The interdisciplinary research group on Narratives is interested in any social, political, artistic, practical, and theoretical implications pertaining to narratives of migration, belonging and politics of belonging.

By investigating settler, migrant, refugee, and Indigenous narratives we seek to identify alternative narratives that critically and constructively challenge Eurocentric notions of settlement, ownership, and identity. In order to foster a viewpoint of decolonized social belonging, we will question binary and place-based concepts of hybridity, diversity, integration, settlement and Indigenous belonging, as they appear in literature, film, and other media. Our aim is to discuss a set of criteria for a transformative aesthetics that renegotiates and changes political perspectives, and thus plays a crucial part in challenging collective core narratives in plural societies.

The Narratives research group was initiated in 2019 as part of Markus Hallensleben’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) research project on “Migration as Core Narrative of Plural Societies: Towards an Aesthetics of Postmigrant Literature,” but thrives to go beyond literary narratives of migration. We welcome students and scholars of all disciplines.

We meet every two-three months throughout the Winter Terms, alongside organizing public talks and collaborative workshops.

To learn more about the group, including how to get more involved and join, please contact the Group Coordinator, Markus Hallensleben.

Research Group Members

I have long been interested in narratives of belonging and identity. Raised in West Germany at a time when the country was trying to “come to terms with the past” (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), my socialization was powerfully shaped by an ongoing confrontation with the horrors of the Holocaust. Grappling with the legacy of genocide at an age when questions of identity are front and centre left me with a highly conflicted relationship to my country of birth.

Living in Vancouver as a settler on unceded territory has reopened up many of these conversations about collective and individual accountability for genocide. These explorations have also spilled over into my research. I am currently involved in a collaborative research project that explores narratives of belonging that can challenge colonization. The projects question common portrayals of “immigrant integration” as an unalloyed good. If integration means adopting majority attitudes and behaviours, then immigrant integration effectively perpetuates settler colonialism.

I research the role of imaginative narratives in interdisciplinary refugee studies, with a particular focus on refugee claimants and migrant detainees. My community-engaged research develops a cultural refugee studies approach to media making and pedagogy. I am participating in a two-year, international research project funded by the British Academy, “Hostile Environments: Policies, Stories, Responses,” and will be part of UBC’s SSHRC-funded Comics and Migration research group. I am also part of the Narratives of Belonging working group as part of UBC Migration.

In 2019, I completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Council Postdoctoral Fellowship in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, “Digital Storytelling as a Method for Critical Dialogue on Refugees in Canada.” This project developed a critical media-making praxis and included video-recording cross-sector interviews and working with an animator to produce educational media. Borderstory, one of the project’s media outputs, has been distributed through community networks, assigned internationally in classrooms, and screened by communities on four different continents. Forthcoming articles unpack the ethics of community-engaged media making and offer a decolonial approach to teaching refugee narratives.

I am the editor of Countering Displacements: The Creativity and Resilience of Indigenous and Refugee-ed Peoples (2012). Other publications include: “An Intermedial Pedagogy for Sensing Communities of Shared Fate at the Border” (Intermedialities 2020), “Refracting Exoticism in Video Representations of the Victim-Refugee” (Crossings 2018), “R2P and the Novel: The Trope of the Abandoned Refugee Child” (GR2P 2018), and “Rerouting Diaspora Theory with Canadian Refugee Fiction” (Routledge 2009). I serve on the Board of Directors for Kinbrace Community Society.

I am a permanent resident of Canada and an uninvited visitor to the traditional territory and unceded (stolen) lands of the xwməθkwəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. I very much appreciate the openness and hospitality that has allowed me to live and work here, albeit within a settler-colonial context of which I am also a part of, especially within academics and UBC. I have been struggling with the problem of carrying on with colonial structures when promoting ‘decolonization,’ since my very own presence here at UBC and Vancouver is based on privileges.

