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Belonging in Unceded Territories (SSHRC Partnership Development Grant)

The purpose of the project is to better understand questions of place-based identity and belonging in Vancouver and to bring settler colonialism into the centre of debates on social belonging in British Columbia. The project asks what it means for today’s settlers—those who have lived here for generations and those who have just arrived—to acknowledge their position in relation to the Indigenous presence in these lands? The interdisciplinary team includes ten members of UBC Migration and practitioners from multiple community organizations across Metro Vancouver.

Narratives Group Members: Principle Investigator: Ellerman, Antje Political Science, Institute for European Studies, UBC, Collaborators: Hallensleben, Markus Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies, UBC; Wilke, Rima Department of Sociology

Migration as Core Narrative of Plural Societies: Towards an Aesthetics of Postmigrant Literature (SSHRC Insight Development Grant)

This collaborative research project, together with collaborator Moritz Schramm from South Denmark University, focuses on refugees and immigrants being explicitly seen as agents who enhance societies. We will therefore investigate refugees’ and immigrants’ narratives as playing a crucial part in questioning, changing and creating collective core narratives of belonging in plural societies where an increased diversity demands a change in integration policies. This includes the hypothesis that immigrants and refugees tell their life stories, whether past or present, biographical, documentational or fictional, aesthetically differently from representations in mass media and national politics, where they are often dehumanized and marginalized. Our research project is therefore two­fold: In a first step we will analyse recent German-­language literature that deals with diaspora, exile, flight, refuge and displacement. Through these case studies from a sociological informed cultural studies perspective, we will demonstrate how migrant narratives have become a driving factor for societal change. Our aim is to establish a set of criteria for a new transformative aesthetics that constantly challenges and renegotiates political perspectives, social and cultural identities. In a second step, we will then critically discuss the theoretical implications of an aesthetics of postmigration as a possible new turn in literary studies.  

Principle Investigator: Hallensleben, Markus Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies, UBC, Collaborator: Schramm, MoritzDr. Moritz Schramm, Department for the Study of Culture, SDU, Denmark 

The New Media Aesthetics of Migration

By analyzing the function of mobile devices and social media in the lives of migrants and connecting it to the role of smartphone technologies and new media in representations (especially self-representations) of migrant experience, this project seeks to understand the significance of mobilizing the digital tools and technologies of migration in its narrativization.

Principle Investigator: Nijdam, Elizabeth Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies, UBC 

A Solution to the Problem of the Racial Binary

This project examines how and what it means to take responsibility for various "isms", analyzes the significance of the responsibilities, and focuses on critically understand belonging without the concomitant need to blame based on differential group membership.

Principle Investigator: Wilkes, Rima Department of Sociology, UBC

Worn Words (SSHRC)

Despite the recent swell of concern for Syrian refugees, public opinion about Canada’s responsibility to refugees continues to be haunted by misinformation and polarity. In community education contexts, I have found that workshop participants have only a vague understanding of the legal and cultural concepts that undergird their deeply held opinions about refugees. We all have an opinion on ‘refugees’ at the ‘border’ seeking ‘asylum’ and in need of ‘welcome,’ but our definitions are not clear.

Beyond misinformation, discourse itself can be a barrier to healthy dialogue across the political spectrum. The traditional foundation for defending refugee welcome is the international right to asylum, which was established in mid-twentieth century Europe. However, contemporary refugee discourse has become thoroughly “intertwined with issues of race relations, foreign policy, and terrorism” (Finney 7-8), and a rights-based discourse has neither the flexibility to respond to modern global complexities nor the social purchase necessary to convince skeptics. As the “rational” language of rights fails to generate political will, refugee advocates respond to public misinformation with the “emotional” language of activism that too often distances its detractors by morally shaming those who disagree. Within this ecosystem of competing refugee discourses, largely played out online, dialogue becomes further polarized and less nuanced and advocacy becomes less effective. Knowledge mobilisation as a research method should not be concerned only for what knowledge needs to be mobilised (what needs to be said) but also for what media forms can make such knowledge desirable (what will engage listening). Within this context, among others, Worn Words experiments with a new method of digital storytelling that can support informed and transformative refugee dialogue and contribute to a culture of listening and care.

Principle Investigator: Goheen Glanville, Erin Faculty of Arts, SFU, UBC


Ellerman, Antje. The Ethics of Immigrant Admission: Race, Gender, Class and Disability in Immigrant-receiving Democracies Completed 2019. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Insight Grant #435-2013-1065

Hallensleben, Markus. Transitional Spaces in Post-Migration German-Language Literatures (Hampton Catalyst Grant 2018-19)