Introduction: Re-Imagining Migration Narratives, A Note from the OMSS Committee
‘We have to make our own tools if we are to bring the house down.’
—Sarah Ahmed, Your Silence Will Not Protect You
The OMSS Committee is thrilled to present this collection on the theme “Re-Imagining Migration Narratives.” We want to take the time to present our vision of theme, introduce ourselves, and most importantly, ask you to get involved with the submissions on Routed and on our virtual panels. While we were excited to host this in-person conference, we have shifted online with this Routed special issue and a series of virtual panels from June 1 to June 5. In this time of uncertainty and precarity, we are grateful to everyone who has contributed to this special edition: the panelists, the Routed team, and of all of you, for your participation and engagement with these vital submissions.
The OMSS Committee is made of volunteers from the MSc Migration Studies, MSc Refugees and Forced Migration Studies, and DPhil Migration Studies programs. The Society takes advantage of the world-class migration research taking place at Oxford to connect graduate students, faculty, and practitioners. Central to these efforts is the Annual Conference, which took place first in 2013. The Conference reflects the interdisciplinary and diverse academic interests of the degree members. As a Society, we are uniquely positioned to experiment with our Conference, and this year, we wanted to stretch the boundaries of our work. The submissions here do not represent OMSS or Oxford University. You can learn more about us here.
About the Conference
Our conference theme came about through discussions on the current climate, both ecological and geopolitical, and a view that we need more nuanced approaches and self-reflexive discussion on our representations and narratives about migrants and/or forced migrants. Re-imagining migration narratives allows us to envision new radical ways of encountering migration and develop tools for transformation. We drew inspiration from Sara Ahmed’s introduction to Your Silence Will Not Protect You, in which she writes: ‘We have to make our own tools if we are to bring the house down.’ Whether or not we accomplish such an, admittedly, ambitious goal is another matter, but we set out on a decidedly feminist and anti-colonial footing.
Our critical approach comes through in our conference topic, our participants, our keynote, and our reaction to coronavirus. While recruiting and accepting presenters already established in the field, including our keynote speaker Professor Bridget Anderson, we were intentional in our efforts to recruit early career researchers, particularly those doing unconventional research and from under-represented backgrounds. Our online format allows us to have panelists from every region of the world, from graduate students to full professors. We are also proud to have two panels on Migration and the Arts, with presenters who are artists and videographers themselves, representatives from local museums, and practitioners working directly with asylum seekers, all with unique perspectives on migration narratives.
We are particularly excited about the submission from our keynote speaker, Professor Bridget Anderson, Director of Migration Mobilities Bristol. Professor Anderson is one of one of the world’s leading migration scholars, specialising in labour migration, citizenship, trafficking, and immigration control. Her book Us & Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control considers the distinction between citizen and migrant through the concept of the community of value and generated considerable discussion in the scholarship and in our degree. Professor Anderson kindly agreed to write a piece to keynote our virtual conference, which you can read here. Her essay asks, “How can we harness the microbiological to re-imagine migration?” Covid-19 respects no borders, physical or imagined, national or anatomical. What is migration in the time of COVID-19?
Despite the uncertain times, we were thrilled with the quality of abstracts submitted. The blogs, videos, and other submissions from the 31 scholars and practitioners in this issue of Routed represent the diverse approaches to migration narratives, and we are excited for them to present their work and engage with each other at our virtual panels. Our panel on representation engages with diverse approaches to crafting belonging among ethnically marginalised migrants who often are not allowed to represent themselves. Our panel on knowledge production reflects on the advantages and epistemic limitations of using methodologies like life histories to represent migrant narratives. Our panel on storytelling explores the highly diverse practical approaches to telling migrant stories. Our policy panel identifies harmful practices and methods of border and integration control, through securitisation and the politics of exhaustion, among others. And our highly diverse panels on migration and the arts opens space for radical rethinking of migration narratives through new approaches, perspectives, and actors.
We would like to thank the many people who helped make virtual conference possible. The Routed team, for their enthusiasm and technical support, the Oxford Anthropology and International Development departments, the Oxford Migration and Mobility Network, TORCH and COMPAS at Oxford, Ruben Andersson, and Bridget Anderson. And we want to thank you, the reader, in advance for engaging with these papers. We encourage you to read through the submissions on the Routed site and engage directly with our panelists on our virtual panels. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or email us at email@example.com. And most of all, let us take this time to reflect on how we represent migrants, in all its complexities.