Being originally from Germany (after having lived in the US and in Japan) and by teaching and researching European Cultures and Literatures, I am aware of the danger of carrying on with the systemic structures of Othering when the concepts of belonging and identity are applied. I therefore feel that all I can do (for now) is to support any unsettling narratives that promote transition and change. At the moment and for the future, I am intrigued to turn my research into a search for stories that radically retell the ongoing history of colonialism and cultural hegemony differently; to listen to voices that focus on the people and to respect their sources, rather than to take them only as representatives, their stories and their lands only as resources.

Uma Kumar moved to Vancouver from India in 2003 and has been teaching with the Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies (CENES) since 2007. She holds a PhD in German Studies, a Master’s in German Studies, and a Master’s in English Literature from the University of Bombay, India. Uma spent six years at the University of Vienna, doing research on Austrian literature. Uma has near-native proficiency in German. Her goal as a German instructor is to inspire students to learn German and expose them to the culture and literature of the German-speaking countries. Uma also teaches GERM 426-001, a course on Literary Representations of the Holocaust. She is passionate about teaching about the Holocaust because she wants her students to understand that the devaluation of people with perceived differences in beliefs prompted one of humanity’s worst genocides. Our strength in a global world lies in embracing our diversity.

Dorothee Leesing is a Sessional Lecturer at the CENES Department at the University of British Columbia. Her research revolves around the perception of restructured cityscapes. She is interested in the representation of urban environments and mass dwellings in early digital gaming, post-migrant literature, and press photography. She currently works on a research project funded by the IHRC transcribing, translating and digitizing letters of German POW in Japan during WWI and the topics around migration, colonization and prisoner of war narratives. Contact me for collaboration for Digital Scholarship in the Humanities: Big Data projects, TEI, and imaging etc!

I hold a PhD in Educational Studies and work as a sessional lecturer at UBC. I was a Liu Scholar, UBC Public Scholar, and a winner of the Joseph Armand Bombardier Doctoral Scholarship. I am currently a member of the UBC Centre for Migration Studies and the Center for Culture, Identity & Education of UBC.

My research explores the socio-cultural and policy contexts of education in relation to Muslim/ immigrant and refugee youth. I am particularly focusing on young refugee women in BC, and the complexities contouring their sense of belonging, education, and integration. My research is informed by critical theory, transnational feminism and anti-racism, and social justice. I engage with multimodal ethnographic research methods and visual methods such as photovoice to bring the voices and experiences of refugee women. My interest in migration studies also emanates from my personal journey as an immigrant woman in Canada trying to seek home beyond borders. I engage with public scholarship and I am regularly invited to participate in community events and consultations regarding im/ migration, refugee youth belonging, and systemic racism. My scholarship and research appeared in academic journals and also in public events. I worked in several countries, and I am actively involved in community organizations that support refugees in Metro Vancouver.

Dr. Anne Murphy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, and is the founder (in 2019) and Lead of the Interdisciplinary Histories Research Cluster at UBC, a role she continues with Associate Lead Chris Lee (English/Asian Canadian Asian Migration Studies) in the 2020-2021 academic year. (For more about the Cluster and its work, see:

Her research focuses on early modern and modern cultural representation in Punjab and within the Punjabi Diaspora, with a focus on representations of the past (both material and literary), the formation of religious communities in dialogue, and the history of Punjabi language and literature. Dr. Murphy’s interests in Migration reflect not only her scholarly interests in Punjabi literature in its articulation around the world, but also in her personal background as an Irish American and her engagement with her place as a late-arriving urban settler family in North America. Her mother was born in New York City, after her great grandparents’ decision to send all their children to the USA to escape poverty and due to the loss of a child to typhoid in the slums of Limerick: the family’s land had been expropriated in the nineteenth century under British occupation. Unable to sustain themselves due to the onset of the depression, however, the family was forced to return to Ireland, and Dr. Murphy’s mother was stowed away on a ship by her father to get back.

She then left at 17 to take advantage of her US citizenship and joined the convent in the US, which she left after 5 years. Dr. Murphy herself was born and grew up in New York City and environs. Her commitment to the decolonization of our knowledge and experience of the present stems from her experiences growing up in NYC, and her deep connections with Ireland in her childhood, after the death of her Irish American father when she was nine years old, and her experience of the impact of the “troubles” in Ireland during visits there. It was, indeed, that commitment and those experiences that led her to work in South Asia as a scholar, rejecting identitarian definitions of knowledge and “heritage,” and seeking to understand the deep impact of colonialism on our understanding of the present and past.

