Helping in an era of hostility: Call for papers

solidarity is not a crime

 

I am very excited that Tess Altman and I are organising a panel at the RAI-RGS Conference called “Helping in an era of hostility: Political agency & moral contestations in civil society movements for & by migrants”.

Refusing the medal bestowed by the Mayor of Paris in August 2019, Pia Klemp, a German captain of migrant search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean, stated “I’m not a humanitarian. I am not there to ‘aid’. We do not need authorities deciding who is a ‘hero’ and who is ‘illegal’. What we need are freedom and rights.” Concurrently, Klemp is being criminalised by the Italian government for ‘aiding illegal immigration’ and could face up to 20 years in prison. Her case brings into sharp focus political contestations in the heterogeneous civil society space supporting migrants in Europe that has proliferated since the 2015 long summer of migration (Vandevoordt and Verschraegen 2019). This panel invites an interdisciplinary conversation on the moral and political positionings of civil society actors supporting migrants in Europe and beyond. Though many civil society actors are critical of hostile border regimes, questions have been raised about their ambivalent position in relation to such regimes.

Papers may address (but are not limited to):

• Expressions of political agency by civil society actors
• Migrant perspectives on civil society actors
• Intersections of gender, class or religious differences in relationships between/among civil society actors and/or migrants
• Criminalisation or valorisation of humanitarian efforts
• Distinctions between forms of helping (e.g. humanitarianism, aid, solidarity, welcome, hospitality)
• Collaborations and/or tensions between civil society actors
• Relations between civil society actors and different levels/scales of government (e.g. local, urban, state, national, inter/supranational)

All the information about submitting a paper can be found here: https://nomadit.co.uk/conference/rai2020/p/8343. The call for papers closes on *8 January 2020*.

Aston Webb Award

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I was completely shocked last night to find myself accepting the Aston Webb Award for Outstanding Early-Career Academic.

I have to thank all my wonderful colleagues at IRiS and the Department for Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology for their support, advice and guidance.

Founders ECR award

I think perhaps my greatest achievement was managing to get the very delicate award home without breaking it.

Here’s the video that was made as part of the ceremony.

New book published!

Home-Land [FC]

My new book Home-land: Romanian Roma, domestic spaces and the state has been published by University of Bristol Press.

The book explores how border regimes are crafted through care and compassion at the front-line of service provision in the UK. Focusing on how the nation-state is reproduced within the home, the book considers what it is like to have your legal status, your right to ‘belong’. judged from your everyday domestic life. The book considers the divide between state and family, home-land and home, and what it means for the new rules of citizenship.

Read the Policy Press blog here

Read a review by Professor John Clarke in the Journal of Social Policy here

New year, new cities, new welcoming places?

I’m about to embark on a lot of travelling to different cities that have designated themselves as ‘sanctuary cities’ and welcoming to migrants in 2019 as part of the Welcoming Cities project. I know that I am most definitely in one of the most privileged categories of migrants in these cities and therefore a lot of these policies and programmes aren’t targeted at me (at least explicitly) but it made me think of the city where I live (London) and where I feel welcome in public spaces (it would be difficult not to pick my own flat otherwise).

Regent's_Park,_Londres_-_panoramioMy mind was immediately drawn to parks (perhaps because of the academic work done on parks such as Clare Rishbeth and Sarah Neal; the way conversations can flow while walking around parks; or perhaps because of childhood memories of feeding the ducks with my big sister). Regent’s Park is my favourite park in London because you can see the camels in London Zoo at one end and modern sculpture exhibitions at the other (and there’s a good duck pond).

british libraryTo my embarrassment I realised I always feel comfortable in Pret a Manger (not very proud of that but sometimes I just want souper tomato soup, coffee and reliable WiFi) and the British Library which I now consider to be a second home for better or worse.

 

The other key place in London that I was drawn to was the Young Vic theatre. Not only does it purposely place different symbols of welcome on its balcony it seems to have some of the best outreach of any theatre. flags young vicPerhaps the most telling example of the Young Vic’s welcoming nature is an incident that occurred about 4 months ago in my local gym. I was wearing a Young Vic t-shirt that had been given to me by my partner (who was given it as a gift but it was too small). A man in the gym asked whether I worked at the theatre and proceeded to tell me how he used to be homeless but had got involved in an outreach programme at the Young Vic and it had turned his life around. This was a heart-felt account of a man whose life had completely changed as a result of the support and networks that the project had provided. I have never been so deeply moved in the gym. He clearly felt so comfortable with everyone in the theatre that he came up to me to ask me about it in a completely different environment.

