Interview with our new member MIDEX UCLAN

01 July 2021

Dear MIDEX UCLAN, Research Centre for Migration, Diaspora and Exile at University of Central Lancashire

You have recently joined the IMISCOE Network and it’s only right that we welcome you with a nice and easy chat. As we wait to enjoy live conferences again, in the meantime we will have the pleasure to know more about your institute, what you do and what led you here with us. This will be a great chance for our community to learn about MIDEX UCLAN!

First of, welcome to IMISCOE! Whereas your name gives most of it away, what does your institute focuses on and in which shape?

The Lancashire Centre on Migration, Diaspora and Exile (MIDEX) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) develops in-depth, state of the art, impactful and interdisciplinary analysis of transnational cultural, political, social, socio-legal and historical topics concerning the three main themes of migration, diaspora and exile. Established in the summer 2019, MIDEX is the outcome of a coordinated effort of group of researchers at UCLan who share similar research interests and concerns in relation to how to address, analyse and interpret contemporary and past migration phenomena across the world, with particular reference to Britain, Europe and Asia.

What led you and your team into applying to be part of IMISCOE?

In summer 2020, five members of MIDEX participated to IMISCOE online annual meeting and all shared positive feedback with regard to the event. Amongst others, they praised the multiplicity of methodological approaches discussed in the various panels, the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, as well as the wide range of themes and geographical regions that were covered. In light of their positive experience, we decided that it would be important to allow all other members within MIDEX to enjoy the benefits of the IMISCOE community. This will allow MIDEX members to be part of a broader and dynamic network, increase the visibility of their work, strengthen future collaborations, attract external grants, receive financial support for open access publications, participate in other IMISCOE events. Considering the attention we have been putting on nurturing our PhD students' research experience, we also thought that our PhD students would also benefit from IMISCOE network. 

When was your first time hearing of IMISCOE?

I personally had followed IMISCOE activities for a few years, but I have never had a chance to attend the annual meeting. As we created MIDEX, I started to reflect on the potential of IMISCOE network for the whole centre. So, I attended the conference last year and started to investigate the potential of becoming institutional member.

If you’ve been to one of our previous conferences, what’s one of your fondest memory of these experiences?

Last year we just entered the lock down and many conferences and events were cancelled. We had to cancel the conference of another association I work for as we didn’t have the resources to move online so quickly. IMISCOE conference was the first event of this kind that I attended online. I remember passing two days in my living room, attending panels, cultural events, testing the coffee breaks. I was amazed by the fact that it works, and I started to think how we could apply this model to other events we organize through the other association. This was my fondest memory. Although I still believe on the greater potential of face-to-face activities, the fact that online conferencing can be a holistic experience, and not just a matter of listening to papers, was a very important realization for me.

This last year has been a tumultuous year for the world. In what ways have the past 12 months changed, modified your work and perhaps made you reflect on its content?

This question is very much related to my previous answer. Now I pass most of my time in front of my computer, I am definitely more productive, but less creative. As almost the whole world moved online, many opportunities opened up. For instance, as those barriers related to geographical movements (such as crossing of borders, need to rely on transportation, various bureaucratic processes, need of funding) disappeared for many of us, we could enjoy easier access to talks, events, networks. So I could meet people I would have never met, I could attend events I would have never been in the condition to attend. I appreciate this.

Yet, when the option is only online events, and there is not human/geographical/temporal dimension to attach to them, there is the risk that this turns into an accumulation of big quantity of information without the possibility to really process it and turn it into something else.

How has this impacted the content of my work? Definitely, I reflect much more on immobility in my research (although this is a feature that was already present in research with marginalized people). There is another detail for a scholar in Asia Pacific Studies: Taiwan is one of the few countries of the world that has not entered into a lock down as the government was very quick in reacting to the spread of the virus. So I was involved in various discussions to understand why this happened and what are the consequences of Taiwan’s different approach.

What does MIDEX UCLAN bring to the IMISCOE table and its landscape?

Considering that MIDEX is a university wide institution, I think that it will bring a network of experts from different disciplines and backgrounds. MIDEX also has experts in niche fields such as Black Atlantic Studies and Asia Studies which seems to be underrepresented within IMISCOE network. This means that we can contribute with our expertise and with our network in various parts of the world. Considering the number of members at MIDEX, we organise many events and activities throughout the whole year and we hope that these will reach the interest of the IMISCOE community.

Finally, what are some of MIDEX UCLAN’s latest migration-related projects you’d like to share with the community?