In the context of the Narratives Group, Biz's research has also begun to investigate recent trends in the narrativization of forced migration, which includes work on comics and graphic novels as well as digital games. In particular, Biz is in the beginning stages of her next major project, entitled "The New Media Aesthetics of Migration," which examines the role of new media, social media, and digital technologies in the representation of refugee experience. 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.

Moreover, Biz's research in narratives of belonging in games studies has expanded to examine Sámi Indigenous games. She is currently working on an article that looks at how two digital games produced during the 2018 Sámi Game Jam in Utsjoki draw attention to Indigenous issues, while embodying Indigenous traditions and modeling the kind of practice-based research and participatory knowledge of Indigenous methodologies. Probing the design, game mechanisms, and user experience of Gufihtara eallu (2018) and Rievssat (2018), this project reveals how digital games can offer mediated access to Indigenous knowledge systems that can reconnect Indigenous populations with Indigenous traditions, while also illustrating to non-Indigenous settlers the unique perspective of endangered Indigenous cultures, and importantly, on the Indigenous game developers’ own terms.

As part of my doctoral research I look at everyday place-making practices among refugees of Syrian heritage and other people with migration and diaspora experiences in the city of Berlin, Germany. In particular I am currently leading and curating a participatory art project based on convivial art and walking art. The participants produce an informal urban map, where the mapping consists of intentional walking and multimedia artistic production. The map is thus an unconventional narration of the city, one that is meant to be shared with other people and to incrementally grow through their own ‘walking’ stories.

I am also developing an independent ethnographic project around literary and grassroots (self-)narratives of the cross-border condition in the Italian region of Friuli, with a focus on nostalgia as a practice of (re)orientation, belonging and homing.

Moritz Schramm is Associate Professor at the Department for the Study of Culture at the University of Southern Denmark. From 2016-18, he has been head of the collaborative, inter-disciplinary research project Art, Culture and Politics in the Postmigrant Condition funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark. He is a member of the independent German Council on Migration and collaborator of the SSHRC Insight Development project on Migration as Core Narrative of Plural Societies: Towards an Aesthetics of Postmigrant Literature.

Wilkes' work focuses on race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity. Her work has appeared in a number of outlets including International Migration Review, Canadian Review of Sociology, Social Forces, and Social Science Research. In the context of the Narratives Group and narratives of belonging, Wilkes is currently working on a number of related theoretical projects including one titled, "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 understanding belonging without the concomitant need to blame based on differential group membership.

My research examines Italy's global networks and, in particular, Chinese migration to Italy and contemporary Italian-Chinese relations as they are represented in the media, cinema, and literature. My book (forthcoming from University of Toronto Press in Spring 2019), titled Migration and the Media: Debating Chinese Migration to Italy, 1992-2012, is the first detailed media and cultural study of the Chinese migration from both Italian and Chinese migrant perspectives, as well as one of the few book-length analyses of migration and culture.

Sabine Zimmermann is a PhD Candidate in the CENES department. Her research focus is post migration literature, in particular the figure of refugees in contemporary German-language literature.

Research Areas

Our research is interdisciplinary in focus and includes various Narratives migration topics including:

  • Borders and Sovereignty
  • Refugees and Forced Migration
  • Gender and Migration
  • Digital and Media Studies
  • Diasporas and Transnationalism
  • Narratives and Politics of Belonging
  • Undocumented Migration and Statelessness
  • History of Migration
  • Indigenous Studies


Hallensleben, Markus. “Towards an Aesthetics of Postmigrant Narratives: Moving beyond the Politics of Territorial Belonging.” Postmigration: Art, Culture and Politics in Contemporary Europe. Eds. Moritz Schramm et al. transcript: Bielefeld. Postmigration Studies.