This is not an advert for the Young Vic (although I now realise it might seem like one). I am really interested in what places in cities people feel are welcoming and why. In particular, if you have suggestions for San Francisco, Sheffield or Toronto I would really love to hear them. Or, even better, if you are in those cities in the next year – please get in touch. And if anyone would like to join me for a trip the theatre when I’m back in London also let me know. Hope you all have a very happy 2019 and find many new places where you feel welcome as well as enjoying all the old ones.

Rebuilding cities through narratives

41786112471_49ded251f0_bHow do cities remake themselves through narration? This was the key question that shaped the international conference in Science Po Lyon on 27th and 28th November 2018 where I was invited to talk about the Welcoming Cities project. We know that cities do far more than just translate national or federal policies and are actively engaged in creating urban identities. But how do we trace these narratives when they are often discursive and unfathomable.

Some of dimensions of narratives include the importance of economic development; the ability of cities to be collective actors and make claims; the role of cities in global governance; framing cities as vectors of urban, national and international networks; and presenting cities as being welcoming and hospitable to migrants and minorities (including LGBTQI+ rights).

These dimensions were approached in four different themes. The first explored focusing on actors to open the ‘black box’ of city making. Questions arose such as which contexts to urban narratives emerge? What are their salient features and aims? Is there a diversity of narratives behind strong common themes? The session highlighted the role of key actors in the remaking of a city narratives including museums (Lyon), the university (Newcastle) and key industries in the city even if it may be controversial (erotica in Detroit). In particular the role of a city narrator, such as Aaron Foley in Detroit has made a crucial difference to the remaking of the city.

The second session focused on scales of cooperation and governance within the city. Cynthia Ghorra-Gobin (University of Sorbonne Nouvelle) provided a portrait of the city level narratives in Lyon and Minneapolis-St Paul focusing on the differences for city-level narratives when operating within federal and centralised administrations. Crucially she asked should we be talking about the rescaling of the state (Brenner) or are these processes just a new form of localism (Katz and Nowak)?

 

The issue of localism and regionalism was evoked by Danny MacKinnon (University of Newcastle) who charted the policy narratives across different Labour and Conservative Governments. He showed the particular effect this had on empowering the north through devolution. He focused on the role of The Northern Powerhouse as a spatial economic narrative. The role of business leaders ran throughout this session more broadly. In particular, Christophe Parnet explored how the debate about metropolitan governance in Marsailles led to the integration of a business elite (from all political parties) within the metropolitan authorities. It emerged that scales vary according to different national contexts and this provides different opportunities and constraints for differentially positioned actors. While some discourses foreground the importance of cooperation and the ability of cities to act as collective actors, this may also ignore and minimize the exclusion of different stakeholders. Institutions therefore play an important role in drawing borders.

The third session focused on Welcoming Cities. It has been well noted that for much of the twentieth century improvement in the situation of disadvantaged communities was a focus for urban public policies. The ideological triumph of neoliberalism has caused the allocation of spatial, political, economic and financial resources to favour economic growth at the expense of wider social benefits. Cities have self-declared (or been labelled) ‘sanctuary cities’ ‘welcoming cities’ ‘immigrant friendly cities’ ‘just cities’. These declarations open space for local decision makers to focus on equity and material well-being with considerations of diversity and participation to foster a better quality of urban life within the context of a global capitalist political economy. Younes Ahouga (University of Geneva) focused on the growing role of cities in migration management (Ghosh 1997). He explored the rising role of cities since the IOM conference on Migration and Cities. He argued this conference was a turning point as it represented the first global event directed at local actors and incorporated the local scale through neoliberal space-times.

Stacy Harewood (University of Utah) presented the case of ‘Welcoming Dayton’ to highlight the complexities and contradictions of welcoming. She argued that ‘welcoming’ in the USA is aspatial. She charted the spatial segregation in the city which is split between a largely white and affluent east side and a largely African American west side. The growth narrative in the city is focused on the east side, which includes the activities of ‘Welcoming Dayton’, and a wilful neglect of the west side. The welcoming narrative is tightly scripted and offers no room for those who are not benefiting from the investment in the city to raise their concerns. Stacy ended with a question that resonated throughout the conference ‘how do we create a human urbanism that doesn’t get lost in economic narratives?’

