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The Here and Now in Forced Migration

Everyday Intimacies, Imaginaries and Bureaucracies

A workshop organised by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity


This workshop draws attention to the here and now in forced migration contexts. While a focus on the present can never be separated from the past and future of migrants’ memories, nostalgias, hopes and dreams, we recognise an analytical value that lies in this temporal idiom.

We are interested in exploring the different ways forced migrants perceive and experience the ‘here and now’ and how this manifest in, emerges from and shapes the everyday intimacies of family and kin relations, in the framework of bureaucratic encounters. Among the predicaments forced migrants face in their new social settings are the bureaucracies they must tackle to secure legal statuses and basic needs (often in a language and logic different from their own), the pressures of making and sustaining kin, as well as economic livelihoods. We will examine the ‘here and now’ in the lives of forced migrants as a place and time that greatly demands their attention, energy, emotion, and resources. As such, the demands of the present determine forced migrants’ (in)ability to stay or decision to return, impact their well-being and reconfigure the imaginaries related to the new setting and across transnational space.

Forced migration does not impact on individuals alone but affects their whole family (Bolzman 2014). Likewise, the strategies people employ to deal with the pressures of the ‘here and now’ are deeply intertwined with the ways they enact meaningful relationships. These relations may provide a source of motivation and “an inhabitable space of welcome” (Willen 2014), however, they may also evoke feelings of guilt, self-loathing and depression (Horton 2009, Madziva & Zontini 2012). Similarly, bureaucratic procedures and requirements often shape the lives of forced migrants to a suffocating extent. Documents, letters, and official papers are emotionally laden – they evoke fear and uncertainty when they are absent, useless, and leave one ‘undocumented’ (Hull 2012, Navaro-Yashin 2007).

By adopting the temporal lens of the ‘here and now’, the workshop aims to reveal the nuances of forced migrants’ lived experiences and subjectivities when dealing with family life and bureaucratic encounters. The imaginaries they bring with them in their journeys, related to past memories and those ascribed to the new place, play an important role in this process. We shall explore these different dynamics and their interconnections.


Keynote Speech

Ilana Feldman (Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, USA)

22.10.2020 | 14:30 – 16:00

Conceptual Reflections

Anne Sigfrid Grønseth (Professor of Social Anthropology, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer, Norway)

23.10.2020 | 17:00 – 18:00

Roundtable Discussion

21.10.2020 | 13:30 – 15:00

Discussant: Carolin Leutloff-Grandits
Speakers: Hilal Alkan • Veronica Buffon • Sarah Jurkiewicz • Veronica Ferreri • Sophie Richter-Devroe