Case Studies Archive title

The images used in the banner for this website are taken from a 1907 poster for the London and North Western Railway advertising the service between England and Ireland via Holyhead on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales. This route would have been one of those frequented by Irish migrants in the early twentieth century. The poster shows travellers moving between ship, land and rail, and illustrates the relationship between technology, transport, movement and migration. We would like to thank the National Archives for permitting us to use the picture (COPY 1/260) in this way.

Devolving diasporas: migration and reception in Central Scotland, 1980 - present

Despite the current UK interest in diasporic texts (e.g. Small Island) and authors (e.g. Zadie Smith), little is yet known about the actual readers of migrant literature and of how they make sense of the texts they read. Still less is known about the consumption and production of meaning in relation to these texts beyond the metropolitan centre. One of our primary objectives within this context is a detailed analysis of the reception of diasporic cultural production in Central Scotland. By recording a network of 5 reading groups in this region, empirical access to the ‘live’ reception of diasporic texts will be made available for the first time.

Viewed in isolation the Scottish reception data tells us little about diasporic cultural production as a global, or transnational event. Our aim is to develop the case study of readers in Central Scotland to produce a comparative reading of diasporic reception by extending the network to incorporate a further 5 groups in Canada, India, North Africa, and the Caribbean. Reading groups within these dispersed locations will be recorded discussing the same texts as their Scottish counterparts, allowing us to identify and assess similarities and differences between reading values, priorities and interpretations. All reading groups will be networked via an online chat room, allowing individual readers to extend their discussion of the texts within a larger virtual 'community'.

Dr James Procter, Newcastle University
Devolving Diasporas: Migration and Reception in Central Scotland, 1980 - present

A Long Way from Home - Diaspora Communities in Roman Britain

This project will explore the cultural and biological experience of immigrant communities in Roman Britain. It will challenge popular assumptions of an essentially homogenous Romano-British population by examining the diversity of cultural identities in this remote province. Evidence for diaspora communities will be analysed through an innovative combination of material culture, skeletal and isotope research. In addition to the proposed academic publications, we will develop outputs accessible to the wider public through a creative collaboration with an established author of children’s books.

How did diaspora communities create identities that were distinct from the host society, and maintain ideological links with their homeland? Can we identify incomers, and do they differ from the host population in their health and diet? How was material culture in Romano-British burial used by migrants to express and contest their identities? Did forced migration of individuals and/or family groups impact on their health? Was the consumption or rejection of certain foods used by diaspora groups to integrate with or distinguish themselves from their host societies? Such questions resonate with key issues concerning diaspora communities in modern day societies.

Dr Hella Eckardt, University of Reading
A long way from home: diaspora communities in Roman Britain


Mapping Migrant Cultures in Manchester 1880-2000

This project provides a new vision of the construction of diasporic cultures in modern Britain through enabling migrants to digitally map their own life experiences. Connecting Manchester’s unique archives of oral testimony with new interviewing, and with the visualization capabilities of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology will generate an innovative micro-history of the spaces and movements through which migrants constructed their own identities in industrial and post-industrial Manchester.

Through collaboration with migrant associations, the Manchester Jewish Museum and the Manchester Public Library, research focuses on the changing cultural landscapes through which Jewish and Caribbean immigrants to Manchester created distinctive collective identities between 1880 and 2000. Digital mapping provides new methods for analyzing and representing the internal heterogeneity of these diasporas, how they interacted with native and other immigrant groups, and how diasporic cultures have been remade by subsequent generations.

The GIS methods and spatial approaches developed in this project will have considerable applications for migration studies and the international humanities research community. They will also provide a platform for future collaborative projects with the Irish, South Asian and Chinese communities of Manchester.

Dr Laurence Brown, University of Manchester
Mapping migrant cultures in Manchester, 1880-2000


The Bengal Diaspora: Bengali settlers in South Asia and Britain

This three-year project will bring together historical, sociological and anthropological perspectives and methodologies to compare the history of migration and settlement of Bengali Muslims in the Bengal Delta region and across the United Kingdom since 1947.

The project will inquire who these migrants were, where they came from, and why  they resettled where they did, and explore in what ways their experience of integration has been shaped by their different locations.

Fieldwork in the Bengal delta will be conducted primarily by Dr. Annu Jalais (Anthropology, LSE) and by a second research assistant in the UK.  It will focus on oral history accounts of migration, arrival and settlement, the imagination of old and new ‘homes’, and the formation of new cultural and religious communities.

The project hopes to interrogate current theorisations of diaspora by investigating whether the sharp distinctions drawn between ‘economic’ and ‘forced’ migrations are tenable or useful concepts in understanding the movement of people in modern times.

