The Migrant Institute: Performing (non)belonging and post-Brexit imaginaries

With increasingly polarised narratives of migration – positioning migrants in opposing roles of victims or national security threats – how can we foster better narratives in order to shape better policies? This project focuses on the work of migrant artists in Bristol and the South West to explore new forms of migrant representation.

Feelings of belonging are a vital aspect of wellbeing, generating emotional, social and cultural connectedness, while displacement – a state considerably heightened in the process of migration – can severely disrupt such feelings. Belonging plays a key role in defining identity and self-representation. With migrants under increasing scrutiny in the UK, how can migrant artists remain empowered in performing and presenting their own narratives?

What did the project involve? 

By bringing together first-generation migrant theatre makers and scholars, working in a range of disciplines, The Migrant Institute Project explored how experiences of migration across the UK are shaping new forms of self-representation and performance practice. The team particularly focused on the theme of (non)belonging in this context, examining identity and memory in performance. The project created spaces to map, debate and share new perspectives on these issues.

The team pursued two main activities in their research:

  1. Investigating the context in which migrant artists operate in Bristol and the South West.
  2. An event in Bristol featuring a workshop and roundtable discussions that enabled migrant artists and scholars to meet and exchange ideas on artistic methodologies that deal with migration in the shifting UK climate.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Szabolcs Musca (Theatre, University of Bristol) is a scholar, curator and project lead of strategic arts & cultural initiatives and partnerships, working across the creative sector and higher education. His research interests span across theatre and migration, transnational and cross-cultural theatre and performance, dramaturgy, theatre translation and adaptation, and socially engaged theatre.
  • Katja Krebs (Theatre Screen Research, University of Bristol) is a researcher whose interests are mainly in areas related to translation studies, theatre history and historiography, and adaptations for performance. She is particularly interested in the relationship between translation practice and dramatic tradition, and translation and adaptation practices, products and concepts.
  • Bridget Anderson (Migration Mobilities Bristol; Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol) is a researcher who takes as her starting point that the ‘migrant’ and the ‘citizen’ and the differences between them are constructed in law and in social and political practice. Research also plays an important role in this, raising important ethical, epistemological and political questions. She is interested in the relation between migration, race, and nation, historically and in the contemporary world.
  • Daniel Haines (History, University of Bristol) is an environmental historian, with a focus on natural disasters and rivers in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. His work is often collaborative and interdisciplinary.
  • Vicky Angelaki (English, Mid Sweden University) is a researcher whose commitment to interdisciplinarity and internationalism informs all aspects of her work. Her research, teaching, conference organizing and extensive collaborative network are driven by this principle.
  • Myria Georgiou (Media and Communications, London School of Economics) has extensive experience researching media and communications’ role in constructing meanings of identity and citizenship. Her current research has three distinct but interconnected strands. The first strand examines the synergetic relation between media and the city and the ways in which their close interconnection organises and regulates urban publics and communities. The second strand examines media’s role in identity construction, especially among diasporic populations and migrants. The third strand explores the ways in which diversity is represented in the media and the consequences that these representations have for the European ethical and political space.
  • Alison Jeffers (Drama, University of Manchester) is a academic of applied theatre whose research interests include: cultural democracy; applied theatre practice and research methodologies; participatory theatre with marginalised groups; community arts history and practice; performances of citizenship and belonging.
  • Lara Parmiani (LegalAliens Theatre) is a migrant artist, influenced by all the people and places she’s met on her journey. An actor, dramaturg, director and facilitator with over two decades of theatre experience, she is the founder and Artistic Director of LegalAliens.

What were the results?

By developing understanding of the research context and fostering partnerships with artists and scholars, this research served as the basis for future funding bids.

Throughout the project, the researchers co-authored a collection of ‘intervention papers’, hosted a ‘wrap-up debate’ and composed a collaborative poem.

More details of the project and its outcomes can be found on the Migrant Dramaturgies Network Blog and later developments will be found on the New Tides Platform which MDN is a part of.