|Veranstalter:||Malmö University in cooperation with the Vienna-based LBI for European History and Public Spheres|
|Datum, Ort:||13.11.2008-14.11.2008, Malmö, Sweden|
On 13-14 November 2008 Malmö University organised a two-day conference in cooperation with the Vienna-based LBI for European History and Public Spheres. The event centred on questions of the representation of migration history – or rather histories – and migrants in exhibitions or museums and in textbooks. A central aim of the conference was to position the collaborative research efforts undertaken in Malmö and Vienna in a broader European framework. Questions to be dealt with included the following: In which ways are the history of migration as well as the migrants themselves, and their histories collectively remembered and represented in textbooks and museums/migration exhibitions of European immigration countries? In which ways are the migrants written into national memories? Are they constructed as part of the national or European self or as the outsider/the others? Do these various representations change over time?
In his opening speech, RAINER OHLIGER (Network Migration in Europe e.V.) positioned these questions within the broader context of European migration research. Ohliger contrasted the situation in European countries to the one in the United States, thereby highlighting social factors, constraints of the education system, differing ways of perceiving and constructing “the nation” and – for the affected countries – the history of communist rule as key factors for the late development of a historiographical interest in topics of (im)migration in Europe. He presented five ideal type approaches to the representation of migrant (and ethnic) minorities in the context of national histories. A number of participants in their respective presentations later took up this theoretical and analytical framework.
Joachim BAUR (Tübingen University) introduced the first session “Museums, Exhibitions and the Heritage Sector” with an overview of the “The staging of history of migration in European museums”. He also drew on his research in the US and Australia but sketched a less contrasting picture. Baur outlined reasons for the current upsurge in migration-related activities in museums taking into account developments in the museum world itself, as represented by the “New Museology”, and the museum-boom of the last decades as well as the larger context of “globalization”-phenomena, like changing identities and the growing self-confidence of immigrant communities. Baur – following an approach by Katherine Goodnow – distinguished five forms of migration exhibitions, that present different narratives. His presentation focused on diversity rather than migration in the narrow sense of the term, thereby opening up on another key concept explored in various papers.
MARY STEVENS (University College London) aimed to explore the different approaches taken by France and the United Kingdom with regard to the representation of migration. While the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration (CNHI) in France presents itself as a national endeavour dedicated to the history of immigration, Britain shows a more dispersed landscape, both geographically and thematically. In the British case cultural diversity and the present day situation are rather more emphasised than history. Drawing on the analytical model presented by Rainer Ohliger earlier, Stevens explained these differences by contrasting the underlying representational strategies, which are intertwined with the prevailing national regulations of cultural differences. In the case of France the “assimilationist model” – though weakening – may account for the focus on migration history as seen from a national viewpoint rather than present-day diversity, while the British strategy could be positioned between a “multicultural” and an “ethnifying” model. Even though Stevens highlighted differences, she also acknowledged an increasing convergence of public policies in the two countries, which might lead to converging modes of representation.
CHRISTIANE HINTERMANN’s (LBI for European History and Public Spheres) paper focused on the empirical analysis of three exhibitions in Austria, which dealt with migration in the context of a “reluctant immigration country”. Those exhibitions questioned national narratives, which therefore formed an important research context. Most of the paper was devoted to the characteristics of the three cases. Hintermann analysed differences in the process of organising the exhibitions and put an emphasis on the (non-)involvement of immigrant organisations and experts with a personal immigration background. Empirical findings showed that this (non-)involvement was one of the most important factors with respect to aims, claims and representational strategies chosen. Hintermann’s research is part of a joint project of LBI and Malmö University and therefore closely linked to CHRISTINA JOHANSSON’s (Malmö University) paper. Johansson presented ongoing research, therefore focussing mainly on her analytical aims and characteristics of the material, which still has to be analysed more thoroughly. The preliminary analysis presented at the conference showed that the representational images in migration exhibitions in Sweden oscillated between a depiction as “victims”, who had to leave their homes, and “heroes”, who came to Sweden’s help when needed. Reversely, exploitation of migrants in Sweden is sometimes acknowledged in a historical perspective, while at the same time a positive Swedish self-perception prevails. As both papers are still work in progress, a more elaborate comparative view can expected for the future.
The discussants PETER ARONSSON (Linköping University) and UDO GÖSSWALD (Museum Neukölln/ICOM Europe) elaborated on museums and exhibitions in more general terms, thereby broadening the focus. Aronsson reminded participants of the possibility for diverse readings of any exhibition and called for a cautious approach to comparisons. In a critical turn Aronsson proposed a view on museums as (among other potential aims) sites for pacifying economic or political conflicts by means of “culturalisation”. Gößwald started his comment with an equally provocative thought. He related the rising interest in migration within the museum scene to the observation that migrants were “dying out as a species” and migration was less important as a societal force now than it had been 30 or 40 years ago. He proposed a rather critical view of the “shutting out” of migration histories in specialized institutions as well as of an integration of migrants into national histories, which might tend to neglect conflict.
