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Remixing Europe, Migrants, Media, Representation, Imagery 

12.03.2014 by Vivian Paulissen

Remixing Europe cover

There will happen different things during 16th ZEMOS98 festival. Among them, the publication Remixing Europe. Migrants, Media, Representation, Imagery will be introduced.

This book gather different texts which analize the prevailing imageries related to migration in different places of Europe. We can find several approaches there: articles about local problems and others which are reflections about media and migrations in a universal context.

You can find below the introduction of the book by Vivian Paulissen (European Cultural Foundation)


mi•grant (mī′grənt) : n. Someone or something that moves from one region to another by chance or plan.

How are migrants portrayed in mainstream media in Europe? How does this affect the imagery of what a migrant is, or of the Europe we live in or the Europe we’re heading towards? What are the perspectives of migrants? Remixing Europe is a challenging publication in its attempt to answer some of these questions. It is part of Remapping Europe, a programme by the Doc Next Network that investigates the tools and concepts of remixing media as a method of re-viewing, re-investigating and re-considering prevailing imageries of migrants in European societies.

“One must be as wary of images as of words” as one of Europe’s great film directors Harun Farocki has put it. There is no such thing as an aseptic or pure image: every image provokes a multiplicity of imageries, gestures, thoughts, ideas, prejudices, and ways of looking. Both in form and in content, this publication is unconventional in its approach to deconstructing and debating some prevailing imageries of migrants across Europe and specifically, in Spain, the UK, Turkey and Poland.

In this publication four individual case studies of incidents that occurred recently in the media provide the starting points for an analysis of country-specific, cultural and historical contexts that influence public perception of, and general attitudes to, migrants and migration. An eclectic mix of images from mainstream media sources – footage ‘found’ and introduced by the cultural organisations of the Doc Next Network – represent how migrants are portrayed, or in some cases, made invisible in each country. The images are snapshots of the representation of migrants in media: they show how migrants are stereotyped, criminalised, racially categorised, objectified and subjected to hate speech, all of which serves to deny their individual voices and agency. The images have been taken out of their original contexts; in this publication they are framed by and juxtaposed with each other. They are further remixed with facts from different sources and with in-depth reflections from journalists, academic researchers, artists and activists. These authors unravel how the migrant condition is primarily represented as something problematic in mainstream media, thereby challenging existing prejudices and assumptions.

In Spain the publication considers the compelling case of the Ecuadorian activist Aída Quinatoa, who is a prominent leader of social movements in the wake of the country’s sub-prime mortgage crisis. In an interview with Juan Luis Sánchez, she argues that the mainstream media has never really been interested in the precarious condition of migrants in the Spanish housing crisis. Carlos Delclós confronts the unpleasant spectres of representation, race and post-colonialism in Spanish media, while Sami Naïr redefines the migrant condition in relation to identity and mixture.

In the UK, the government’s Home Office caused a public scandal with the launch in 2013 of a media campaign targeting illegal migrants with mobile billboards that read: “go home or face arrest”.Sarita Malik deconstructs the portrayal of migrants and minorities on British television and how the idea of “home” has come to accrue racist overtones. Jamie Bartlett examines the public perception of migrants in social media, in relation to more mainstream news sources within the migration debate. David Somerset zooms in on the migrant’s perspective in the country’s history of cinema with iconic films from the archives of the British Film Institute.

The Turkish case focuses on how internal migrants, who are forced to move due to urban transformation processes, are criminalised and dehumanised in public opinion. The country’s recent Gezi Protests brought an enormous amount of press attention to “right to the city” movements in Turkey.

The question of how urban transformation affects internal migrants is explored in an essay by Imre Azem based on the footage of his film Ekümenopolis (2011). Sırrı Süreyya Önder considers migration and media within the wider context of post-Gezi politics in Turkey. Tahribad-i Isyan, a group of young hip-hop artists from areas affected by urban transformation voice their personal experiences and their right to the city.

In Poland, Ukrainian female domestic workers have been pilloried as submissive, and sexualised in the media. Michał Bilewicz has engaged in a public polemic around these issues on a political news blog. In this publication Bilewicz further explores the phenomenon of hate speech in Polish media and addresses the social implications of such language. Kryzstof Czyzewski tests the boundaries of borders, which, particularly in Poland, symbolise the contradiction of being torn between Eastern and Western Europe.

Beyond these country-specific cases, broader notions of migration, race, representation and borders are deepened in an overarching chapter. Fatima El-Tayeb provokes confronting insights on the European attitude towards “otherness”. Daniella Berghahn routes us through the evolution of diasporic cinema and migrant representations of film in Europe, and finally, Abu Ali imagines possible imageries of borders and migration.

This publication certainly does not pretend to set out one definitive viewpoint or conclusion regarding the imagery of migrants in Europe and the European media. Imagery is a complex phenomenon that is always under construction. It is strongly rooted in public opinion, which, both shapes and is shaped by an ever-changing media landscape in which consumers of media have become its producers as well. At the same time, within and beyond its physical borders of the continent, there is no shared notion of what “Europe” means.

The act of migration is a blank space on the map: it is tied to no place; it is rooted only in movement and in the transgression of borders. That a border is a constructed entity, drawn on a map, has to be taken for granted. However, to at least mentally reshape and re-investigate notions of the border – to remap – we must acknowledge different interpretations of “locality”, of “region” or of “home”. We must include the personal perspectives of people who migrate and we should not shy away from the realities of Europe’s legacy of complex migration and colonialism. Only then can we approach the border, not as a fixed line, but as a shifting entity that is produced by our imagination and that produces its own imagery.Throughout this publication, quotes of young migrants in Europe, with whom the Doc Next Network works, provide a proof of this: thought-provoking individual comments on the issues raised in this publication, they raise a counter-perspective to common generalisations about migrants in mainstream European media.

In its attempt to remix prevailing imagery of migrants with new perspectives, does this publication reveal a new perspective on Europe itself? Perhaps. More importantly, however, Remixing Europe is a document that contributes to the living archive that is Europe. It is significant as a landmark within the larger discourses of contemporary Europe, its inhabitants, travellers and its media. It is significant not just as a merely journalistic document, academic, nor creative publication, but as a remix of all of these approaches. And it is significant, as a remix, in that it highlights diverse and inclusive perspectives on migrants, migration and Europe.

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