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Artefacts as mediators through time and space: The reproduction of roots in the diaspora of Lussignani

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... Whilst analyses of visual culture often focus on the ways in which images signify particular meanings, a number of scholars emphasise the sensorial and affective dimensions of objects and images (Edwards 2010, Milič 2014, Mitchell 2005, Tolia-Kelly 2004. Edwards (2010) argues that photographs are not straightforward visual documents, but should be understood as 'multi-sensory objects, which in turn elicit multi-sensory responses that shape and enhance the emotional engagement with the visual trace of the past' (Edwards 2010: 23). ...
... However, the use of visual methods raises questions in relation to the production, interpretation and representation of images and their role within my research. While qualitative research often includes images for the purposes of documentary evidence or illustration, theories of visual culture attend to the textual meanings of images and increasingly to their material and multi-sensory dimensions, engaging with images as objects of analysis in their own right(Rose 2003, Milič 2014).Mitchell (2005) argues that visual analysis should not only focus on the possible intentions behind an image, but must also ask 'what pictures want', considering the agency and 'desires' of images themselves. This is a relevant question for my research.Whilst my study includes analysis of photographs that were significant to participants, I have also created my own images of participants' homes and objects, as well as images of the wider city. ...
Thesis
This thesis examines relationships between home, work and migration for Vietnamese people in East London. It contributes to a growing body of work within geographies of home, as well as furthering research on mobility and the city in super-diverse contexts. The study draws upon semi-structured interviews with participants who have migrated from Vietnam to East London under diverse circumstances, including individuals who arrived as refugees after the Vietnam War and other people who have migrated for work or education in recent years. The research has also involved visual methods and ethnography in participants’ homes, workplaces and other urban spaces. The study situates home as a multi-scalar, material and imaginative concept, set of practices and emotions. It also highlights the translocal connections between home, work and urban dwelling in Vietnam and East London. Drawing upon participants’ personal stories, I examine their journeys of migration and experiences of arrival in East London, framing the empirical material within concepts of navigation and urban learning. Alongside a recognition of the role of the city within migrant experiences of home, I argue that participants re-shape the city through their everyday mobilities and practices of dwelling. The thesis examines connections between home and work in Vietnam, drawing upon understandings of the Vietnamese home as a site of connection to other places and between living relatives, ancestors and the spirit world. I also consider relationships between home and work in East London, exploring how work may contribute to a sense of home in the city. I highlight the significance of objects, spiritual beliefs and practices in reconfiguring home across transnational space. This thesis also addresses participants’ future homes and possibilities of return to Vietnam. Individual choices of mobility and settlement are situated within geopolitical dimensions of home and migration. I draw upon concepts of precarity and the geopolitics of home to argue that immigration statuses, transient work and housing are intertwined with personal experiences of home and can present a significant barrier to belonging in the city. Through its focus on individual experiences and practices of home, work and urban life among Vietnamese people in East London, this research makes a distinctive contribution to understanding home, work, migration and the city.
... Textual and visual discourses of Heimat should therefore be analysed in tandem, as has been pointed out byMilič (2012) in hisanalysis of newsletters produced by Italians expelled after the Second World War from Croatia. ...
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This article investigates how artists have addressed shocking experiences of displacement in different political contexts. Drawing on the notion of ‘the aesthetics of loss’ (Köstlin, 2010), it examines and compares the different aims, desires and strategies that have shaped the histories and social lives of paintings, memorial statues, installations and other artefacts. The analysis identifies a mode of artistic engagement with the sense of a ‘loss of homeland’ that has been commonly felt amongst Sudeten German expellees, namely the production and framing of visual images as markers of collective trauma. These aesthetics of loss are contrasted with the approach taken by the Dutch artist Sophie Ernst in her project entitled HOME. Working with displaced people from Pakistan, India, Palestine, Israel and Iraq, she created a mnemonic space to stimulate a more individualistic, exploratory engagement with the loss of home, which aimed, in part, to elicit interpersonal empathy. To simply oppose these two modes of aesthetic engagement, however, would ignore the ways in which artefacts are drawn into different discursive, affective and spatial formations. This article argues for the need to expose such dynamic processes of framing and reframing by focusing on the processual aspects of aestheticisation with attention to the perspective of loss.
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