(P099)
Representations of displacement and the struggle for home and homemaking
Location Brunei Gallery - B204
Date and Start Time 03 Jun, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Tom Selwyn (SOAS) email
  • Reza Masoudi Nejad (SOAS, University of London) email
  • Safet HadziMuhamedovic (University of Bristol ) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

This panel seeks to make a contribution to the present upsurge in anthropological work on refugees and the subject of displacement. Particular focus here will be given to representations of and material practices relating to home and homemaking.

Long abstract

At a time of writing this (June 2017) the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports that there are at least 65 million refugees and displaced people in the world. Both anthropologists, and artists (of all kinds) have become increasingly engaged with the subject and this panel seeks to make a contribution to one of the central issues of the age. The particular focus here is upon notions and representations of home and homemaking, especially among populations that are displaced or otherwise ‘away from home’. We invite presentations of artistic work or accounts of artistic projects alongside written papers that explore the power of images of home and material practices of homemaking in a context of displacement. Such images or practices can powerfully challenge or add nuance to political narratives, while others, at a more personal level, demonstrate the significant therapeutic role of art and material representation in processing the trauma of displacement and dislocation. Contributions that adopt either a global or a more intimate perspective will be welcomed. We are especially keen to attract work that critically examines questions of place, identity, hospitality, and the idea of the stranger in this context, and furthers our aim of advancing theoretical notions of home and homemaking to more central positions in the discipline.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Creative Spaces, Self-Authorship and Mutual Interdependence

Author: Catrin Evans (University of Glasgow) email

Short abstract

This paper presents a case for how collaborative learning and creative expression can focus our attention on the emotional labour involved in homemaking, and asks how might the creative spaces exercise resistance within the hegemonic state that is the UK's Hostile Environment and Fortress Europe?

Long abstract

As a theatre artist my research is both practice-led and anthropological. Reflecting on my experiences in the role of Artist-Researcher on a year-long multi-artform project with the Scottish Refugee Council and Tramway in Glasgow, this paper presents a case for how collaborative learning and creative expression can challenge us to look beyond normative, and often de-personalised and de-politicised understandings of integration. Focusing instead on the subjugated narratives associated with the emotional labour involved in homemaking, a key aspect of which involves navigating a system and a society that welcomes refugees and those seeking asylum with one hand, and pushes away with another.

Informed by bell hooks' work on sites of dialogue, radical openness and pedagogies of resistance this paper asks how might the creative spaces that we activate exercise resistance within the hegemonic state that is the UK's Hostile Environment and Fortress Europe? What opportunities do performative and creative moments offer for getting closer to a desire for a self-authored life? Finally, can we look to arts spaces and practices to challenge the call for integration and hospitality based on 'affective identification', and instead move towards a more active and radical form of solidarity that is based on a shared acknowledgment of mutual interdependence?

Landscapes of pilgrimage and figures of pilgrims: an essay in location and dislocation.

Author: Alys Tomlinson (SOAS) email

Short abstract

Winner Sony Photographic Competition 2018.

Long abstract

None provided.

Homecomings and Identity: A case of a Japanese in the UK

Author: Takamitsu Jimura (Liverpool John Moores University) email

Short abstract

I am Japanese living in the UK for the past 16 years. Originally I did not have secure attachment to the country, but now I treat it as my second home. However, this emotional shift has aggravated uncertainty on my identity. The more I feel I fit into British society, the less I feel I am Japanese.

Long abstract

This paper explores what my visits to Japan means to me. I am Japanese who have lived in the UK for almost 16 years. Since I moved to the UK, I have been visiting Japan annually. After migrating to the UK, I spent the first several years as an international student. During this period, I always looked forward to my visits to Japan. When I arrived at an airport in Japan, I felt I was at 'home'. This feeling was developed through recognising a series of 'Japaneseness' such as Japanese signposts. The semiotic features of Japanese society made me feel I was where I should be; however, I did not want to see my friends as I felt I was nobody either in the UK or Japan. I was also reluctant to return to the UK due to lack of sense of belonging to British society. As time goes by, especially after I got a full-time job, I began to feel less reluctant to return to the UK after my visits to Japan. Through my work and life, I could develop relationships with various people, have commitments with British society, and have become more familiar with British culture. Nowadays, I feel I am at 'home' when I return from a foreign country to the UK. Ironically, however, this psychological change has exacerbated ambivalence about my identity. The more I feel I am embedded in British society, the less I feel I am Japanese. Consequently, my identity has become increasingly ambiguous.