With more than 60 members across all faculties of the university, MIDEX operates through seven main research strands (Access, Integration and Inclusion; Asia Pacific Diaspora and Migration; Black Atlantic Diaspora; Culture, Social and Environmental Change; Identities; (Im)mobilities; Representations of Migration, Diaspora and Exile in Media, Literature and Art). As a collective we host a seminar series every two weeks. We have also been busy developing a proposal for the establishment of a Centre for Studies of Regional Displacement (recently submitted to the Leverhulme Trust for consideration).

Furthermore, each strand has its own activities and projects. Some insights can be found in the list below.
  • Access, Integration and Inclusion

    Understanding/Uncovering and overcoming stigma associated with knee pain in SE Asia (PI Jim Richards and Kim McGuire)
    Understanding the potential stigma associated with the disability caused by knee OA would help us identify ways of overcoming these barriers and would have the potential to provide earlier treatment and improve lives, work accessibility and reduce the financial burden of the disease. With the aim to promote the wellbeing for all at all ages, this pilot study will inform work on BAME communities in the UK.

    Understanding the role of race, culture, language and health education on engagement of women with breast health services (PI Lauren Haworth, Kim McGuire, Suely Ludgero-Newlove and Ambreen Chohan)
    This work is a pilot study working with North Lancashire and South Cumbria Trust Breast Screening Programme (BSP) to conduct an initial survey with all eligible women invited for breast screening.   The stigma of cancer has been shown to be greatest amongst non-white communities and is negatively associated with cancer screening behaviour.

  • Asia Pacific Diaspora and Migration

    Taiwan’s citizen diplomacy in Europe: Emergence, Sustainability, Impact and Networking Strategies (PI Adina Zemanek) 
    This project explores the presence, impact and potential of citizen activism based in Europe and working towards enhancing popular knowledge and spurring public debates related to Taiwan. It aims to create a platform of collaboration between civic actors across Europe and to raise the visibility of their initiatives. Many of these civic actors are Taiwanese migrants residing in Europe or Europeans who lived in Taiwan during their life, hence this project contributes to migrant civic activism debates.  

    The Big Steppe Project (PI Bob Walley)  
    A team of researchers, artists and documentarians are investigating the causes and effects of the rural to urban migration happening in Mongolia. By interviewing livestock herders and pastoralists who are threatened the most by the socio-political and climate change related transitions that are changing the national landscape forever.

    A perspective from the South: migration versus adaptation as a response to climate change in the Pacific (PI Ti-han Chang, Lyn Collie) 
    Our research studies Kiribati migrants who moved to New Zealand mainly due to detrimental climate impacts in their homes. The research project’s pilot stage will be conducting interviews with Kiribati climate migrant communities in New Zealand, understanding their loss of culture, language or identity, and possibly investigating also the aspects of social or racial discrimination of Pacific migrants in New Zealand.

    North Korean migration in the UK (PI Jihye Kim) 
    By taking into account these particular settlement patterns of North and South Korean immigrants in and around New Malden in London, this case study aims to examine the relations that North Korean immigrants have established with South Korean immigrants within the Korean community in New Malden, as well as with the British host people in the wider society.

    Korean immigrant entrepreneurship in the Argentine garment industry (PI Jihye Kim) 
    Within the theoretical frameworks of immigrant entrepreneurship, this research examines why and how Korean Argentines have been continuously concentrated in the clothing industry from the beginning of Korean immigration in the 1960s to the present.

    A study on the role of Korean religious communities in Brazil: past and present (PI Jihye Kim) 
    Based on ethnographic research to be conducted in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this research examines the functions unrelated to faith that ethnic Korean churches have performed and continue to perform in the settlement, establishment and maintenance of the Korean community, as well as in the cultural and identity retention in Korean migrants in Brazil. 
     
  • Black Atlantic Diaspora 

    Black Inter-American Mobilities and Autobiography in the Age of Revolutions (1760-1860) (PI Astrid Haas) 
    This project, funded through a EU Marie Curie Fellowship, explores different forms of Afro-diasporic mobility across the Americas between 1760 and 1860, including black people’s enforced and voluntary forms of migration and relocation. More information is available at https://bimaar.net 

    “A Very Hell of Horrors”: North and Black Atlantic Gothic Narratives of the Haitian Revolution (PI: Raphael Hoermann) 
    This project investigates the racial, ideological and aesthetic implications of the Gothicisation of the Haitian Revolution. It contends that the Gothic mode responds to the challenges to white supremacy and promises for black liberation emerging from the Haitian Revolution.

