only in megacities but also in small cities and towns.

The paper presents the results of the field studies which were done in the USA in September-November 2013, August 2014 and September-October 2015, in seven states (Alabama, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania); in a number of towns as well as in the cities. The research is based on interviews, questionnaires and observations (participant whenever possible).

The research project examines the situation not only in the more historically progressive, cosmopolitan and tolerant cities of the Northeast and Midwest, but also in towns in the outback in the south of the country, known for its conservatism and traditionalism. A case study of a small community was conducted in the southern state of Alabama - an Ethiopian Orthodox community whose members hail from different parts of the neighboring Marshall and Madison Counties for religious services and other events in the building of the Greek Orthodox Church in Huntsville.

The paper analyzes the complex relationships among African migrants and host society; vulnerabilities, struggles, threats (internal or external to the immigrant community), possibilities for cultural adaptation of migrants in various social landscapes.

The dark side of migration from North Africa: ethnic coordinates influencing migration strategies from southern Tunisia (the case of the 'Abid Ghbonton)

Author: Marta Scaglioni (University of Bayreuth, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

While migration has come to the fore in public and academic debates, little scholarly attention has been paid to its under-visible aspects, such as ethnic coordinates shaping migrants' horizon, as in the case of Tunisia's racially hierarchized peripheries.

Long Abstract

Transnational migratory perspectives have been well grounded in the academic debate for at least two decades (Glick Schiller, Basch, and Blanc 1995; Freitag and Von Oppen 2010). However, little scholarly attention has been paid to how migrants' society, their perspective and experiences change at large. Along with the focus on the actors who actually migrate, it is important to analyze the horizon of those who have not migrated yet or never will (Graw and Schielke, 2012). This paper argues that migration from Tunisia has received deep academic attention as regards to various aspects (return migration from Italy, Binci, 2010), but little one is devoted to ethnic coordinates which open different migratory paths to Tunisian actors in the periphery. Since migratory opportunities in Tunisia are often ethnicity- and region-specific, I wish to further deepen the experiences and imaginaries of Southern Black Tunisians facing migration, focusing on Europe and North America as the most common destinations. Tunisia's static hierarchical post-slavery social structure create profound cleavages between Black and White Tunisians, who occupy different social, educational, and occupational ladders. This asymmetry has an impact on migratory strategies, as well. Nonetheless, Southern Black Tunisians negotiated specific migratory niches, mainly profiting from the bourgeoning performances of the touristic sector, acquiring economic and social capital which would partially emancipate them from their servile past. Resting on ethnographical data collected among the 'Abid Ghbonton, a Black community dwelling the deep South-East of Tunisia, I intend to sketch out briefly Southern Blacks Tunisians' specific migratory trajectories.

Between the American dream and the dream of return: powerful “master narratives” shaping mobile lives in Mexican Chicago

Author: Franziska Bedorf (Uppsala University)  email

Short Abstract

Why, when and how do politics of membership affect changes in belonging in the context of migration? Drawing on fieldwork on elderly Mexican migrants in the greater Chicago area, this paper examines the power of “master narratives” as collective frames of reference that influence people’s considerations of mobility.

Long Abstract

In recent years, belonging has emerged as a key analytical concept when investigating movements of people from an anthropological perspective. Several studies have shown that examining how notions of connectedness with people, culture and places (belonging) evolve and are reconfigured in the context of migration across the life course is central to understanding the causes, dynamics and consequences of changing global mobility. In a similar vein, much research has explored the role of politics of membership and belonging as a formative factor in migratory regimes. However, although it is widely recognized that structures formally and informally regulating membership (politics of belonging) are tightly linked with the (trans)formation of group memberships and individual affiliations (belonging), knowledge on how exactly these two levels intersect remains scarce. Drawing on empirical data on elderly Mexican migrants living in the Chicago area, their migration trajectories and return intentions, collected during 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper argues that larger discourses and ideologies are tightly linked with how politics of membership shape personal belonging in the context of migration. Such “master narratives” represent powerful collective frames of reference, manifesting both the migrants’ desires and their achievements. For the generation of elderly Mexicans living in and around Chicago the two motives of “el sueño Americano” (the American dream) and “volver” (return) have consistently and at times conflictively framed their lives and continue to work as a major reference for making sense of the present and envisioning possibilities for the future.

Politics of denying cittizenship: materializing urban (b)orders

Author: Stefan Aleksić  email

Short Abstract

Analysis of implications of EU policies and nation state strategies in tackling refugee crisis on the concept of "cittizenship"

Long Abstract

As the world and EU crisis are getting more and more serious, we witness the transformation of mobility policies. Although we always were aware that manifest level of European Union narative is different from latent, tendencies are showing that EU administration systematicaly moves torward exclusivisation of the space of „central“ EU states. Administration is changing administrative procedures, but the most important mechanism for streanthening the border of priviledged states is acctualy their restructuring and their spacial disolving across societies: borders are becoming not only spacial, they are becoming rasial, cultural, social and aesthetic; they are not only on the border crossings, they are starting to emerge in urban centers and enviroments. As a part of policies regarding „migration crisis“, borders are beeing transformed in to liminal coridors and/or coridors of liminality, where radical diferance of belonging and not-belonging is beeing materialised. Also, new agensies of borders are being invented, such as comunal police, or even neighbourhood guards, all of which are transforming „border regimes“ to mechanisms of „maintaining“ („comunal order“ is, rather beiing invented) comunal order and as a mechanism of discursively transforming the notion of „comunal order“ opening space for metarialising class relationships.

My presentatios will adress these new administrative and discoursive strategies of defining borders, and identify sources of discoursive changes and structural reasons for these social formations and tendencies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.