Between Worlds

Author: Anne Adamson email

Short abstract

I shall be showing some of my paintings and discussing how they were created, attempting to trace a path from the inner landscape of the mind to the image on the canvas. My work is often perceived as representing journeys: I’ll be addressing this idea, with emphasis on the interpretation of figures as pilgrims or refugees.

Long abstract

My work is an exploration of the places between the metaphorical world of the mind and the physical world of the observed or imaginary landscape.

In the act of looking at a painting the viewer can find a place to create their own narrative. I’ll discuss how, in providing this place, I arrive at certain images in my work, often by chance but sometimes deliberately; why I like to create an ambiguity in the paintings so that the viewer is never quite sure of the nature of the territory, who the figures are or where they might be going. I’m aware that the figures in my work, my “citizens of the world”, can be perceived as refugees or pilgrims. Placing these unnamed people in an unknown landscape or situation can create a sense of unease and disquiet, reflecting thoughts of displacement and flight. Where groups of figures are seen heading in the same direction towards an unseen destination off the edge of the canvas, they are sometimes interpreted as pilgrims.

The spatial relationship between the figures, whether they are on the same picture plane or separated out across the canvas, can lead to speculation about their identity and personal relationships.

Discarded items or remains of structures can sometimes be seen in the paintings. These can give rise to questions about the nature of place and, with the notable absence of figures in these particular paintings, whether the land has been inhabited or occupied and then abandoned.

Hostility, hospitality, and home: Connecting Grenfell, Windrush, and Brexit.

Author: Tom Selwyn (SOAS) email

Short abstract

None provided.

Long abstract

None provided.

Your dream home awaits you: Painting as social engagement in an Australian public housing renewal project

Author: Katie Hayne (Australian National University) email

Short abstract

This research project combines both art practice and ethnographic methodologies to gain a greater understanding of what makes a home for a public-housing community undergoing displacement.

Long abstract

Public housing in Canberra, Australia's capital, was originally built to house the growing public service workforce of the 1960s. In recent decades, it has become home to lower-income earners, predominantly the unemployed, disabled and elderly, as well as resettled refugees and students. There is a broader community perception that the larger housing precincts and flats are notorious for social problems and disadvantage. In an effort to provide a greater number of better-quality houses which are more distributed across the city the local government has undertaken a project to demolish 1288 units and relocate approximately 1500 tenants over a period of three years. The project is controversial due the 1960s housing being of architectural significance, an example of the post-war international style, and that the relocation has involved moving tenants to outer city areas, away from key services and transport.

In the early phases of this project it was difficult to identify participants and I will discuss how drawing became a key way of initial engagement; as well as leading to an in-depth understanding of the spatial, environmental, and sensorial aspects of the housing precinct. I will also present a series of my oil paintings and discuss how they were informed by ongoing conversations and participation with residents. Through exploring the relationship between the methodologies of practice-led research and participant observation, the project looks at the tensions and difficulties in crossing disciplines and questions in what ways can painting be a form of ethnography.

Representation of Homemaking, Lived Experience and Inner Turbulence: Archival Research of Overseas Chinese Qiaopi Remittance Letters

Author: Shuhua Chen (University of St Andrews) email

Short abstract

Through archival research of overseas Chinese qiaopi remittance letters, this paper examines how Chinese migrants made sense of their tumultuous lives in sojourning while making their ideas of 'home' manifest through the practice of writing family letters and sending remittances home.

