Postgraduate and early career researchers from a range of academic disciplines at the University of Sheffield and beyond come together at the Humanities Research Institute on Wednesday 20th November to engage in a day-long workshop on ‘Migration and Mobility: Views from Past and Present’. The event was organised by an interdisciplinary group of PGR students and ECRs – Dr Harry Mawdsley (History), Hannah Fletcher-Poole, Natalie Bennet and Alex Kirby-Reynolds (all Sociological Studies). Funding and support for the event came from the Humanities Research Institute, the Department of Sociological Studies, and the Migration Research Group at the University of Sheffield. Inspiration for the day came from a cross-faculty event on ‘Conceptions of migration’ organised by the Migration Research Group, the ‘Hub’ Migration of the Department of History and the Medieval and Ancient Research Centre of the University of Sheffield in January 2019.
Everyone who attended the workshop engaged in important and insightful discussions at the end of each of the three themed sessions based on key questions arising from these papers. The event highlighted the importance of different disciplines learning from each other. The need for social science researchers to incorporate historical understandings into their work was cited, as was the capacity for researchers from the arts and humanities to explore more deeply the roles that theory and space can play in their work.
After the event was opened by Professor Mary Vincent of the History Department, the first session explored lived experiences of migration across time. Maria Vasquez-Aguilar (History department, University of Sheffield) presented the first paper, looking at the political activism of Chilean exiles in the UK post-1973. Isabelle Carter (History department, University of Sheffield) then demonstrated the history of movement in multi-storey council estates. Joe Nowland (History department, University of Sheffield) concluded the session with a consideration of gendered migration in early San Francisco.
The second paper session was chaired by Dr Lucy Mayblin from the Department of Sociological Studies and focused on the themes of empire, nationalism and migration. Sarah Elmammeri (Politics department, Liverpool University) started the session with a paper discussing the journey of a postcolonial subject. This was followed by a talk by Dr Garath Roddy (History department, University of Sheffield) exploring the role of travel narratives in the Western peripheries of the Britsh-Irish isles in terms of modernity and national identities. Dan Royle (History department, University of Sheffield) concluded the session, exploring Spanish deportation and exile on Fernando Po.
The afternoon began with a fascinating paper given by Professor Louise Ryan from the Department of Sociological Studies. Her talk challenged the notion that we are in completely unprecedented times in the current context of Brexit, changing migration regimes and uncertainty about migrants’ rights to remain in the UK. Professor Louise Ryan considered what social scientists can learn by adopting a historical lens to analyse migration. Focusing on key moments in the twentieth century, she examined how the problematisation of migrants as ‘aliens’ was underpinned by particular economic, political and social processes within British society.
The final paper session of the day looked at contemporary migration in a globalising world. Mucahit Aydemir (Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield) presented a paper on the factors influencing the migration of academic staff to Britain. This was followed by Jeni Vine’s (Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield) presentation exploring the connection between history, relationships and social cohesion within Sheffield.
Reactions and comments from participants at the workshop highlighted the value of having conversations about migration across disciplines. The interactive format of the event based on small group discussion followed by feedback at the end of each of the three paper sessions helped to foster these conversations. Many participants talked about the need to keep these important and timely conversations going, and it is hoped that similar events and networks will be established and maintained as a result of the workshop.