Techniques of Becoming Activist: Management and Absenting in migrant activist spaces in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Authors: Isabel Meier*, University of East London
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Field Methods, Migration
Keywords: Sensory ethnography, affect, racialised bodies, political spaces, migrant activism.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Iris, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing on my own experience as activist, my work explores affective dynamics around migrant activism in London and Berlin. In doing sensory ethnography, I investigate how political spaces are affectively experienced by bodies that are controlled and regulated by everyday bordering practises. This paper focuses in particular on how affective pressures on racialised bodies have the potential to mobilise and immobilise bodies within these spaces - affecting what they can do or what they can become. It adds to emerging literature that explores the visceral nature of racialised encounters (Ahmed, 2007; Thrift, 2008; Tolia-Kelly, 2006; McCormack, 2003) and brings it in conversation with the construction of political spaces. An introduction follows into the techniques of becoming activist; the ways in asylum seekers as racialised bodies negotiate the boundaries of the political and the everyday. These techniques include mastering their involvement and absenting themselves as subjects of “solidarity” in order to negotiate safety (“I´m not like you”), exhaustion, identity loss, negativity, discomfort, uncertainty, precariousness and non-citizenship. My work also shows how this management and absenting increases the capacity of these bodies to become otherwise. Drawing on observations, transcribed bits of conversations with activist friends involved in migrant activism in the UK and Germany, in this paper I attempt to feel beyond the observed into the unseen labours of racialised bodies in political spaces.

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