Hallensleben, Markus. “Nach der Flucht ist vor der Flucht: Postkoloniale und postmigrantische Diskurse in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Gehen, ging, gegangen.“ [After the Flight is before the Flight: Postcolonial and Postmigrant Discourses in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone.”] Der Flüchtling im globalen Nomadismus. Literatur-, medien- und kulturwissenschaftliche Annäherungen.“ [The Refugee within Global Nomadism. Contributions to Literature, Media and Cultural Studies.] Ed. Michael Hoffmann, Jean- Bertrand Miguoué and Miriam Esau. Königshausen und Neumann. Deutsch-Afrikanische Studien zur Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft [German-African Studies in Literature and Cultural Studies].

Nijdam, Elizabeth. “Tying Up Loose Ends: The Fabric of Panel Borders in Kate Evans’ Threads.” Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, special issue: “Migration in Twenty-First-Century Documentary Comics,” 5.2.

Hallensleben, Markus. “Portraying the Refugee as a Transitional Figure of Plurality: The Performance of Gender and Ethnicity in the Post-Migrant Narratives of Abbas Khider’s Der falsche Inder [Village Indian] and Ohrfeige [Slap in the Face].” Abbas Khider. Eds. David Coury and Karolin Machtans. Peter Lang Oxford, 2021. Contemporary German Writers and Filmmakers, vol. 5.

Hallensleben, Markus. “Warum laufen wir immer den gleichen Bildern hinterher?“ Sprache. Medien. Texte. Körper. Bilder. Punkte. Flucht. Grenzüberschreitungen in Marlene Streeruwitz’ Textcollagen und Fotomontagen.“ Marlene Streeruwitz: „Literatur. Das ist die Welt.“ Eds. Mandy Dröscher-Teille and Birgit Nuebel. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2021. Kontemporär.

Neila Miled, Can the displaced speak? Muslim refugee girls negotiating identity, home and belonging through Photovoice, Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 81, 2020, 102381, ISSN 0277-5395,

Zimmermann, Sabine. "Cultural Artefacts and the ‘Migration Crisis’: Disruptive Materialities in Works by Navid Kermani and Maxi Obexer" Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture, vol. 11, 2, 2020, pp. 267-281(15)

Ellermann, Antje and Yana Gorkokhovskaia. 2019. “The Impermanence of Permanence: The Rise of Probationary Immigration in Canada,” International Migration.

Ellermann, Antje. 2019. “Discrimination in Migration and Citizenship,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Ellermann, Antje. 2019. “Human-capital Citizenship and the Changing Logic of Immigrant Admissions,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Ellermann, Antje. 2019. “50 Years of Canadian Immigration Policy,” in Peter John Loewen, Carolyn Hughes Tuohy, Andrew Potter, and Sophie Borwein (eds.) (2019), Canada and Its Centennial and Sesquicentennial: Transformative Policy Then and Now, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ellermann, Antje and Agustín Goenaga. 2019. “Discrimination and Policies of Immigrant Selection in Liberal States,” Politics & Society, 47(1), 87-116

Glanville, Erin G. "“Do You Feel Safe at the Border?” An Intermedial Pedagogy for Sensing Communities of Shared Fate". Intermédialités / Intermediality no. 34 (2019). 

Hallensleben, Markus. “Wolfgang Paalen – ‚The First Writer of the Atomic Age‘.” Wolfgang Paalen: The Austrian Surrealist in Paris and Mexico. Ed. Andreas Neufert, Franz Smola and Stella Rollig. Koenig Books, 2019. 141-154.

Murphy, Anne. “A future from the past” by the South Asian Canadian Histories Association Founding Collective (Naveen Girn, Anne Murphy, Raghavendra Rao K.V., Milan Singh, Paneet Singh), in Reflections of Canada: Illuminating our Biggest Possibilities and Challenges at 150+ Years, edited by Phillip Tortell and Margot Young, 151-160. Vancouver: Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, 2017.

Wilkes, Rima. Wu, Cary. “International Student Migration and the Search for Home” Geoforum 80: 123-132. 2017.

