There is, therefore, a conflict at the heart of the New Labour Government's approach to asylum policy linked to the "alterity" of the asylum seeker that promulgates hegemonic ideologies and discourses around rights to belonging and citizenship, perceived access to resources redistribution and misrecognition fostering suspicion of the "stranger". Alongside discourses of fairness and rights to enter and seek refuge, there exist regressive discourses that water down the vitally important actual and symbolic UN Convention, and foster a split between "bogus" and "genuine" refugees, making it extremely hard to seek asylum in the UK.
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This raises important ethico-political issues relating to the politics of representation, recognition, democracy, and impacts deeply upon experiences of a sense of belonging and citizenship. Ethical and political knowledge about who asylum seekers are, why and how they had to flee and why they are seeking asylum, is absolutely crucial to foster better understanding, tolerance and social justice.
It is important that asylum seekers have the right to represent themselves and are given the space to do so. The interpretive role for social research—ethnography, biography—and performative-arts based work is in making the unfamiliar familiar as well as fostering mutual understanding of diverse communities, cultural traditions, subcultures and ultimately tolerance of diversity see, BAUMAN, in countering "misrecognition" and fostering mutuality. MARFLEET , urges us to think about "transnational communities" in relation to "circuits of migration" and diasporas scatterings as "networked communities".
Within the context of migration research, he argues that three developments have been crucial to the growth of transnational communities. First, changes in new technologies of mass transport international tourism, mass air transport ; second, changes in the means of communication virtual communication, satellite, Internet and cyber environment , and finally "the generalisation worldwide of ideas about human entitlement" or human rights that create "new frameworks of understanding" MARFLEET , p.
Moreover, one-dimensional analyses focusing upon push-pull factors in relation to economic need and the demands of the market are now too limited and linear. The complex movements of migrants involves undertaking multiple journeys "which may involve repeat, shuttle, orbital, ricochet and yo-yo migrations" in attempts at settlement and return MARFLEET, , p.
CASTLES outlines the foundations for a sociology of forced migration and suggests a shift in focus from a sociology of the nation-state to a transnational sociology. The key issue is transnational connectedness and the way this affects national societies, local communities and individuals CASTLES, , p. In examining networks, global flows, and how transnational communities are the focus "for social and cultural identity for both economic and forced migrants" CASTLES, , p.
The remainder of this paper examines CASTLES's suggestion of integrating the ethnographic with the political aspects of a sociology of forced migration.
This is achieved, in my view, by exploring the concepts of transnational identities, home and belonging through a methodological approach to research that incorporates ethnography, narrative research and art as ethno-mimesis. In short, this interpretive, interdisciplinary approach includes creating spaces for the subaltern to speak for themselves through ethnographic biographical work as well as through visual, poetic artistic methods in ways that may impact on governance of this issue.
Biographical research can resist dominant messages relating to the asylum-migration nexus that we find in some media messages and images. So, narrative biographical research is not simply the transcription of talk to aid analysis through a story or biography but also includes the performative. John GIVEN has written eloquently about the transformative role of biographical narrative and storytelling combined with digital technologies: "based on an understanding of the narrative construction of identity as an emplaced, embodied, antipoetic process explored through the application of a biographical narrative interview methodology" GIVEN, , p.
JONES , p.ays.chipichipistudio.com/me-and-my-family-a-mail.php
I am suggesting Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics as a starting point because I think he offers a post-modern, contemporary framework that allows social scientists to think about aesthetics and means of dissemination from the arts in our work in refreshing ways" JONES , p. This discussion links the performative, productive dimension of narrative to the relational and emerging synthesis between arts and social sciences and underpins the ethno-mimetic process and practice. Combining ethnographic biographical narratives with artistic representations of "migrants" lived experiences can be transformative, providing recognition, voice, a means of sharing identities through inter-disciplinarity and hybridity.
Such border crossings can enrich our theoretical work and, as JONES states help us to re-think inter-disciplinarity, the relationships between the arts and social sciences, in new ways and, I argue, may lead to critical theory as praxis. Art is a "feeling form" created in the tension between sensuous knowing, the playfulness and creativity of the artist and the historically given techniques and means of production. Art is a social product not just a reflection on its social origins and it manifests its own specificity—it is constitutive.
