Utrecht University Humanities Graduate Conference

Panel 2: Migration Histories

Panel 2: Migration Histories

Chair:         Berteke Waaldijk

Time:          11:30 – 13:00

Location:    Drift 25, 0.02

Behind Northern Doors: Exploring Digital Narratives of Latin American Migrant Women

 Paula Lopes, MA in Communications, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Postgraduate Program with the NOG


Keynotes: postcolonial, feminism, women migration, Latin America, intimate labor


This paper aims to present how a feminist post-colonial approach can contribute to studies on women’s migration, especially when considering women that moved from countries of the South to the North, to seek work opportunities under global capitalism. I first argue that while an increasing number of researchers are concerned about the Middle East and African diasporas, less has been discussed about Latin American migrants in Europe; therefore, these stories are being obscured. I will then present the feminist work of the Indian scholar Chandra Mohanty (2003), through her book Feminism Without Borders, in which she establishes two themes that can dialogue with women’s migrant studies: decolonizing feminism and demystifying capitalism. Mohanty firstly criticizes the establishment of a Western scientific discourse that homogenized Third World women and categorized them as a monolithic group. Secondly, she exposes how capitalism is incoherent with feminist ideals of social and economic equality.  She points out to the necessity of building communities and alliances among different women, by constructing a politics of solidarity. Simultaneously, Mohanty discusses the importance of addressing different women’s stories from the South, to grasp non-hegemonic feminist practices of resistance. Therefore, I use her theorization to explore some Latin American migrant stories, taking into consideration intersectionalities that mark some of their experiences of resistance in the borderlands (Anzaldúa,1987). Specifically, I will expose some narratives of Latin American women that moved to Europe to work as Au Pairs, relating this intimate labor (Borris & Parrenas, 2010) with the discussions presented earlier and pointing at possibilities for further research.


The Integration Process of Immigrants from the Middle East in Austria: Legal, Political and Socio-Cultural Aspects

Verena Ulrich, Transcultural Communication: Arabic, University of Graz, Austria

Keywords: immigration, integration, anti-Muslim discourse, discrimination, Austria


Migration has been one of the most prevailing issues in European public, political and academic debates over the last few years. Due to its specific geographical location within Europe and its reputation as a stable welfare state, Austria has become an important country of asylum. Today, it is one of the European countries which hosts most asylum seekers relative to its population. At the same time, politically and legally, Austria embodies one of the most conservative integration regimes in Western Europe. Furthermore, at a societal level, integration is widely negatively connoted ― especially with reference to Muslim immigrants ― and islamophobia and hostility towards Muslims has increased. In the light of the recent arrival of migrants from Muslim-majority countries, Austria seems to be forced to effectively engage with the adoption of integration measures that fit a country of immigration with sensibility towards the general public’s xenophobic and Islamophobic tendencies.

To further deepen the topic, my thesis aims at covering integration from three perspectives: the role of the Austrian government, the predominant perceptions of Austria’s society and of immigrants from the Middle East, including my own data collection. My thesis therefore focuses on the following question: What are some of the legal, political and socio-cultural aspects that have influenced and determined the integration process of Middle Eastern immigrants in Austria since 9/11? Fundamental to this question is a reflection on the idea of integration itself. The term is politically loaded and often used in a normative way. As such, in today’s public discourse integration is blended with ideas of culture, ethnicity, otherness and social boundaries. A critical reflection on the use of these concepts as well as a discussion on how legal, political and socio-cultural aspects can influence integration at multiple dimensions and from different perspectives will shed light on the topic of my thesis.


The Refugee Crises: Is the (Online) Media Privileging One Location Over Another?

Pranjali Das, MA in Gender Studies (GEMMA), Utrecht University


Keywords: refugee crisis, Eurocentrism, online journalism, social media, European refugee crisis, Rohingya refugee crisis


Are certain bodies prioritized in certain spaces? Who defines this space? Why do only selected bodies dominate this space? Haunted by these questions in reference to the representation of the refugee crises in the digital platform, this paper analyses how a specific location-centric discourse is privileged by online media when reporting on humanitarian crises, and how these biases problematically shape contemporary history. As we thrive in a time of greater dependence on the internet for information, this paper critiques the practice of Eurocentric discourses perpetuated by the online media which in multifarious ways impacts access to justice and relief of the affected subjects of the crises, and simultaneously contributes to shaping history and public memory in a biased way. Encountering an incident where I witnessed the European refugee crisis referred to as ‘THE Refugee Crisis’ instigated me to explore how one location (Europe) has been occupying the central position of a humanitarian discourse while those occurring outside its borders (global south- Myanmar, Sudan etc.) are largely disregarded.

The paper will analyze how the European refugee crisis and the Rohingya refugee crisis have been presented by the Guardian (online) in its publications in 2015, and also the response of world leaders, activists, and citizens to both the crises on Facebook and Twitter. According to different media and archival sources, both the crises had been at its ‘peak’ in the year 2015 (Al Jazeera, Guardian, Women’s History Review etc.), and so was the Guardian in its readership with 42.6 million readers across the world (Sweeney, 2015). The widespread readership of the Guardian and the magnanimity of the two crises propels for the analysis that highlights the presence of Eurocentricism in the digital space. This paper in no way means to undermine or devalue the gravity of both of the crises but instead, it will point out how their representation has been guiding our response, and shaping a discourse that is partial and problematic in different ways.


Japanese Immigration in Brazil: What Went Right?

Felipe Melges, MA in Sustainable Development, Utrecht University


Keywords: Migration, Globalization, Economic Development, Ethnical Economy


With a rising importance of globalization and its effects around the globe, topics such as migration have become more relevant and attractive to media exposure or have been the target of political ideology. The Japanese represent approx. 4% of all immigrants in Brazilian history. Immigration to Brazil started in 1908 due to mutual interest in closer commercial ties and the Brazilian need for an agricultural workforce. The state of São Paulo was the main focus point for this process representing the destination of roughly 93% of the 430 thousand Japanese immigrants up to 1958, with the highest concentration in the city of São Paulo since 1948. Based on the bibliographic review of the works of Suzuki (1988), Sakurai (1995) and others, this article evaluates this process in terms of 3 main waves of immigration that happened from 1908 to roughly 1980, and the evolution from an agricultural background, 52% of immigrants in 1920, to a diverse background by 1960, 31% in agriculture. The use of indirect indicators can point out to a social ascension of the immigrants and their descendants.

The 2015 sum of import-export revolves around 9.722 million dollars displaying the importance of the relation between countries. The Brazil-Japan case of migration, despite historical and current problems, seems to be positive in its overall sense. There is a lack of studies regarding the statistical comparison of the socio-economic condition of the current descendants with the “local” population. This article defends that having such a historically well-defined migration process complemented with said statistical analysis would allow for a case study to complement the understanding of the works of Baldwin and Huber (2010) and Alesina and La Ferrara (2000) regarding how much of the marginalization of immigrants comes from ethical motivations, from social inequality and how much are these two correlated.