Migration, Ethnicity and Nation

Inequality Power Justice Large Square

Members of the Migration, Ethnicity and Nation cluster are working across a range of disciplines and subject areas to explore contemporary practices of human mobility and its societal impacts, as well as varying forms of identification and allegiance in (super)diverse societies. Work is organised into three linked, interdisciplinary research and knowledge themes: processes and practices of migration; (super)diversity; and identities and heritage. 

Practices and processes of migration explores stages and spaces (both of geography and meaning) within migration journeys. This includes migrants’ physical journeys, and the borders, barriers and spaces of transit and detention which they encounter in different global contexts. Other work focuses on outcomes of migration flows into transit or settlement societies; including policy responses to migration, civil society engagement with migration issues, and categories of (non)citizenship. 

Work within the (super)diversity theme examines encounter and interaction across various forms of difference (ethnic, national, religious) in a range of social contexts; with particular focus on urban environments, and institutions including schools, healthcare and scientific settings, universities and religious organisations. 

The identities and heritage theme comprises work concerned with the construction and evocation of ethnic and national ‘group identities’ (from either emic or etic perspectives), and the resonance of these identities to the everyday, lived practice of social actors across local, national and trans-national fields. Particular areas of interest within this cluster include critical work on ‘groupist’ understandings of ‘diaspora’ or the ‘ethnic community’, and work on the construction and reproduction of ‘national culture’ and ‘national heritage’ – especially as this pertains to young people in diverse societies.

Girls waiting to perform Bharatanatyam dance as part of a celebration event at a Tamil community association (copyright Jones, 2012)
CCISC Photo of Girls waiting to perform Bharatanatyam dance as part of a celebration event at a Tamil community association (copyright Jones, 2012)
On the road to Kozani, northern Greece, tracing refugees' journeys through the Balkans
On the road to Kozani, northern Greece, tracing refugees' journeys through the Balkans (copyright Beattie, Bird, Obradovic-Wochnik & Rozbicka, 2017)

Cultural heritage and identities of Europe’s future (CHIEF). European Commission (2018 - )
Aston University is the lead partner on this €4.6m project recently funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. Through an interdisciplinary and multi-methods approach, the project explores youth participation in the creation and reproduction of cultural knowledge in formal and informal forums, and aims to build an effective dialogue between different stakeholders in order to facilitate a future of Europe based on more inclusive notions of heritage and identity. The four-year project involves academic, heritage sector and civil society partners in nine countries within and outside the EU (Austria, Croatia, Georgia, India, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, UK). The Aston team comprises CCISC Migration, Ethnicity and Nation cluster members Dr Anton Popov (Project Leader), Dr Demelza Jones, Dr Ebru Soytemel and Dr Katherine Tonkiss, along with CCISC Co-Director Dr Gary Fooks.

Cultural consumption and cultural participation among Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish-Cypriot populations in London. British Academy/Leverhulme (2017 – )
Dr Ebru Soytemel has been awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme small grant (£9,959) to explore class-based processes of social/cultural distinction, belonging, and boundary-making amongst Turks, Kurds and Turkish-Cypriots, who are among the most disadvantaged groups in London with low educational attainment and employment rates. As such, these communities are subject to processes of social as well as economic stratification and conflicting dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, in which cultural practices, and concomitantly differentiated notions of taste and value, play a key role. Combining surveys with extended life history interviews, the research explores how cultural consumption and accumulation strategies are developed by different immigrant groups, how these strategies are structured by national or local repertoires, and how specific practices are differentially valued through social identity formation.

IR and aesthetics. Aston Centre for Europe (2017 – )
CCISC members Dr Amanda Beattie and Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik are working on this field research project, funded by CCISC’s sister centre the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE). The project (which also involves Aston Politics and International Relations academic Dr Patrycja Rozbicka and Dr Gemma Bird of the University of Liverpool) investigates stories of migration and the refugee crisis in Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece from an inter-disciplinary perspective, focusing on (1) political expression in marginalised communities through use of graffiti and music, (2) use of technology and social networks, (3) everyday geographies of the refugee crisis, and (4) migration and trauma, and children in IR. Follow the project on Facebook or on Twitter @IR_Aesthetics

Integrated empirical and translational research to diversify the scientific workforce. US National Institutes of Health (2016 - )
Dr Simon Williams is a co-investigator on this project funded by the US National Institutes of Health (P.I Professor Richard McGee, Northwestern University), which explores approaches to fostering diversity in the scientific workforce. 

The policy roles of migration rights organisations in the UK and Australia. British Academy/Leverhulme (2015 – )
Migration rights organisations – charities, civil society organisations and other non-governmental actors working for the rights of migrants – are key actors campaigning for fairer migration policy in national political debates. We don’t, however, know much about how these organisations engage in policy debates, and very little work has examined them in international comparative perspective. This research, conducted by Dr Katherine Tonkiss and funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme small grant (£6,300) aims to address this gap by exploring the ways in which domestic migration rights organisations engage in national level policy debates in the UK and Australia, and the opportunities and barriers they encounter in doing so. Additional comparative data has been collected in the USA and Brussels, and the first published output from the project appeared recently in Ethnic and Racial Studies.

