What Happens with Refugees’ Stories and Memories When They Come to European Immigration Countries?

"What Happens with Refugees’ Stories and Memories When They Come to European Immigration Countries?", Vortrag von H.-U. Wagner auf der 7th European Communication Conference (ECC) der European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) am 1. November 2018 in Lugano.

In 2016, Philip Marfleet stated: “The experiences of refugees–their ‘voices’ and memories–have routinely been excluded from the historical record”. There are rare exceptions, but–broadly speaking–“refugees are absent from mainstream history”. The proposal for a conference on ‘centres and peripheries’ takes the statement as a starting point and asks: What kind of story-telling projects have been developed since the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe? What can we learn from initiatives that aim at refugees’ experiences in the past and their memories? Do such projects attract attention and is there an interest to such stories of the ‘strangers at our door’ as Zygmunt Bauman said? Do Europeans encourage refugees to tell their memories – people who come from the so-called ‘periphery’ to what can no longer be referred to as the centre?
An important strand of research so far has dealt with narratives that are offered by the media of the host countries. It struggles with the results on how the media negotiate the new situation in various European countries. Sometimes studies explore the needs of refugees in the domain of media communication and reveal the chances to participate especially within community media (e.g. COMMIT report ‘Spaces of Inclusion’, released on 28 February 2018). But there are only a few articles which tackle questions of story-telling and memory-building, self-representation and hegemonic discourses in mnemonic processes (e.g. Horsti 2016; Aberra 2016).
That’s why the empirical basis for the proposal at hand has been researched by an in-depth and systematic search for story-telling projects in Europe. The body of projects range from professional to non-professional initiatives, from examples launched by NGOs or media producers to refugee-organised and refugee-produced content, e.g. Storytelling UNHCR, Two Billion Miles (Channel Four TV Cooperation), Tell me your story (Goethe-Institute, Istanbul).
The paper offers a two-step-approach. Firstly, a methodological set will be put forward for discussion. It is developed from the concept of ‘communicative figurations’ and focuses on the actor constellation, the thematic relevance, and the communicative practices within the changing media environment in times of deep mediatization (Hepp 2017). Secondly, selected examples from the body will be presented according to this methodological approach. With this approach I aim to answer the research questions mentioned above and to analyse a core aspect of ongoing processes of community- and identity-building. Actually it will be an inventory, but it will also try to give some well-grounded recommendations to the actors in the field of commemorative culture.
My research explicitly focuses on memories, and therefore matches primarily the section of communication history. I want to make both a methodological and an empirical contribution to the research field ‘current cohesion and communication about the past’.


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