The first School on Migration in 2018, intended for students of social sciences, was held on May 28-30 in Vrnjačka Banja. School on Migration is implemented as a series of seminars on which the concept of refuge is examined from the perspective of different disciplines, but also through different approaches within each of these disciplines. The program team, in charge of the seminar concept, consists of: Ivan Milenković (philosopher, Belgrade Radio Third Program), Biljana Đorđević (politologist, Faculty of Political Sciences), Zagorka Aksentijević and Robert Kozma from Group 484 Educational Program. There were 20 students of political sciences, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, geography and law participating in the school. The school program included lectures, discussions, student exercises, film screenings and film discussions. Besides Biljana Đorđević and Ivan Milenković, the seminar lecturers were: Dušan Ristić (sociologist, Faculty of Philosophy, Novi Sad), Momir Turudić (journalist of “Vreme” weekly), artists Snežana Skoko and Luka Knežević Strika, Tamara Cvetković (Educational Program, Group 484), Danica Šantić (demographist, Faculty of Geography), Ružica Marjanović (“Halfway” Festival), Vladimir Petronijević (Executive Director, Group 484).
Our wish is to encourage participants of School on Migration to, with the mentor support of the team from Group 484, be dealing with academic research on migration issues with a view to profiling their interests and potential further engagement, as well as joining the team from Group 484 in working with migrants in reception centres and centres for accommodation of asylum seekers or in realising educational programs for high school students.
With this school, we intend to explore, together with students, the existing approaches to migration and refuge: humanitarian and legal approach, integration policies in Western European countries, processes of re-thematising the concept of citizenship, citizens and national identities, instigated by the relation of states to migrants and the debate related to the integration of refugees.
One of the important topics was to look at the ways in which the topic of accepting migrants is (mis)used in the media and political articulations and debates. As part of introductory presentations and introductions, the students were faced with the task of articulating one event (incident between migrants and the police at a border crossing) in the form of a journalist’s report, with the aim of exploring and analysing different discourses created within different media sources.
Introductory lecture “What we talk about when we talk about migration” was held by the politologist Biljana Đorđević who defined and problematised the basic terms and concepts of the lecture: who refugees, asylum seekers, legal and illegal migrants are; forced and voluntary migration; political and economic refugees; what deportation implies…
“Introduction to the School on Migration: How (and why) should the problem of refugees be politicised?” was a lecture by the philosopher Ivan Milenković. In his presentation, he talked about the need for theoretical approach to the issue of refuge versus the ruling legal and humanitarian approach, as well as the need to politicise the issue of refuge in order to avoid double blackmail, as defined by Slavoj Žižek, in which opposite to right-wing populism stands an empty and very abstract concept of humanism. It was also about defining refugees through the concept of “bare life” by Giorgio Agamben, the term used to try to understand the position of prisoners in Nazi camps. In this sense, the camp as a biopolitical space in which power is nothing but bare biological life, should be perceived not as a historical fact and anomaly that belongs to the past but, in a way, as a hidden matrix of the political space in which we still live.
Dušan Ristic, a sociologist, talked about the current migrant crisis in Europe in his lecture “Mapping Discourses on the Migrant Crisis in Europe”, reflected in the discourse analysis from the articles published (September 2015 – May 2017) in two Swiss influential daily newspapers: Le Temps from Geneva and Neue Zürcher Zeitung from Zurich. If discourse is understood as a practice in which an individual attributes a certain meaning to reality, the discourse analysis, in approaching sociology of knowledge, places the focus on the social context in which knowledge is produced. In that sense, the key word of research is the name of Aylan Kurdi, or a case that, according to many, in September 2015 represented not only a turning point in events within the migration crisis, but also in the manner the media across Europe reported about it.
During the first day of the seminar, Ivan Milenković conducted an interview with the journalist of “Vreme” Momir Turudić about forced and voluntary migration, about ways to report on the refugee crisis, about the influence of the media on the formation of public opinion and about the media manipulation. Momir Turudić also spoke about his experiences from the field and from his journeys to the crisis and warring areas, not always in the role of a journalist, and often in the role of a migrant, which gave his story a touch of personal confession in a wider social context. Thus, leaving neutral position, he questioned the distinction between forced and voluntary migration. In this way, we could map different economic, cultural, political and other causes of migration, as well as various forms in constructing a discourse in media reporting. The specific narrative of Momir Turudić about migration from the personal perspective reminded us how important an individual’s ability is to be confirmed through the story of oneself and own experience. This voice, and with it, the ability to affirm its own identity, has been taken away from a large number of migrants who, isolated in different reception centres, are reduced to their “bare life”.
At the end of the first lecture block, students watched the Romanian film “Morgen” directed by Marian Crisan, while the discussion after the film was led by Ivan Milenković. The film problematises illegal migration of a Turkish emigrant through the Romanian-Hungarian border with the aim of reaching Germany. In a way, the film provided the students with the opportunity to additionally problematise theoretical concepts, as well as topics open during the lecture. During the active discussion, important questions were raised about the function of art, how close it is to life and how art determines it more closely, as well as how art can stand equal to life, but also influence socio-political changes. The discussion emphasised the need of the students to address migration issues through individual destinies and stories of people who remain invisible when the subject is examined quantitatively.
