WORKSHOP: MIGRATION, MEMORY, AND MATERIALITY
by Julia Carrillo and Patrick Ciaschi
On May 1 – 3 2014, the Migrant Membership and Memory Politics Cluster, in collaboration with the Zolberg Center on Global Migration, the Global Studies Program and the Politics Department, organized the workshop “Memory, Migration, and Materiality.” The event was conceived as a dialogue across disciplines on questions linking memory, migration, and materiality.
The workshop opened with a keynote by Michael Rothberg and Yasemin Yildiz on “Citizens of Memory: Citizenship between Holocaust Remembrance and Transnational Migration.” Rothberg & Yildiz’s lecture questioned how migrants tend to negotiate with a nation’s past; what role do these pasts play? How do immigrant acts of remembrance re-open these pasts within the present? As Rothberg and Yildiz elucidate using the case of Armenian and Turkish migrants in Germany, the very act of becoming German paired with post-migration transnational memories opens up spaces for counter memory formation.
A second keynote by Joachim Baur on “Staging Migration – Staging the Nation. Imagining Community at Immigration Museums” walked us through a comparison of three immigration museums: the American Museum of Immigration at Ellis Island, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and the Immigration Museum Melbourne. The incipient rise of immigration museums prompts Baur to question how the museum represents a stage or a site where immigration histories are then appropriated and curated in a national frame. In what forms do museumized histories take shape? And which memories are being contained, preserved? What are the ‘dissonant heritages’ cast aside and left in the shadows?
Both keynote presentations contributed to the threading of the nexus between mnemonic practices and movements, and the material manifestations of this interaction.
The three-day event provided the opportunity for scholars to present and discuss their most current research projects. The interventions were organized around four main thematic axes: Remains and Traces, Body Politics, Memory and the State, and The Architectonics of Memory.
The presentations grouped under the Remains and Traces axis looked at undocumented migrants in their multiple instances of invisibility (life and death); the politicization, de-politicization and re-politicization of their bodies and of their deaths. Here, borders were explored and interrogated as spaces for the constant construction of policy and mnemonic regimes. By interpolating the unrecognized deaths of unauthorized border-crossers, their unidentified dead bodies, the graveyards where they are buried, as well as the different efforts undertaken to record, recover, and document deaths in the border regions, the works presented in this session touched upon questions related to the forms and spaces of mourning and remembrance.
The session on Body Politics explored the various tensions created by the work being done to identify remains (namely of missing migrants) and the incorporation of these bodies into national scripts and the related processes of nation-building. By juxtaposing the remains of Jihadists and undocumented migrants, the debates put forth the symbolic and material meanings of burial practices, as well as the effects on memory practices of memorializing missing people or unidentified remains.
The penultimate panel on Memory and the State analyzed both the politics of settled memories versus the unsettled memories of indigenous subjugated histories and asylum seeker pathways. The papers presented pivoted on the common notion of the unsettled comparing the disavowal of a colonial past in the continuous present with the ways legal policies mold, form, and produce certain asylum seeking memory recollections. Questions arose pertaining to the statist mastering of the past and ways to counteract these forms of memory erasure; and the challenges with re-casting fleeting and ephemeral memories of movement.
The final panel interrogated The Architectonics of Memory and probed the relationship between built environments, their agencies, and their temporalities. Entire material representations of social imaginaries vanish, dwindle to ruined remains or become recycled and reused for new border walls and fences. What are the hidden material agencies of these walls found in borderlands? And how do they represent the re-temporalization of imperial pasts? Moreover, how does the border and its walled/fenced representation attract a certain type of gaze? Why is there an allure to look at certain objects?
Jonathan Bach (https://www.newschool.edu/nssr/faculty_anthro.aspx?id=16340)
Joachim Baur (http://www.die-exponauten.com/team/joachim-baur/)
Kevin Bruyneel (http://www.babson.edu/academics/faculty/profiles/pages/bruyneel-kevin.aspx)
Alexandra Délano (http://www.newschool.edu/nssr/faculty.aspx?id=26228)
Mercedes Doretti (http://www.macfound.org/fellows/820/)
Jenny Edkins (http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/interpol/staff/academic/jfe/)
Victoria Hattam (http://www.newschool.edu/nssr/faculty.aspx?id=10304)
William Hirst (http://www.newschool.edu/lang/faculty.aspx?id=3348)
Riva Kastoryano (http://www.sciencespo.fr/ceri/en/users/rivakastoryano)
Robert Kirkbride (http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/faculty_ft_school.aspx?id=92115)
Olaf Kleist (http://jolafkleist.net/)
Rocío Magaña (http://www.rociomagana.com/)
Benjamin Nienass (http://www.college-etudesmondiales.org/en/content/benjamin-nienass)
Andreas Oberprantacher (http://www.uibk.ac.at/philosophie/institut/mitarbeiter/oberprantacher.html)
Ross Poole (http://casasanto.academia.edu/RossPoole)
Michael Rothberg (http://michaelrothberg.weebly.com/)
Jilly Traganou (https://www.newschool.edu/parsons/profiles.aspx?id=72055)
Yasemin Yildiz (http://www.germanic.illinois.edu/people/yy47)