Ellermann, Antje. 2015. “Do Policy Legacies Matter? Past and Present Guest Worker Recruitment in Germany.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(8), 1235-1253

Hallensleben, Markus. “Faces of the German Female Avant-Garde: Portrait Montages in Else Lasker-Schüler and Hannah Höch.” Schmerz, Lust, Weiblichkeit und Avantgarde in Deutschland. Eds. Lorella Bosco and Anke Gilleir. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2015. 129-156.

Murphy, Anne. “Performing the Komagata Maru: Theatre and the Work of Memory.” In Studies in Canadian Literature 40, 1 (2015): 45-73.

Murphy, Anne. “Sikh Museuming.” In Sacred Objects in Secular Spaces: Exhibiting Asian Religions in Museums, edited by Bruce Sullivan (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 49-64, 157.

Murphy, Anne. “A Diasporic Temporality: New narrative writing from Punjabi-Canada.” In Towards a Diasporic Imagination of the Present: An eternal sense of homelessness, edited by Tapati Bharadwaja, 9-30. Bangalore: Lies and Big Feet Press, 2015.

Wilkes, Rima and Pottie-Sherman, Yolande. “Does Size Really Matter? On the Relationship Between Immigrant Group Size and Anti-Immigrant Prejudice.” International Migration Review 49: Fall. 2015.

Ellermann, Antje. 2014. “The Rule of Law and the Right to Stay: The Moral Claims of Undocumented Migrants.” Politics & Society, 42(3), 293-308

Hallensleben, Markus. “Rewriting the Face, Transforming the Skin, and Performing the Body as Text: Palimpsestuous Intertexts in Yōko Tawada’s ‘The Bath’.” Beyond Alterity: German Encounters with Modern East Asia. Special Volume of Spektrum: Publications of the German Studies Association. Ed. Qinna Shen and Martin Rosenstock. New York: Berghahn Press, 2014. (168-89)

Ellermann, Antje. 2013. “When Can Liberal States Avoid Unwanted Immigration? Self-Limited Sovereignty and Guest Worker Recruitment in Switzerland and Germany.” World Politics, 65(3), 491-538. Winner of the APSA Prize for Best Article in Migration and Citizenship

Ellermann, Antje. 2012. “Studying Migration Governance from the Bottom-Up.” With Matthew Gravelle and Catherine Dauvergne. In: The Social, Political, and Historical Contours of Deportation. Anderson, Bridget, Matthew Gibney & Emanuela Paoletti (eds.). New York: Springer

Hallensleben, Markus. “Heimat und Exil als Double-Bind: Erinnerungsräume in Else Lasker-Schülers Der Wunderrabbiner von Barcelona.” Jeder Vers ein Leopardenbiss: Else Lasker-Schüler Almanach. Vol. 9. Ed. Hajo Jahn. Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag, 2011. 298-318.

Ellermann, Antje. 2010. “Undocumented Migrants and Resistance in the Liberal State.” Politics & Society, 38(3), 408-429

Ellermann, Antje. 2008. “The Limits of Unilateral Migration Control: Deportation and Interstate Cooperation.” Government and Opposition, 43(2), 168-189

Murphy, Anne. “Modern Punjabi Literature in Vancouver: A Portrait.” In Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory 4, 2 (December 2008): 157-175.

Hallensleben, Markus. “Performativity and Performance in Else Lasker-Schüler.” A Transatlantic Gathering: Essays in Honour of Peter Stenberg. Ed. Margareta Götz-Stankiewicz and Thomas Salumets. Munich: Iudicium, 2007. 45-56.

Ellermann, Antje. 2006. “Street-level Democracy? How Immigration Bureaucrats Manage Public Opposition.” West European Politics, 29(2), 287-303. Reprinted in Immigration Policy in Europe: The Politics of Control (2007), Virginie Guiraudon and Gallya Lahav (eds.), New York: Routledge, 93-109

Ellermann, Antje. 2005. “Coercive Capacity and the Politics of Implementation: Deportation in Germany and the United States.” Comparative Political Studies, 38(10), 1219-1244

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