Finally the fourth session brought together non-academics and practitioners to tackle the questions: ‘what is a metropolis’ and ‘what is the core identity of a city’. Alternative narratives were analysed and conflicts emerged about how to define the borders of metropolises and their identities. The gaps between official narratives and residents were brought to the fore in this session. In particular Frederic Barbe presented the work in Nantes to create an indigenous tourist guide (le Guide indigene de détourisme de Nantes) which aimed to utilise and promote self-publishing and the high levels of literacy in the city. Jérôme Cochet performed part of his theatre groups ‘protocol’ for describing the city of St Etienne entitled #Villes. The aim of the project is to provide residents with an opportunity to define and be part of representing their city through engaging with theatre makers and artists over a one month intensive period. The protocol includes art workshops, interviews, walks around the city, a public choir, and a public performance.dav

The conference closed with more questions around the organisation of city narratives and perhaps most importantly, can we (and what is the value of) measuring the impacts of dominant urban narratives. These questions and conversations will undoubtedly carry on in the future. If you want to get involved in the conversation please contact me @Rachel_humphris or Rachel.humphris@bham.ac.uk

 

Is anthropology legal?*

europe-3220208_960_720

Have you been inundated with emails asking you to resubscribe to contact lists lately? That’s the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

I spent an afternoon with fellow anthropologists at SOAS University of London on 9th May to discuss what it might mean for us as a discipline, and for our research practice. Is anthropology in danger of being legislated out of existence?

Anthropologists (and other ethnographically inclined researchers) have long been finding their way through forests of conflicting demands in terms of policies and guidelines at different institutional levels that often contradict each other. Institutions, researchers and informants form a triangle of demands and interests that need to be balanced. The codes used to guide us are designed for data protection, marketing and social media – not anthropology. The GDPR will force us to rethink how we go about our research.

What is the GDPR?
The new EU-wide data protection regulation will replace the current UK Data Protection Act (1998) when it comes into force in the UK on the 25th May 2018.

The stated aims of the GDPR are:

  • To enable data subjects to have greater control over their personal data whilst also modernising and unifying European data protection rules.
  • To strengthen and enhance previous rights that data subjects hold under the Data Protection Act.
  • Data controllers (often the University) and processors will be required to provide clarity and transparency to data subjects about how and why their personal data is being processed.
  • The GDPR permits EU member states to make specific domestic provisions for particular aspects of the GDPR. The UK Government is seeking to achieve this through the Data Protection Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament. The GDPR applies to all data or all researchers from and within the EU (there is no information as to how Brexit will affect this).

The specifics of the GDPR have not yet been formalised and the UK Data Archive has not yet released guidance, although it is apparently working on it. However, the UK Data Service does provide useful principles relating to the processing of personal data and how this will shape our research practice. These include:

  • Processing is lawful, fair and transparent
  • The participant is informed of what will be done with the data and data processing should be done accordingly
  • Keep to the original purpose
  • Data should be collected for specified, explicitly and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes
  • Minimise data size
  • Don’t collect information you don’t need

At the moment, some of the main aspects of the GDPR that we need to consider are:

  • Who will receive or have access to the personal data (including information on any safeguards if the personal data is to be transferred outside the EU)?
  • The period of retention for holding the data and the criteria used to determine this
  • The right of the participant to request access to their personal data and the correction (rectification) or removal (erasure) of such personal data
  • A reminder that the participants have the right to lodge a complaint with the Supervisory Authority
  • From the discussion at SOAS, it emerged that the use of consent forms is going to be key in our compliance with the GDPR. We will need to have ‘granular’ consent, which will, for example, detail exactly what people are giving consent for such as videos, photos and interviews. If the purpose of our research changes we also need to renegotiate consent with our informants. Consent needs to be broken down into 3 stages:
  1. Taking part
  2. Use of information
  3. Future use and reuse of the information by others (this is particularly important for the data sharing and archiving regulations if funded by a research council)

As well as ethical committees, research management and governance, legal frameworks, and organisational guidelines, what remains central to me is our own moral reflexive research practice. This does not seem to be given much weight in the current discussions and it is here that I think three main contradictions and conflicts emerge between anthropological practice and the GDPR.

Sharing is hard
First, these new guidelines may turn fieldwork into something that we weren’t trained to do – share. We are used to thinking that field notes are our own. We may have to get used to writing field notes (or some kind of record of our fieldwork) that can be archived for others to read and use.

The difficulties in doing this are manifold. Writing field notes for someone else might change the whole notion of field notes. Field notes take many different forms and may not often reflect the experiential process the field work that has taken place. Field notes often have a dialectical relationship with our memory – can anyone else use them? The process of sharing field notes has the danger of shifting what is fundamentally considered to be anthropological ‘data’.

While it is not entirely clear (yet) whether field notes will have to be shared (this also depends on your data management plan), some form of record of fieldwork will need to be archived for research funded by research councils. Therefore, we need to rethink who we are writing for and what we are writing down. This provokes further reflection on how to orient ourselves as researchers and what we are doing in anthropological research. This would seem to be an ongoing relationship that occurs at many different levels and will affect how we train the next generation of ethnographic researchers.

Do no harm
ASA guidelines state that we must always be anticipating harms to our research participants and we must constantly negotiate consent. For qualitative researchers involved in fieldwork, consent is not a one-off event and therefore the requirement to renegotiate consent if the scope of the project changes should not be novel. However, previously these harms have been all about proportion. For example, we could ask how much harm is there in someone knowing this information. Under the GDPR this is no longer the case.

