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Public Seminar Series, Trinity term 2019

Everyday Resistance to the European Governance of Migration

Series convenor: Dr Cory Rodgers

THE SEMINAR SERIES

The Trinity 2019 public seminar series focuses on “Everyday resistance to the European governance of migration”. As national immigration and asylum regimes become increasingly restrictive in countries around the world, “Fortress Europe” stands out for its efforts to regulate human movement both within and beyond its borders. Following the 2015 “crisis”, spikes in detention and deportation have been common features of European migration management. But there are also examples of resistance by migrants and citizens, who defy, endure, and creatively navigate these systems and practices of exclusion, often in ways that are overlooked in legal and institutional accounts of migration governance. This term, four Oxford-based speakers will describe situations in which such efforts become visible (and audible), through diverse case studies from sites on both sides of the Mediterranean. While focused on dramatically different situations and activities, they share an interest in alternative understandings of migration governance, as well as the practices by which people contend with state strategies, xenophobic narratives, and exclusionary practices.

the seminar

At protest marches in Athens, where people gather to voice dissent at the violence of asylum regimes, the chants have shifted from ‘Open the Borders’ to ‘Open the City’. Border struggles become urban struggles. Athens once again becomes a polis – a centre of political action – and people use sound to make claims on belonging at street level. This paper does two things. First, it listens to these migrant activisms, focussing on sound as a way of understanding citizenship – of hearing inclusion and exclusion. The city is a testing ground (or maybe dumping ground) for European experiments in border management, but is also a sounding board for solidarity, a resonance chamber for resistance. Second, it reports on a collaborative sound recording project, working with refugee-led organisations and people who resist refugeeness. Together we run workshops on the city and citizenship, using sound as a heuristic and a catalyst for narration: opening creative engagements with representing displacement; and distorting the dominant tropes of ‘European refugee crisis’. We focus on everyday sensory experiences and performances of citizenship in protracted displacement. In the sonopolis, vocabularies of integration are reclaimed, disrupting the moral authority of NGOs to speak on behalf of those who have crossed borders. In the sonopolis, migrant activisms open ways of rethinking citizenship altogether.

the speaker

Tom Western is an Early Career Fellow in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford. He is an ethnomusicologist researching the relations between sound, borders, displacements and citizenships. Tom’s current research centres on Athens, Greece, and at the RSC he is working on a project titled ‘Aural Borders, Audible Displacements: Sound and Citizenship in Athens’. The project examines how sound informs experiences of displacement and mediates relationships – generating solidarities and frictions – between various communities living in the city. Sound in Athens is enrolled in regimes of citizenship, playing a key, but largely unheard, role in debates about Europeanness, freedom of movement, and the ‘refugee crisis’. This research brings together approaches from sound studies, ethnomusicology, forced migration studies and anthropology. Tom’s previous research explored how sound recordings were used to construct nations and borders in postwar Europe, and how histories of migration were silenced in the process. His first book – National Phonography: Field Recording, Sound Archiving, and Producing the Nation in Music – is forthcoming with Bloomsbury Academic Press in 2020. He has also published in the journals Sound Studies, Twentieth-Century Music, Ethnomusicology Forum, and in several edited books.

Podcast

Listen to the podcast of the seminar on SoundCloud

RSC Conference 2017: 'Beyond Crisis: Rethinking Refugee Studies'

The RSC hosted this international conference on 16-17 March 2017.

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Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

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Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

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Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House. Click here for details of forthcoming seminars.

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