The following discussion showed the broad range of approaches represented within the conference. The topics discussed ranged from a call to focus on analytical instead of normative topics to the question whether it was possible at all to represent migrants in a way that would not in turn reify their “abnormal” status with respect to mainstream-society.
The second session dealt wit “Migration History and Migrants in School Textbooks”. YASEMIN SOYSAL presented a paper by SIMONA SZAKACS and herself (University of Essex) on “Teaching Diversity in National and Transnational Contexts”. The findings, which were part of a broader research project comparing several European and Asian countries, stem from a comparative analysis of recent French and British curricula and corresponding textbooks. Even though the production of curricula and textbooks differs widely between the two countries, the analysis showed common trends – most notably an increasing cosmopolitanisation and positive reference to encounters with “Others”. Soysal compared this appreciation of “diversity”, which is linked to Europe’s long-term integration agenda, with the US-version, which is intertwined with social movements, thereby arriving at a critical conclusion. In contrast to the situation in the United States, “diversity” in European textbooks is not linked to questions of social or economical equality and democratic inclusion.
BENOIT FALAIZE (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique) analysed how migration history itself is represented in French history teaching. In his research, he took textbooks as well as classroom practices into account. One of his conclusions presented at the conference was that an important time-perspective might be identified: the further away the period treated in classrooms, the more likely migration would be presented as anonymous labour migration, while more recent periods were represented by individual “success-stories”. Falaize concluded that the present tends to override history and choose its past, thereby leading to a strong focus on “integration”, which tends to accentuate past achievements and blacken contemporary conflicts. While students with a migratory background are “reminded” of a phantasmatic “origin” by stories about “them”, the “question of autochthony”, as Falaize put it, remains unchallenged.
FRANK-OLAF RADTKE’s (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main) paper dealt with intercultural education in Germany as presented in textbooks and practiced in classrooms from a viewpoint of educational sciences. Radtke scrutinized the background of intercultural pedagogy and highlightened the problematic relationship of morale communication on the one hand and educational communication about morale issues on the other hand. Radtke exemplified his approach with a textbook-story about crimes committed by foreigners. Despite their obvious goal to counter prejudices the textbook authors entangled themselves in a paradox of culturalisation, thereby reifying the categories, which underpin prejudices and the relationship of subject (mainstream society) and object (classmates with migrant backgrounds).
The last two papers presented within this session were another outcome of the research cooperation between LBI and Malmö University. VANJA LOZIC (Malmö University) and CHRISTIANE HINTERMANN analyzed Swedish textbooks on history and civic education and Austrian textbooks on history and geography respectively in a diachronic perspective going back to the 1960ies. Their research showed that history textbooks in both countries present migration history as a supplementary rather than an integral part of the national past. Hintermann put an emphasis on the differences between disciplinary views, which is also visible in school textbooks. In her paper “’Beneficial’, ‘problematic’ and ‘different’” she convincingly argued that history textbooks mostly focus on politically motivated migration – and therefore on its exceptional character – while geography textbooks use a more encompassing definition, thus presenting the “normality” of mobility. Nevertheless, both tend to depict migration in terms of a problem discourse, which to a large extent mirrors public mainstream discourse, but this view is also contested within some textbooks, where mutual economic or demographic benefits are stated. Drawing on Michael Billig’s “daily flagging of the nation”, Hintermann related the way “foreigners” and “Austrians” are presented as distinct, homogenous groups and the marginalisation of migration history to the constitutive narratives of post-World War II Austria.
Lozic’s paper analysed on the one hand side narratives about the “influx of labour”, on the other hand side narratives about refugee migration in Swedish history and civic textbooks. He showed how these groups are constructed to occupy differing societal positions because they are positioned in different relations to the labour market. Drawing on Michael Billig’s approach too, Lozic mapped the construction of the Swedish nation as the primary category of reference for the depiction of migration history and migrants. Nevertheless, he also acknowledged a more recent trend, which starts to blur essentialist, ethnic boundaries by proposing a view of Sweden as a multicultural society.
Discussants ANAMARIA DUCEAC (Malmö University) and HALVDAN EIKELAND (Vestfold University College) commented on the papers in a very different, yet complementary fashion. Duceac reminded participants that the research on history textbooks had to consider their normative function in research as well, especially when looking upon textbooks as a governmental elite discourse – possibly even rather as an elite projection than a reflection of society. She explored the limits of identity-deconstruction, questioning the possibility of an all-encompassing identity, and presented some thoughts on the difference between the notions of “diversity” and “difference”.
Eikeland focussed on individual papers raising questions with regard to methodology and – inspired by his own normative viewpoint – with regard to potential positive developments in the field of intercultural pedagogy.
The following discussion accentuated differences between disciplines and different approaches further, thereby stretching (as Yasemin Soysal put it) “the limits of interdisciplinary”. Very profound questions about the status of textbooks and the merits and limits of textbook research were raised, which centred on conflicting views of textbooks. While some participants conceptualised textbooks as representatives of public discourse – thereby justifying a content-centred analysis – others stressed their role as tools fostering the socialisation of pupils, which necessitated a broader scope of analysis, taking into account classroom practices as well as pedagogical considerations.