    Fanm Rebèl: Recovering the Histories of Haiti’s Women Revolutionaries (PI: Nicole Willson) 
    This three-year research project, supported by the Leverhulme Trust, explores the hidden histories of Haiti’s women revolutionaries. It is especially interested in the exile journey of Marie-Louise Christophe, first and last Queen of Haiti, who lived in Europe between 1821-1851. More information is available at www.fanmrebel.com 

  • Cultural, Social and Environmental Change 

    When food runs scarce: interrogating the lived experiences of fishing communities in Senegal (PI Fazila Bhimji) 
    This project aims to interrogate the lived experiences of local fishing communities in Senegal, including the quality of life, survival and access to food within the context of declining small-scale fishing. In doing so, this sociological and legal research will contribute to broader questions about how we can understand and gain insights into some of inequities which prompt people to migrate from economically deprived regions to Europe.

  • Identities 

    Objects in trans(ition): from the ordinary to the extraordinary (PI Marie Clare Balaam, Maria Ikoniadou, Adina Simona Zemanek, and Alicia Moreno) 
    This project aims to build an interdisciplinary network to explore material culture and themes related to global mobility, identity and marginalisation, and are currently working on a collection of illustrated essays/articles on material culture. 

    Identities on the move: exile, migration, diaspora and representation, International Conference (PI Ti-han Chang) 
    This conference seeks to interrogate the categories given and adopted by people on the move, adopting an intersectional approach that considers race, class, ethnic and gender issues that have been associated with mobility.

    Welcome Lesvos Asylum seeker project (PI Bob Walley) 
    Working with the UNHCR, the University of the Aegean Refugee Observatory, local Greek NGO METAdrasi and others, UCLan's Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership coordinates leadership training with unaccompanied minors seeking asylum on the Greek Island of Lesvos.

    Galician New York: migration, exile and cultural representation (PI David Miranda-Barreiro, Bangor University/MIDEX affiliate member) 
    The project examines migration from Galicia (north-west of Spain) to New York and New Jersey from the end of the 19th century, Galician exile to New York during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) and literary and filmic representations of New York in Galician culture since the 1980s.

    Other Everests: commemoration, memory and meaning and the British Everest Expedition Centenaries, 2021-2024 (PI Jonathan Westaway) 
    This is an AHRC Networking Grant proposal due for submission May 2021.  It aims to bring scholars together to examine the British Everest Expedition centenaries and recontextualise imperial mountaineering narratives in the light of contemporary scholarship.  A key focus of the network will be an examination of the hidden histories of indigenous high-altitude labour in the Greater Himalaya region.

    Worlds made by winter: a journey into Arctic Orkney (PI Jonathan Westaway) 
    This book for Manchester University Press examines the historical, cultural and environmental links between Orkney and the Arctic, focussing on the Western colonization of the Arctic and the subsequent displacement and exploitation of indigenous societies. 

  • (Im)mobilities

    Scoping research for Lancashire Refugee Council and community based research capacity building project for Lancashire Refugee Council (PI Lara Momesso with Caroline Blunt and Pat Cox) 
    These two interlinked projects, commissioned by the Lancashire County Council, operate at two levels. The scoping project aims to elicit views, concerns and ideas from relevant stakeholders in Lancashire, in order to flesh out and define the purpose, priorities and working model of a Lancashire Refugee Council. The capacity building project offers research training to refugees, offers those who complete training the opportunity to work with the team on the scoping research with a view to building individual research skills/ experience and creating research capacity within the proposed Refugee Council. 
  • Representations of Migration, Diaspora and Exile in Media, Literature and Art 

    Creativity and migration. The legacy of the German-Russian artist Georg Schlicht (1886-1964) (PI Susanne Marten-Finnis, University of Portsmouth, MIDEX affiliate member, and Ada Raev, University of Bamberg, MIDEX affiliate member) 
    The aesthetic dichotomy of Schlicht's oeuvre is the topic of this research project, in which an international team of scholars from Russia, Belarus, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands explore the various stations of the artist's life. Born into a family of Volga Germans, brought up in Saratov and educated in Moscow, but having to leave Russia in the aftermath of the 1917 upheavals, Schlicht’s creativity reflects the ideological twists and turns of his lifetime.

 

Thank you for “virtually” sitting down with us for this lovely talk!

 

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