How host societies create ‘space’ for refugees in representations of national identity and cultural memory.

Authors: Danielle Drozdzewski*, Stockholm University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Migration, Social Geography
Keywords: Refugees, settlement, national identity, cultural memory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 1, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper focuses on attitudes towards refugees, and their settlement, in two cities, Wrocław, Poland and Berlin, Germany. It is positioned within the changing policies regarding refugee settlement and visible difference in Poland and Germany that concord with dominant narratives of each nation’s cultural memory. Cultural memory is important. It fosters familiarity, security and comfort in the collectivity of civil society and can engender ‘a cultural sense of belonging’ (Brockmeier 2002:18) among diverse members of plural societies. Yet, a politics of identity approach mandates that representations of national identity should be subject to critical scrutiny especially if a nation is truly committed to inclusive representation of its citizenry.

While the case studies are not intended as direct research comparisons, each country’s divergent histories of difference trace different pathways to negotiating (or not) (re)productions of national identity in practice and ‘in place’, especially when the host society is compelled to consider difference. In Wrocław, participants’ articulations of Poland as ‘closed’ and of threat echoed messages disseminated via tightly controlled media. In Berlin, and purely coincidently, the thematic ‘open’ was expressed as humanitarian solidarity, as open but with reciprocity, as not being open enough, as well as in conversations that transferred the responsibility to be open to the refugees themselves. Drawing from this empirical data, this paper looks at the ‘space’ created by host societies for refugees; it positions understanding the sentiments and attitudes towards refugees as integral foundation to concomitant interpretations of the geographies of nationalism and citizenship.

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