Biljana Đorđević started the second day of the seminar with a lecture “Immigration Agreement – Discussion on Integration Models in Liberal-Democratic Societies”. The lecture was about ways of integrating immigrants into European countries. Earlier there were several models that met in one called immigration agreement, and as Biljana explains, immigration agreement is an agreement between immigrants and the political community about certain migrant rights and obligations. The concept of immigration agreement can be briefly explained by the subject of the agreement which is the language, common values and participation. The right of migrants thus become conditioned by the obligation of integration. The discussion was also focused on whether immigration agreement is an agreement on the reconstitution of political community or an agreement on domination.
During the day, the role of art in the socio-political field was examined, as well as the possible forms of social activism. With that aim, Tamara Cvetkovic from Group 484 presented the fields of action of the Group’s Educational Program, including the active support for people residing in centres for accommodation of asylum seekers. During the visits to the centres, and in continuous work with people accommodated there, a lot of documentary material was collected. The exhibition “The Border is Closed” was created in the desire to shape the collected material, while the exhibition “Common Denominator” was created in the centres for accommodation of asylum seekers in Banja Koviljača, Bogovađa and Sjenica, through workshops held by artists with people in the centres,. All the material was created through socialising and cooperation with migrants and asylum seekers, and then the exhibition was formed to enter museums and thus send the message. As a result, art is demystified, ceases to be something “sacred” and becomes a bond to the local population and a step towards social change.
Artists Luka Knežević Strika and Snežana Skoko commented with students exhibits from the exhibition “Common Denominator” that were exhibited at the seminar. Exhibits represent the artistic shaping of work results and content of conversations about identity, culture and customs, the position of women in different societies, ambitions and hopes, borders – both physical and state ones, as well as those within us. “The Border is Closed” tells us stories of people on the road in the form of maps, or their impressions, observations, convictions turned into poetic notes, recorded on the spot and painted on canvas.
In order to become sensitive to interpreting art-shaped narratives, students were divided into groups with the task of presenting the graphic novel “Island” by Armin Greder (Book Factory, 2014, Belgrade) through various forms. The idea was to think about the “Island” as a literature that can be used in teaching. The “Island” problematises the issues of refuge, isolation, xenophobia, and in the creative way, using concepts and conclusions from previous lectures, the seminar participants designed promotion of a book intended for teachers, a drama piece, a class for high school students, but also a review of key issues the novel problematises.
The following lecture entitled “The Global Challenges of Contemporary Migration of Population” was held by Danica Šantić, who presented the issue of migration as seen in the field of demography, reflecting the subject of the seminar from yet another angle. As such, migration is not accepted in a demographic family, it is not taken as a component in population projections and has a marginal role in the creation of population politics. On the other hand, migration can be traced through history and has influenced the formation of the geo-political map of the world as we know it today. In that sense, the question has been raised about whether migration is an exception or a rule, and whether it is a failure, as it is perceived today, and whether there is a possibility to change narratives. As we live in the times of global migration flows, there is a need to understand the main determinants of this phenomenon, all in order to efficiently address the challenges it brings.
At the end of the second day, Ružica Marjanović presented us with the latest, sixth edition of the “Little Box” dedicated to Predrag Lucić. Five small-format booklets, designed not to overload the young readers they are intended for, contain the selection of Lucić’s work. The booklets contain his dramas, poems, satire, as well as texts written for “Feral Tribune”, the Croatian satiric-political weekly shut down in 2008, but also for “Novi list” and “Free Europe”. Ružica Marjanović, a Serbian language and literature teacher from Užice High School, told us about the inseparable relationship between life and work of Predrag Lucić she had been pleased to cooperate during the literary festival “Halfway”. The life of Predrag Lucić was painted with his satire and the “poetry of mockery”, the laughter focused on all anomalies of society, especially our post-Yugoslav society deep-rooted in revisionism; the laughter which, on the one hand, is affirmative because it points to the power of a person to rise critically above the mire of day-to-day political machinations, while on the other it is destructive, but for those the laughter is directed to, since it demystifies and unmasks them in their political and social inferiority.
On the last day Vladimir Petronijević, lawyer and Executive Director of Group 484, hold a lecture entitled “Legal Approach to Migration and Refuge”. His lecture was dealing with how the refugee-migration crisis had made the issue of migration a par excellence political issue, which led to the change in perceiving the issue of migration compared to the previous period. He also talked about how the principles of protection of human rights of refugees and migrants had become a secondary issue compared to the issue of border protection and security to the extent that even the most developed countries of the EU and traditional democracies agree and initiate policies that are opposed to the standards of international human rights law.
The seminar was finalised with the arrangements about the summer activities until the next School on Migration that will be held in September. The students were divided into groups with the idea that during summer, along with the mentorship of the former school participants, jointly design how they would like to engage in work with migrants residing in centres for accommodation of asylum seekers, organise campaigns to be held in towns with the centres, design educational workshops intended for youth, or how to deal with academic study of migration topics. The seminar participants will realise the designed activities after the next School on Migration with the support of Group 484 and the team of associates.
Project: Beyond the Chapters
Objective: Focusing attention on the rights of asylum seekers and migrants, raising awareness of the general and professional public on the social, economic and cultural rights of asylum seekers and migrants; contribution to the development of the system of reception of different categories of migrants and an open and tolerant society.
Implementers: Group 484 (“We and the Others” Educational Program)
Support: The European Union Delegation to Serbia