Homelands: Diaspora Return - International Seminar, 3-4 June 2010, University of Oslo, Norway

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KULTRANS, University of Oslo, Norway
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What happens when diasporas come 'home'?

Invitation and call for papers to seminar hosted by Kultrans, University of Oslo 3-4 June 2010

What happens when diasporas come 'home'?

Migration is one of the most important catalysts for cultural, demographic, economic, political and social change in the postwar world. Such change has proved unprecedented, and controversial – guest workers have become permanent and societies have become multicultural; émigrés and diasporas have exported radical and reactionary ideologies to their homelands; skills and capital earnt abroad have enriched source countries; diaspora lifestyles have become homeland norms; politics has polarised on the very issue of who belongs and who does not. Migration is the story of globalisation, told in the life histories of those who move – whether by choice or not.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the study of ethnic return migration – the mass movement of so-called 'co-ethnics' back to presumed 'homelands' - since 1945, and especially since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Millions of migrants have uprooted themselves – or were uprooted – from ancient territories of settlement to found new lives in lands they hold some ancestral or supposed connection to – the expelled ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, and the Aussiedler who followed them; Jewish immigrants to Israel since 1948; Ingrian Finns, Italian-Argentines, Japanese-Brazilians, Central Asian Koreans – the list grows longer each year.

Identity is an inherently contested concept, rooted as much in bureaucratic fiat as individual emotion; nor is it straightforward, exemplifying the exceptions and complexities of globalisation in the modern world – the Kazakstani Pole in Warsaw who can only speak Russian; the Turkishs-speaking Greek Karamanli; the western adoptee who must learn a whole new cultural history and belonging – and what of the grown-up children of European 'guest workers' who settle back in their ancestral land? Of diaspora returnees faced with 'homelands' that do not recognise them, and homeland cultures which only serve to alienate them? What social and personal challenges do returnees face?

Language, politics, culture, ideas and ideals all clash and merge in this under-researched corner of academic and public attention. Our conference seeks papers from the broadest possible range of researchers into every aspect of ethnic return migration, to create a vibrant picture of a migration stream that is at the heart of globalisation in our contemporary era – for example, the life histories of millions of ethnic returnees; the impact of diaspora bilingualism on homeland language; biculturalism; diaspora homeland nationalism and its role in wars (i.e., North American or Australasian volunteers in the Balkans); cultural import from the diaspora (e.g. diaspora sports clubs and nationalism – Assyriska FK, Celtic FC, Sydney Croatia); the shifting role(s) and statuses of women in the diaspora and when they return home; racism against returnees in their supposed homeland; the politics of diaspora (i.e., the Aussiedler / Auslander debate in Germany). Our agenda is as exciting and as original as it is broad.

In particular, we seek papers from postgraduate researchers and papers based in an interdisciplinary approach.

Please send a 400-words abstract along with a short presentation of your research interest, name, position, and institutional affiliation to Christopher Rowland, KULTRANS - c.j.rowland@ilos.uio.no - by May 15.