Art makes visible experiences, hopes, ideas; it is a reflective space and socially it brings something new into the world—it contributes to knowledge and understanding. In so doing it is intrinsically political. ADORNO , writes about how the enigmatic character of works gives them their significance—spirit animates art work—and aesthetic experience involves awareness of the inside and outside of art. The dialectic of mimesis and constructive rationality constitutes the dialectic of art and society.
At one end of the pole we have mimesis and at the other constructive rationality. In summary, I am arguing that mimesis is not intended to represent the mimicry or similarity of the work of art to what it represents, and I argue that through the mimetic moment of cognition we can develop a critical perspective that includes "empathy" as sensuous knowing. Knowledge is produced forcing us to abandon instrumental rationality and reach towards a more sensuous understanding that incorporates feeling involvement as well as cognitive reflection.
Thus, ethno-mimesis involves the mimetic re-telling of life narratives in artistic form capturing more sensuous meanings and experiences including memories, experiences, associations—indeed, all the senses involved in narration. Working with an ethnographer and an artist the storyteller e. Two inter-related strands in his work concern us here: the role of images and the role of words.
In The Storyteller he tells us that storytelling plays a primary role in the household of humanity in contrast to the role of information— a fragment of a story of a life can tell us so much more than pages of information about a life. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time.
A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time" pp. With these words, soul, eye, and hand are brought into connection. Thus, BENJAMIN does not theorise images but thinks in images and dialectical images are the basis for transformation of the collective as well as the individual:.
This is not to be interpreted as "encoding of meanings in images, but the insight that memory, and action find articulation in images, that ideas are structured as images, and that what is at stake is therefore a praxis that can operate with images— a politics of images , not a figurative or metaphorical politics" WEIGEL, , p. BENJAMIN develops a concept of action in which as thoughts become embodied in action—he speaks of the interpenetration of body—and image-space, "the theory establishes a relation of immediacy to the material of the social and symbolic" WEIGEL, , p.
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Here, "immediacy" is an important concept for BENJAMIN and ADORNO —meanings are not encoded in images, instead meanings emerge in "now time" like a flash, dialectically in the form of a constellation re-presenting wish images, utopian desires, and uncovering layers of meaning in past experience. A combination of the sensory, sensuous experience of narrativity "that preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time" BENJAMIN, , pp.
This in turn feeds into cultural politics and praxis a radical democratic and cultural imaginary that may help processes of social justice via a politics of recognition—as a counter to mis-recognition. Clearly ethical principles must guide this work such that permissions, informed consent and modes of dissemination are agreed at the outset and may change in the process of the work being undertaken and led by the participants.
The methodological process I have described previously is, I argue, comparable with ADORNO's sense of "coming to know the work of art", involving immersion, identification and subsequent distancing followed by critical reflection—this is a deeply relational process. WINNICOTT called the "in between" space between subjective and objective reality "potential space" and wrote that creative perception is fostered by a negotiation of the gap between self and other. Indeed "this area relates to play, as well as to religious and aesthetic experience in adult life—indeed the whole cultural field" GLOVER, , p.
Furthermore, this is absolutely an embodied process:.
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In the notion of "potential space" we have a model for child development, creativity, and "coming to know the work of art". With regard to the latter, GLOVER writes how MILNER describes the "aesthetic moment" where the space between the work and spectator is collapsed, the pull or fusion is experienced as a kind of merging without being taken over or becoming lost. ADORNO refers to this "coming to know the work of art" as a process of immersion, identification, followed by critical distancing and reflexivity involved in interpretation, commentary and criticism O'NEILL, , p.
From the above perspectives I would argue that engaging with or mediating the critical tensions between experience, feeling, emotion and materiality constructive rationality can help us to understand better the "micrology" of people's lives and, in turn, they can help us conceive more fully our own lives within the context of wider socio-political structures and processes—such as the governance of the asylum-migration nexus.
In this process we can also access greater understanding of the implications of our own actions and subjective reflections BIRD, There are similarities between the notion of ethno-mimesis, "potential space" and JONES's concept of "dialogic space" in his account of the coming of the performative in social research. For JONES traditional methodologies do not deal well with the sensory, emotional, and kinaesthetic aspects of lived experience; and in considering these aspects in research, interviews could be the locus not for gathering information but for producing performance texts and performance ethnographies.