A superdiverse diocese: ‘Minority’ congregations use of Anglican church spaces in Birmingham. Aston University and the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham (2015 – )
This project sits between CCISC’s Migration, Ethnicity and Nation and Religion and Belief clusters, and is led by Dr Demelza Jones in collaboration with External Associate Canon Dr Andrew Smith – Director of Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham. The project explores the use of Anglican church spaces in the Birmingham Diocese by migrant and minority ethnic-led congregations, and has included a ‘mapping’ survey of all Anglican clergy in Birmingham, with follow-up in-depth qualitative interviews with a sample of clergy who host minority congregations in their church spaces. Interviews have focused on the range of forms of encounter which exist between ‘mainstream’ Anglican clergy and congregations, and guest congregations, along with the challenges and opportunities these encounters present. Findings of the mapping survey are available in report form, while a summary of key issues from the project can be found on the CCISC blog.

On 9th March 2018 the CCISC research clusters on Religion and Belief and Migration, Ethnicity and Nation will jointly host a symposium on Contemporary Sikhism. The event is open to academics, students and practitioners, with confirmed speakers to date including Dr Jasjit Singh (University of Leeds) and Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal (University of Birmingham). Further details and booking information will be released shortly, but please contact the organisers Dr Sarah Jane Page (s.page1@aston.ac.uk) or Dr Demelza Jones (d.jones4@aston.ac.uk) with any initial queries.

Migration, Ethnicity and Nation theme members are part of a team awarded €4.6m from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme for the project Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Futures (CHIEF). Aston University is the lead partner on the project – with the Aston team comprising cluster members Dr Anton Popov (Project Leader), Dr Demelza Jones, Dr Ebru Soytemel and Dr Katherine Tonkiss, along with CCISC Co-Director Dr Gary Fooks. The project explores youth participation in the creation and reproduction of cultural knowledge in formal and informal forums, and aims to build an effective dialogue between different stakeholders in order to facilitate a future of Europe based on more inclusive notions of heritage and identity. CHIEF involves academic, heritage sector and civil society partners in nine countries within and outside the EU (Austria, Croatia, Georgia, India, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, UK), and will run for four years from 2018.

As part of dissemination activities for the Superdiverse Diocese project, Dr Demelza Jones and CCISC External Associate Canon Dr Andrew Smith (Diocese of Birmingham) have presented findings from their research into minority congregations’ use of Anglican church spaces to academic and practitioner audiences; including at the annual national conference of Diocesan Inter-Faith Advisers organised by the Church of England’s Presence and Engagement Team at Lambeth Palace in March 2017, the annual conference of the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion study group in July 2017, and as invited speakers as part of the University of Birmingham Department of Theology and Religion’s seminar series in December 2017.

In November 2017 Dr Katy Pilcher (Coordinator of the CCISC Gender, Sexualities and the Body cluster) and Dr Demelza Jones hosted a visit to Aston by Dr Sharron Fitzgerald – a specialist on gender and migration from Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich – as part of the university’s Distinguished Visitors scheme. During her visit, Dr Fitzgerald gave a lecture on her current research on trafficked women within spaces of German criminal law, and led (with Drs Pilcher and Jones) a workshop on researching with ‘hard to reach’ groups.

In November 2017 Dr Demelza Jones (drawing on her doctoral research) provided expert advice to programme makers of a forthcoming episode of the BBC World Service series The Documentary, about coming of age rituals within Tamil communities. This follows previous media engagement by Dr Jones, who featured in the 2016 BBC1 documentary A Tale of Five Temples – the Story of Hinduism in Britain and advised programme makers on Tamil migration to the UK for a proposed episode of the BBC1 genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?

In October 2017 Dr Katherine Tonkiss filmed a short video exploring the issue of statelessness in relation to the Rohingya crisis.

In October 2017 Dr Graeme Hayes hosted a film screening and panel discussion on the theme of borders, migration and detention. The event featured two short films – Violent Borders produced by STRIKE! Magazine and Working Illegally produced by Stand Off Films – followed by a discussion with film-makers and activists Helen Brewer and Natalie Fiennes, Cllr Doug James (City of Sanctuary) and CCISC Migration, Ethnicity and Nation cluster members Dr Demelza Jones and Dr Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik.

In May 2017 CCISC hosted visitors from Örebro University, Sweden for a joint event - Integrating refugees moving beyond the migration crisis: Are we building a new society? The event included public lectures from CCISC Migration, Ethnicity and Nation cluster member Dr Amanda Beattie on ‘families, children and mobility politics’, and from Dr Emma Arneback of Örebro University on ‘anti-racist education in a time of migration’, as well as contributions to a roundtable discussion from Helen Clare, City of Sanctuary Committee; Lea Fanara, Support Worker, Ashley Community & Housing; Shari Brown, Project Coordinator, Restore Project, Birmingham; David Hirst, Refugee and Migrant Support Practitioner, Birmingham Community Housing Network; and Haliima Ali, Ashley Community and Housing.

In March 2017 cluster members Dr Anton Popov and Dr Ebru Soytemel hosted a CCISC research workshop, Remembering/forgetting imperial pasts: Nationalism and the making of ethnicities around the Black Sea. The event featured papers from academic experts and practitioners from the UK, Italy, Romania, Russia and Turkey; a film screening from independent documentary maker Ani King-Underwood; and a round table discussion of memory work as politics and practice of identity in the Black Sea region and beyond.