Embodied Migration II

To be determined
To be determined

Session Code: SOM6B
Session Format: Regular
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Migration
Session Categories: Regular Session

Migration is fundamentally about the movement of physical bodies of people, yet most research on or about migration has largely overlooked the body and embodied experiences of moving across borders. The body as a site and medium through which of societal regulation as well as cultural ideas are embodied, is crucial to better understand migration patterns and processes. Studies of migration needs to consider how bodily experiences of move, mobility, and migration shape settlement, adaptation, integration, return, assimilation, pluralism, multiculturalism, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, etc. This session addresses the question: How are migration processes embodied in physical bodies, material resources, cultural identities, and social relationships? Tags: Canadian Sociology, Migration / Immigration, Social Theory

Organizers: Jing Zhao, University of British Columbia, Cary Wu, York University


Merve Ergenç, Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants; Cengiz Yılmaz, Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants

Two forms of oppression at the same time: Female Syrian refugees in Turkey

Turkey has been hosting a largest number of Syrian refugees from different religions and ethnicities all over the world since 2011. Our field research reveals that Syrian refugees  experience the whole process on different scales. Within the scope of our study, 35 in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 female and 20 male refugees who are above 18 years old in five different provinces. To our initial results, first, female refugees’ sense of belonging to their homeland is stronger than male ones; second, male refugees’ access to livelihood opportunities and outside world is easier than female ones. Both initial results and more indicate that the willingness of refugee women to participate in social life is quite regional and directly linked to their cultural and religious backgrounds as well as environmental conditions. In this sense, it can easily be emphasized that refugees’ bodily movements and appearance differ from small provinces to metropolitan ones. Male refugees come out actors of social life as breadwinners whereas female refugees appear as aid receivers. Our field research demonstrates these initial results in a broad range of theoretical discussions and key concepts by presenting an analysis of issues like adaptation, integration and multiculturalism. 

Navjotpal Kaur, Memorial University

Embodiment, Masculinity, and Caste-visibility in Transnational Spaces

This paper is part of my ongoing dissertation research in which I study transitioning masculinities of young Punjabi men – belonging to a “higher” caste called Jat – as they migrate from India to Canada. Jats are traditionally farmers and landowners in Punjab, a north-Indian state. The context of body and embodiment is particularly significant in studying contemporary Jat masculinities. In this paper, through in-depth interviews with 22 young Jat men from Punjab currently living in Brampton, Ontario, I explore how and why Jat men’s physical bodies and behavioral and material identity expressions are important to masculine constructions of self and how do the material identity expressions figure in transnational spaces or spaces that render their caste-identity invisible. Young men, as they navigate such spaces, might develop the notion that Jat identity and masculinity is threatened by this ambiguity and they might take remedial measures to fix the same – which includes operationalizing their bodies in an attempt to make their identity deliberately visible. Given that visibility of caste association or Jat identity to others is crucial for the maintenance and reification of contemporary hegemonic Jat masculinity, transnational spaces become the spaces where Jat male body plays a significant role, as it becomes the most important and visible medium in displaying the Jat identity. In the absence of masculinized spaces and explicit Jat identity markers, men use their bodies (plus other possessions) to convey to others of their caste association and status, for example, tattoos on their bodies (such as their surnames indicating their caste identity); unique moustache and beard styles; body-building; sometimes rural attire; surnames on their vehicles and so on.

Amy Hanser, University of British Columbia

"Sitting the Month" in Canada: Bodily Practice and Immigrant Experience

How do immigrants reconstruct deeply embodied cultural practices in their new homes, locations that may lack to cultural scaffolding and material infrastructure to support valued cultural practices?  The experiences of Chinese immigrant mothers performing “ zuo yuezi ” (“sitting the month”), a postpartum recovery period for new mothers, is an example of a deeply valued, embodied cultural practice that newcomers bring to Canada.  Drawing upon interviews with Chinese immigrant mothers in the Vancouver area, we demonstrate the complexities of performing zuo yuezi in Canada.  Although characterized by great diversity, almost all women we interviewed practiced zuo yuezi in some form, mobilizing transnational caregiving relations, drawing upon transnational information sources and flows, and tapping into more local, ethnic-community based social networks to prepare for and carry out a satisfactory zuo yuezi experience.  Zuo yuezi provides an example where the body—care for the body, ideas about the body, and bodily experiences—is a key element of immigrant settlement and experience.

Sharlie Eicker, Langara College

I Belong In Two Worlds But I'm A Stranger to Both: Female Marriage Migrants And Their Struggle to Find Home

This research project examines the integration experiences of female marriage migrants in Germany. Based on ethnographic research and semi-structured interviews with ten American women whose migration to Germany was a result of their marriage relationship with a German spouse, this research adds to our understanding of how this unique class of migrants navigates migration, integration and marriage while struggling for a sense of belonging and feeling at home in their new country. Taking a feminist perspective and grounding my research in Standpoint Theory, this project finds that citizenship, race, position within intercultural marriage and immigration status create a unique experience for American women living as marriage migrants in Germany. These women suffered with a great emotional difficulty in developing a sense of belonging and feeling at home, even while having a local spouse and local children born and raised in Germany. As White American women in Germany, their racial categorization typically allows them the privilege of not standing out as obvious newcomers in their daily life, while their American citizenship means that they are exempt from otherwise mandatory language and integration training that is required of nearly all other immigrants. The privileges experienced due to their citizenship and race create unique immigration experiences where women felt permanent outsiders, never truly fitting in with locals neither migrants from other countries. Struggling to fit in in Germany, while leaving behind aspects of their native culture, leaves these migrants to exist in a lonely space in between cultures and nations.  Overall, this research highlights the integration experiences that female immigrants and mothers face as they negotiate integration and parenting with a foreign spouse, the importance of language in immigration integration and the significance impact of and the emotional struggle to find a sense of belonging as immigrant newcomers.