Long abstract

In the world of movement, the practice of displacing oneself—away from home—requires one to make sense of the distance, the strangeness, or the suffering that accompanies migrancy. Through archival research of thousands of qiaopi—qiaopi are remittance attached with family letters, sent by overseas Chinese fanke (foreign guests) to their families in South China, this paper examines how fanke made sense of their tumultuous lives while making their ideas of 'home' manifest through the practice of writing family letters and sending remittances home. Many of the lives expressed through qiaopi are often about suffering for the self and for the family, for an everlasting nostalgia and an ever-coming future. In particular, this paper investigates: 1) representations of the lives of fanke through the textual genres represented in qiaopi archive—how home was written into fanke's sojourning life. It is, I argue, not the central issue to define home and to find out how home is represented in certain forms but how home is experienced, how it interacts with one's subjectivity through those representations; 2) their inner turbulence of lived experience (such as disappointment, family strife, and dissipating love) beneath the neat and civilised representation of qiaopi genre—a form of folk letter writing; 3) the political significance in studying the mobile subjects' 'interior experience of home'—to disrupt the dominant narratives of their experience, to challenge the epistemological assumptions about them, and to recognise the centrality of home in all of our lives, thus to anthropological studies.

The Games and Toys Series

Author: Mina Talaee email

Short abstract

This project, which is submitted as a presentation of artistic work, is consisted of a series of interactive sculptures, focusing on the subjects of home and homelessness, displacement and immigration with regard to the contexts of power, control and politics.

Long abstract

The Games and Toys series is consisted of a body of interactive sculptures which are designed based on the structures of international, as well as traditional Persian toys, such as top toy, maze toy and Tablak which have taken the shapes of border lines, maps, world map projections and flags. Games are considered as collective activities in which people are able to engage merely by accepting a set of conventional rules and laws which define the implications and purposes of these activities, much similar to political, cultural and social conventions. In this body of works, these pieces which may be considered as visual interpretations and depictions of issues such as displacement and immigration from my point of view and based on my experience, are created in hope of encouraging questions about the ongoing problematizations of home and homelessness, migration crisis, power and powerlessness, control, isolation and inclusiveness with regard to their political and cultural contexts. In almost all the pieces, female and male smaller than life-size crouching figures have replaced the balls of the original toys. These figures, which are replaced with the multiplied 3-D printed version of my own body in more recent pieces, are recurrent in my works, signifying powerlessness and passiveness.

Comfort foods, liminality and non-refoulement in Hong Kong

Author: Mukta Das (SOAS University of London) email

Short abstract

The paper examines how free South Asian food in these select religious and secular sites offer a hospitality that can abet, unsettle and subvert attempts at home making among refugees when attachment to Hong Kong is contingent, problematic and temporary.

Long abstract

This contribution aims to locate Hong Kong and South Asian food in the flow of refugees and other displaced people from countries in Africa and from Asia. It analyses the role that South Asian foods play in making Hong Kong hospitable to refugees in a range of settings; a temple, a gurdwara and refugee centre in eclectic budget 'ghetto' Chungking Mansions. Post-colonial Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of mainland China since 1997 is not a signatory to international instruments for refugee rights protection. The territory screens refugee claims but does not resettle successful claimants. And yet people can wait years for their claims to be heard, and so are de facto long term sojourners. Unable to work, instead they work strategies to leverage their daily allowance of HK$40 (£4) of supermarket food vouchers.

The paper examines how free South Asian food in these select religious and secular sites offer a hospitality that can abet, unsettle and subvert attempts at home making among refugees when attachment to Hong Kong is contingent, problematic and temporary. This paper builds on anthropological approaches which ground theory in objects and the irreverence of their surrounds which symbolise encounters of host and guest. It focuses on the intimate material practices of such sites include managing meat and other kinds of pollutions, of combining spices, the visual aesthetics of rows of stock pots, of certain kinds of portions on plates and, trays, certain modes of queuing sitting and eating which play with territorial identity.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.