Intellectual property rights are also a key concern for anthropologists. If all data needs to be anonymised we may no longer be able to identify and therefore acknowledge the intellectual property of our research participants. Therefore, we are not upholding our ethical requirements to minimise harm. This is a key legal and ethical duty that has not been resolved.

Anonymisation – for whose benefit?
Anonymisation is perhaps the thorniest issue in reconciling the GDPR and the principles that underpin anthropological research. If we anonymize field notes our participants and the descendants of the participants may not be able to identify themselves or their kin. The GDPR also does not address what happens when participants refuse to be anonymised such as activists, collaborators or artists.

There has been a long-standing debate on why or whether anthropologists should anonymise data. A strong argument has been made that it is as much to do with protecting researchers as it is protecting research participants. Anonymisation could be described as an engine of detachment, a cutting of the network that maintains an ethnographic fiction. As Nancy Shepherd-Hughes puts it, ‘anonymisation makes rogues of us all’. In order to assuage some of these fears, we need to fully understand why people are engaging in our research. This may help us to disentangle some of the conflicts between ethics and the legality of conducting field work, but it certainly doesn’t solve them.

There are those who argue that GDPR is an opportunity to give informants and the subjects of our research their power back and therefore we should embrace it. There are others who argue that GDPR will take away rights from informants (to be named and recognised for example). Whatever side of the debate, what is clear is that there is no longer the time to debate the pros and cons. The GDPR is upon us and we must find a new way to negotiate these regulations.

Useful documents:

European Research Council – Ethics for Ethnography: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/hi/ethics-guide-ethnog-anthrop_en.pdf
Association of Social Anthropologist – Ethics guidelines: https://www.theasa.org/downloads/ASA%20ethics%20guidelines%202011.pdf

*This title was the title of the SOAS workshop and also the title of Ed Simpson’s provocative article: Simpson, E. (2016). Is anthropology legal?, Focaal, 2016(74). Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/focaal/2016/74/focaal740109.xm

On not helping refugees

 

Refugees Fence Shield Welcome Note Announcement

Refugee Week offers us the opportunity to reflect on the ways that we can better support refugees. For me, there are three critical points to consider when looking at how we can welcome and help those often badged as ‘others’:

Why are we so needy?

Professor Veena Das posed the question ‘why are we so needy?’ when discussing the critical concept of conviviality at a seminar at Birkbeck on 4th June. This question begins to open up sharp questions about liberal conceptions of welcome (Muelebach 2012). By thinking about how we welcome refugees, we are also involved in producing expectations (and also parameters for their belonging – however they are defined).

Rather than think about the ways that we think we can help refugees and what we expect from them, it is perhaps worth bearing in mind why and how we have come to think about ‘welcome’ in the first instance. It also draws attention to what Lisa Maalki (2015) has eloquently described as ‘the need to help’. She eloquently describes how Norwegian citizens and international workers engage and draw meaning from ‘the domestic arts of international humanitarianism’. She points to a similar critical question: what do we gain from ‘helping’ refugees? And what are the structural societal conditions through which we provide this help?

‘Who are we to come to you, who are you to come to us’

This quote from Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s deeply affecting poem entitled ‘Writing the Camp’ written as part of the Refugee Hosts project highlights another essential point about welcome. It assumes a static state that strangers are being welcomed into. Although the UK may not have the extreme constellations of different types of mobility, as those documented in such fine-grained ethnographic detail, as Baddawi refugee camp, it again draws attention for us to interrogate our own assumptions before we begin to think about how we can help ‘others’. It also unsettles an idea that we enter into linear and one-way relationships – that we will help them.

No hospitality without hostility

Derrida explored:

“I want to be master at home, to be able to receive whomever I like there. Anyone who encroaches on my ‘at home’, on my power of hospitality, on my sovereign as host, I start to regard as an undesirable foreigner, and virtually as an enemy. This ‘other’ becomes a hostile subject, and I risk becoming his hostage.” (2000 [1997]: 53-54).

Hospitality and welcome do not take place without hostility – they are always relative and draw their meaning from comparison with the other. In the UK we are living in an explicitly hostile environment which doesn’t just affect refugees or migrants but, as Bridget Anderson (2014) has noted, all those on a scale between ‘non-citizen’ and ‘failed citizen’. The system of auditing and the salience of ‘proof’ that are evident in the UK migration and social security systems are designed to punish and deter all those who do not belong whether they are welfare claimants, homeless people, migrants etc. Rather than focusing on welcoming refugees, I suggest we think of ways that we can build solidarities with as many different people as possible to work on issues of social equality. As the Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s said:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”