Bystander: On a migration experience

By Peter Versteeg A waiting room with benches and very bright light from a fluorescent tube. Clothes and shoes lying all around. There’s sand on the floor. I have to put my shoes in a closet and wait for the alarm to sound. The moment I sit down on a bench I realize I get impatient. And I think to myself: Ah okay, I know what this is. The refugee’s experience has a lot to do with waiting. Not exactly knowing what you are waiting for and why it takes so long. Okay, I understand what they try to get …

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7 December: VU Amsterdam Ethnographic Film Day

What 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 …

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

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 …

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A different kind of pilgrimage

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 …

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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

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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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