Helena M. Strandli Schmidt
Perceived migrant – Lived citizen
How is belonging experienced in and through embodied practices in hospitable, hyper-diverse locations in Oslo? Through which mechanisms can colonial categories such as the (perceived) lived migrant be translated into a postcolonial vocabulary - the lived subject/citizen?
The project addresses the case of unfamiliar bodies in familiar spaces. Familiarity might be the abstract idea of home or the actual street I walk every morning, both of which will be studied empirically. More precisely, I address mobile bodies, such as those labelled migrants and others, in our spaces, those familiar or claimed by us. Which experiences are made and responses are mobilised in these meetings? The presence of the unfamiliar in a space that is known to me claims my attention.
Theoretically, the project can be placed within an ongoing conflict between becoming and belonging in citizenship terms. The term Lived citizenship combines theories on citizenship and political subjectivities with a spatial focus on the embodied and sensory. As the working title implies labelling intentions to categorise one group from another are only questionably coherent to those being labelled. Moreover, labels such as migrant (other, stranger, enemy, friend) may be (re)-acted upon or resisted through sensory awareness and embodied capacities as self-maintaining mechanisms.
While citizenship theorizations over the last decades have focused on the recognition and empowerment of citizens and non-citizens beyond the borders of difference, the concept of belonging is commonly associated with constants such as legal, community or group memberships. In particular, the temporality and lived experience of citizenship is under-represented in these theorizations. I explore these themes following the idea that the prerequisite to enacting citizenship, resistance and imagining or recreating identities, is the experience of belonging (un-documented migrants, marginalized citizens, “strangers” etc.). I will conduct empirical studies of commensality, the practice of sharing meals, as an entrance to physical and abstract embodiment. The meals in question are those involving civil society acts to feed the hungry, private initiatives to replicate homeliness amongst migrant women and random gatherings between unemployed men in specific locations in Oslo. Analysing the physical encounters between guests and hosts I will explore the possibility of applying an embodied language of subjectivity and lived citizenship to debates on migrant hospitality/hostility/resistance in a Nordic context.
Professor Trygve Wyller, Faculty of Theology.
Doctoral fellow at the Faculty of Theology.