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Bridging Borders, Creating Spaces: Negotiating Multicultural Identities and Belongings among Migrant Communities in Global London

Keynote speaker: Professor Terry Lamb (University of Westminster)

London as a global city has been a ‘contact zone’ (Pratt 1991) of multiple flows of people, cultures and ideas from around the world, and a ‘migration lab’ for academic research. While there are numerous studies of individual migration groups in London and the UK, surprisingly, so far very few have looked into the nexus between mobility and globality from a comparative and transcultural perspective. This workshop is aimed at filling this gap. By bringing together innovative research on a wide range of London-based migration communities, it seeks to stimulate intellectual dialogues between often segregated studies of migrants and between higher educational institutes and migrant communities, and to break new ground for interdisciplinary research on migration and diaspora.   

This workshop focuses in particular on the role of ‘language’ in bridging borders and creating spaces for migrants in global cities. Language is defined here in a broad and metaphorical sense, referring to all sorts of material and immaterial practices that serve the purpose of having a voice, hearing and being heard, and communicating. We share the view that language is better understood as a ‘verb’ rather than a ‘noun’, an bodily experiences in everyday articulation and negotiation of identities, memories and belongings in the multicultural and multilingual context of a global city. The doing of languages, or languaging, has led to the creation of what we call ‘language spaces’ meditated by ethnicity, gender and class and embedded in transnational histories of people and places.  

The keynote speech theorises the relationship between migration, languages and spaces. Workshop papers are organised around the examination of three distinctive ‘language spaces’. The first one is ‘translanguaging space’ (Li 2011) where people engage creatively with cultural translation to represent identities and values; the second is ‘performative space’ where migrants resort to various art forms to articulate a sense of being and belonging and search for empowerment; the third is ‘heritagisation space’ where the diasporic past is remembered, treasured and transmitted to the public and to the next generation, not only through the media of words but also the silent ‘talking’ of objects. These three ‘language spaces’ are by no means static and mutually exclusive. Rather, they interact with each other in generating valuable rooms for identity negotiation and opening up new spaces towards the future through the very act of languaging. 

Convenor: Cangbai Wang (University of Westminster)
Event image: Julio Etchart

Workshop programe (PDF)

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