The third session was opened by PAULINE STOLTZ (Malmö University), who in her paper “’We Have All Silent parents’” presented on-going research. Stoltz picked the novel “My Father’s War” as an example of the negotiation of identities and the problematisation of categories in relation to the history of colonial societies. She addressed the topic of “forgetting” – so far little discussed within the conference – and the ambivalence of the concept of “cosmopolitanism”, which can be abused for an assimilatory agenda by hegemonic groups as well as used for demands for solidarity within diverse societies and as a means to address past injustice.
SELMA MUHIC’s (Charles University Prague) dealt with the neglect of migration issues in general and specifically migration history in the Czech Republic. Muhic approached the topic from two angles, elaborating on the relatively recent totalitarian past of the country as well as its current EU-membership. With regard to international comparisons, she advocated a perspective on the structural similarities of the situation of migrant minorities in Western Europe to those of national minorities, most prominently the Roma population, in the countries formerly enclosed by the Iron Curtain.
Moving from the national to the local level INGE ERIKSSON (Malmö University) presented his research on remembrance activities in the Swedish industrial municipality Bromölla. Employing concepts of (technical) “reach” and (social and individual) “range” Eriksson accounted for the omittance of conflictive issues in local remembrance activities and pointed to profound questions about the relationship of representation and narratives as opposed to memories. The “forgetting” of many, primarily conflictive, aspects of migration might be explained by the social use of local memorial activities to overcome feelings of insecurity and instability associated with globalisation.
Comments by the discussants MAX LILJEFORS (University of Lund) and LAURE TEULIÈRES (Toulouse University) were mainly directed towards a clarification of some of the issues raised in the papers. Once more, they took up the problem of changing (legal) classifications, which might influence the memory of migration. With reference to the Italian example, Teulières advocated a critical view upon the claim that an acknowledgment of migration history could directly influence the ideology-driven treatment of migrants or minorities today.
In his concluding remarks, LARS HANSSON (Växjö University) reflected on a number of topics discussed or at least taken up in the course of the conference. Hansson put the problem of the representation of migration into a broader context of global developments intertwining global and national as well as European and local perspectives. He highlighted the tension between a critical stance towards representation aiming to avoid essentialism and ethnification on the one hand, and the necessity to acknowledge difference on a collective level on the other hand side, once more. Hansson pointed to intersectionality and the possibility of focussing on other identities – related e.g. rather to profession than ‘origin’ – as a possible means of avoiding the pitfalls of representing migrants as “the other”.
Owing to its interdisciplinary set-up and broad range of theoretical and methodological approaches the conference presented itself as a prime example for the necessity of ongoing interdisciplinary discussion. The differences between participant’s approaches, which became clearly visible, might at first seem surprising with regard to the rather narrowly defined question of representation and the focus on exhibitions/museums and textbooks in most of the papers. However, one may conclude that the “common ground” in relation to the phenomena analysed rather helped to accentuate different perspectives. The strong topical focus might therefore well have been a prerequisite for the intense exchange of opinions and stances.
An edited volume by Christiane Hintermann and Christina Johansson encompassing most of the conference papers is scheduled to appear in summer 2009.
Rainer Ohliger: Outside the Nation or Outside Reality? Immigration History, Textbooks and History Museums
Session 1: Representing Migration – Museums, Exhibitions and the Heritage Sector
Joachim Baur: The staging of the history of migration in European museums
Mary Stevens: The Representation of Migration in the Heritage Sector: Comparing France and the UK
Christiane Hintermann: "[…] that migration simply and really is the absolute normality" – The establishment of counter narratives in Austrian migration exhibitions
Christina Johansson: Portraying Post-War migration at Swedish museums – Heroes, Victims, and Divided Loyalties
Peter Aronson and Udo Gößwald
Session 2: Representing Migration – Migration History and Migrants in School Textbooks
Yasemin Soysal & Simona Szakacs: Teaching diversity in national and transnational contexts
Benoit Falaize: Migration in French history teaching : prescription, textbooks, and classroom practises
Frank-Olaf Radtke: The representation of 'Others': paradoxes and their closure in text books
Christiane Hintermann: 'Beneficial', 'problematic' and 'different': Representations of Immigration and Immigrants in Austrian Textbooks
Vanja Lozic (Malmö University, Sweden): The story about them – Objectifying discourses in the narratives about Swedish immigration
Halvdan Eikeland and Anamaria Dutceac
Session 3. Representing Migration – Culture, National Politics and Local Remembrance
Pauline Stoltz: "We have all silent parents" - Colonialism and Cosmopolitanism in 'My Father's War'.
Selma Muhic Dizdarevic: Memory and Migration in the Czech Republic
Inge Eriksson: Migration as part of local remembrance activities in a Swedish industrial municipality – the case of Bromölla
Max Liljefors and Laure Teulières
Reflection and summing up: Lars Hansson
Copyright (c) 2009 by H-Net and Clio-online, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational use if proper credit is given to the author and to the list. For other permission, please contact H-SOZ-U-KULT