This also involves "relational aesthetics": "Central to its relational aesthetics principles are intersubjectivity, being-together, the encounter and the collective elaboration of meaning, based in models of sociability, meetings, events, collaborations, games, festivals and places of conviviality" JONES, , p. Moreover, in reference to potential space as dialogic space "It is in these moments of shared, extended reality that we connect to what it means to be human and, therefore, reached a higher plane of understanding and a blurring of individual differences" JONES, , p.
It is helpful to reflect on the ethno-mimetic process and practice through a couple of examples.
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The first explores the research and arts based work with Bosnian and Afghan refugees and the research trajectory that has developed from it. This first example of ethno-mimesis—a combination of biographical narrative and arts based work—enabled a research exchange between myself and a community arts organisation and two "communities" of refugees, Bosnian and Afghan. By using principles of ethno-mimesis and participatory action research, images were created as described above in creative workshops following a phase of life story narratives.
The images and narratives that emerged were exhibited in gallery spaces and community centres. Our intention was to make the work available to as wide an audience as possible to raise awareness, educate and empower—to support the development of the shift in discourses and dialogue, to feed into cultural politics and praxis. In Global Refugees: Exile Displacement and Belonging the first phase of the research involved talking to two "communities" of refugees from Bosnia and Afghanistan about why I wanted to do the research, and whether or not this had any resonances for them.
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I wanted to work with arts based practice and biographical narratives stories to bring their experiences into voice. I wanted to use participatory action research methods that would include them, as well as artists and myself as partners and collaborators. And, I wanted to conduct biographical narrative interviews that would be led by the participants, and to give them the chance to re-present these stories visually with the help of artists, if they wanted to.
It was agreed that the outcome of the research could be a means of challenging some of the stereotypes about "new arrivals" by sharing the narratives and images with a broader audience. The second phase involved conducting biographical narrative interviews with community co-researchers—individuals who came forward from both communities to help conduct the interviews, liaise, take part and support the arts based work. The Afghan group wanted to explore their narratives in creative writing workshops and so we commissioned Exiled Writers Ink to facilitate this.
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A series of creative writing workshops were undertaken with Afghan refugees and asylum seekers led by Exiled Writers Ink that were also attended by myself, the community co-researcher, the lead artist in Nottingham as well as an MA student from University of East London's Refugee Studies programme who helped conduct the interviews in London. A series of arts based workshops were developed with the Bosnians where a smaller group five worked on the themes in their narratives with four artists and myself to produce visual and poetic re-presentations.
Both groups produced some incredible visual and poetic texts from their experiences of exile, displacement and the process of developing a sense of belonging in the new situation. During this phase we talked in groups about themes from the interviews, possible ways of representing, as well as exploring the work of key artists and photographers; and we were led by creative writers to explore playing with words. The result was that both groups produced both visual and poetic texts while the artists facilitated the production of images with the participants.
Therefore, "understanding" emerges from methodological immersion in a subject-subject relationship. Graphically we see that this young woman's life was literally turned upside down. The images help us to understand the fragile nature of our lives and that they can be thrown into turmoil very quickly.
At one of the exhibition openings "V" said:. Everything changed so quickly. One morning my best friend said that her parents had told her she could not play with me anymore because I was Muslim. Soon afterwards my Father arranged safe passage across the border and we ended up in a refugee camp in Croatia.
We were then given a choice Britain or America. The family of "V" were safely dispersed to England under the Bosnia programme of the mid 's from a Red Cross camp in Croatia. The shiny newness of the image captures the joy of surviving, of being alive, of connectivity. Creative writing, emerging from the space between biographical interviews and playing with thoughts, words, senses through writing as a feeling form, led to a range of work by Afghan refugees and asylum seekers including photographs the latter by the community co-researcher. The excerpt is re-printed from the exhibition booklet.
This initial research sparked a series of research projects building upon each other to eventually culminate in a regional network "Making the Connections: Arts, Migration and Diaspora". Based upon the principles of participatory action research and participatory arts the network examines the transformative role of arts and culture, supports interdisciplinary work, and facilitates a co-operative process of developing artworks and research as performative praxis that might have some impact and pose critical interventions for social and cultural policy in the East Midlands region.
Picking up on themes of home, belonging and transnational identities the arts based work of Misha MYERS [anthropologist, live artist and educator] provides a good example of ethno-mimesis and "potential space": The project "Way from home" included guided walks which invited refugees and asylum seekers from Plymouth, UK, to make a map from a place they call home to a special place.
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