Tag Archives: migration

Some thoughts on film in ethnography


Still from ‘Inside the Mind of Favela Funk’

By Ina Keuper     On 7 December the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology organized its second Ethnographic Film Day, which featured four rather different ethnographic documentaries. Former staff member Ina Keuper was there and shares some thoughts on Standplaats Wereld about these particular films and the role of this visual medium in anthropology. Continue reading

7 December: VU Amsterdam Ethnographic Film Day

aefd_bannerWhat is the value of film as medium for ethnographic fieldwork? With which dilemmas are film-making anthropologists confronted? What is the relationship between visual methods and other methods? What do visual methods contribute to research?

The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam presents the Amsterdam Ethnographic Film Day during which we will screen ethnographic films and discuss the various theories and methods of visual anthropology. We aim to provide a platform for anthropologists and documentary makers engaging in visual anthropology to show their films and communicate their experiences with, and thoughts on, ethnographic film-making. For more information, visit our Facebook page or website. Continue reading

"I belong in Africa": African-Americans going ‘home’

Sankofa. Image: Damiyr Saleem Studios

Sankofa. Image: Damiyr Saleem Studios

By Marije Maliepaard        The Ghanaian ethnic group of Akan is (among other aspects) known for their Adinkra symbols. Symbols that represent concepts and are often connected to proverbs. They are used in African fabrics, clothes and pottery and nowadays also in logo’s, advertisements and wall paintings. One of their symbols of a bird stretching back to get an egg, named Sankofa, has become an important representation for Africans in the diaspora. The combination of the symbol and the associated proverb ‘se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi’, which translates to ‘it is not wrong to go back for something you have forgotten’ embodies precisely what returned African-Americans feel: a desire to return home, to the soil of where their ancestors were taken from.

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A different kind of pilgrimage

Photograph by Neil Rickards

Photograph by Neil Rickards

By Dimetri Whitfield    The most surprising thing for me about conducting fieldwork is that you encounter all these interesting people that ultimately do not end up in your final project. Alieu Sowe (this is a pseudonym to protect his identity) is one such person. He is Fula by ethnicity, Gambian by nationality, taxi driver by occupation, and refugee by aspiration.

One cool February evening, after his 14 hour work-day, and my 3 hours of writing field notes, we sat down and chatted. Like most 20-something Gambian men, “backway” was on his mind. “Backway” is the illegal method of migrating to Europe, generally via Libya into Italy. He declared, with one index finger pointed to the sky, “by the grace of Almighty Allah, next year I will be in Europe.”  Continue reading

Fortress Europe continues to treat migrants as criminals

By Dimitris Dalakoglou             The European Union, one of the strongest economies in the world and home to some of the most advanced state apparatuses in human history, is preparing to shut down its borders, one after the other, because it can’t cope with the number of refugees arriving from war in the Middle East. These same institutions were of course able to find the resources to finance an expensive military operation on the European sea borders against the same refugees.
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A Grim New Phase in Yemen’s Migration History


Yemeni families arriving in Djibouti. ©UNHCR/F. van Damme. Used with permission.

By Marina de Regt  “Yemen’s conflict is getting so bad that some Yemenis are fleeing to Somalia,” read a recent headline read a recent headline on Vice News. The article mentioned that 32 Yemenis, mainly women and children, made the trip to Berbera, a port town in Somaliland (and not Somalia). Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have crossed the Gulf of Aden since the outbreak of the Somali civil war in 1991. But now the tide seems to have turned. Yemen has become a war zone, as a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia bombs the country in an attempt to stop the Houthis, an insurgent movement opposed to the government, from gaining control over the entirety of Yemeni territory. But, instead of protecting the Yemeni population, these attacks have created more chaos, despair and destruction.

The situation is especially bad in Aden, Yemen’s main port, strategically located near Bab al-Mandab, the strait connecting the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. Street fighting in Aden has intensified, mainly between the city’s inhabitants, on one side, and the Houthis and army units loyal to ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih, Yemen’s former president, on the other. Water is not available any longer, electricity is intermittent and food shortages are very serious. Life in Aden is unbearable without water and electricity, as the climate is very hot and humid. People are slowly starving. Those who can are trying to escape, but many do not have the opportunity.

Continue reading here, on www.merip.org, where this blog was originally posted. MERIP kindly allowed us to repost it here.

Marina de Regt is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She specializes in gender and migration in and between Yemen and Ethiopia. She wrote  a number of other blogs about the situation in Yemen (in Dutch): Chaos in Jemen en de plicht van de antropoloog; Wat is er aan de hand in Jemen?; Jemen’s Martelkampen.

Barbaric Others


By Scott Dalby Europe is changing. Political debate and policy initiatives have become fixated on issues like immigration and Islam in particular and more generally on excluding outsiders, whether they are Black youth in Paris suburbs, Roma immigrants, or Eastern European workers. There has been a clear shift towards the political Right, and the popularization of conservative discourses and “solutions.”

This seems to have exposed a crisis within Left politics, its authenticity and potential for offering an alternative argument to the growing Right-wing discourses currently running amok in Europe. I write this blog as an anthropologist and as a person who knows that these ongoing changes affect us all. And it seems to me that these are bad times for Europe; for minorities especially but also the rest. But why has this happened and what are the consequences? Continue reading

Migration and the politics of names

By Mohammad Amer It was not the first time I was asked about my ‘actual’ surname or, achternaam, as they say in Dutch. This time was during my introductory meeting with the FSW staff at the VU. I have been dealing with this question now for over a decade. Years ago my Dutch language teacher called me ‘Mohammad’ following the order of my full name ‘Mohammad Amer’. I told her that ‘I am called ‘Amer’, and if you call me ‘Mohammad’ I might not respond to you’. She said ‘that means Amer is your, roepnaam’ (meaning, in Dutch, literally the name people call you)? ‘Kind of’, I told her. Thus she noted my name as ‘Amer, Mohammad Amer’ on the attendance list. I accepted that as it sounded quite lyrical whenever she spoke it.

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A new approach to Human Security

Yesterday, members of our department and Thomas H. Eriksen (Oslo University) presented their new book A World of Insecurity. This collection of essays is the result of years of  fruitful cooperation and debate in the context of the department’s research programme, Constructing Human Security in a Globalizing World (CONSEC), and it provides a captivating sample of the research carried out by our staff.

The concept of Human Security was introduced by the UN Development Programme in 1994, in order to expand the scope of development work and research. Human Security was defined as ‘freedom from want and freedom from fear’. This books draws on a different approach that includes subjective and existential dimensions in an area which has been dominated by quantitative and ‘objective’ measurements of well-being. Continue reading