Professor Joya Chatterjee, University of Cambridge
The Bengal diaspora: Bengali settlers in South Asia and Britain - a comparative and inter-disciplinary study


In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Prophet: Sociality, Caring, and the Religious Imagination in the Filipina Diaspora

This multi-sited study of a new diaspora centres on the international migration of huge numbers of Filipina women, over 2 million strong, to work as domestic carers in Europe and the Middle East.

The project challenges a dominant scholarly and popular discourse that views these migrants merely as economically deprived, semi-educated ‘maids to order’, who endure harsh working conditions and unjust legal regimes in order to remit a few meagre dollars back home.

Instead, the project aims to disclose the rich cultural and religious lives of Filipinas in the diaspora by studying them as cosmopolitan travellers who develop and maintain identity, community and international networks across national borders and cultural boundaries.

In particular, the project will make a distinctive contribution to the study of Christian and MuslimFilipino international women migrants, especially their religious symbolic journeys.

For Filipina believers travelling to places holy to Christianity or Islam, prior homes of the religious imagination are rediscovered as real places of worship within a sacred geography shared by a universal community of believers.

Hence the project’s proposed locations for fieldwork are Israel and Saudi Arabia, supplemented by research in Europe and the Phillipines.

One principal hypothesis of the project is therefore that religion is central to Filipinas’ migratory experience, and especially so when they work in places sacred to Islam or Christianity.

A second key hypothesis is that Filipinas working as carers for the elderly construct their identity through notions of religious sacrifice and an ethos of caring and responsibility.

Professor Pnina Werbner, Keele University
In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Prophet: Sociality, Caring, and the Religious Imagination in the Filipina Diaspora


The Conversion of Asylum Applicants’ Narratives into Legal Discourses in the UK and France: A Comparative Study of Problems of Cultural Translation

This project studies the processes – and problems – of cultural translation involved when lawyers seek to convert asylum applicants’ accounts of persecution into legal language. It aims to assess the implications of these processes for the adjudicating of asylum claims in the two quite different national legal systems of France and the UK. How are asylum applicants’ experiences of persecution and migration represented in ordinary and formal legal languages?

  • What issues and problems of cultural translation arise in the conversion of asylum applicants’ narratives into legally-acceptable forms of discourse?
  • How is the effective legal representation of asylum applicants’ affected by problems of cultural translation and interpretation, and by ongoing changes in immigration and asylum law?
  • What is the impact upon British and French NGOs providing legal representation for asylum applicants

Professor Anthony Good, University of Edinburgh
The conversion of asylum applicants' narratives into legal discourses in the UK and France: a comparative study of problems of cultural translation

Subverting stereotypes: Asian women's political activism - a comparison of the Grunwick and Gate Gourmet strikes

‘Thirty years ago, the workers in a photo-processing plant in north west London – Grunwick’s – walked out in an industrial protest about low pay and exploitative conditions. The workers and the leaders of the industrial action were mainly women, and the majority of them first generation Asian migrants to the UK. This strike became an iconic example of Asian women’s political empowerment in post-war Britain. Led by Mrs Jayaben Desai, the press and other media of the time represented the strike in stereotypical terms: fragile Asian women in unfamiliar clothing, defying their upbringing, culture and husbands in pursuit of social justice. Thirty years later, almost identical imagery was used in the coverage of the Gate Gourmet strike, a strike by workers in a food preparation firm providing airline meals for flights from Heathrow.

The aim of this project is to explore the similarities and differences of the strikes in terms both of the ways in which they were represented, who was involved and with what consequences for their identities as both workers and Asian women in Britain.

Professor Ruth Pearson, University of Leeds
Subverting stereotypes: Asian women's political activism - a comparison of the Grunwick and Gate Gourmet strikes


Cultural Geographies of counter-diasporic migration: the second generation returns "home"

‘Within migration and diaspora studies, the second generation has unusually complex and ambiguous views of home, identity and ‘where they belong’. Moreover, their connection to the ‘homeland’ – where their parents were born and lived before they emigrated – has been little researched. Now, demographic data from various parts of the world with a history of postwar mass emigration (such as Greece and Cyprus) show that second-generation return is a growing phenomenon. This project, built around a comparative study of returning Greek-Americans, Greek-Germans and British-born Greek Cypriots, will shed new light on how diasporas, migration and identities are conceptualised and understood.
Another important context is the ‘migration reversal’ of Greece and Cyprus: from mass emigration in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (Greece mainly to North America and Germany, Cyprus mainly to the UK), to mass immigration since the 1980s (from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia). This confronts the returning second generation with a dramatically changing homeland.

Professor Russell King, University of Sussex
Cultural Geographies of counter-diasporic migration: the second generation returns "home"


Tuning in: diasporic contact zones at the BBC World Service

This project investigates intra- and cross-diasporic “contact zones” through the prism of BBC World Service: its programming, production processes, creative personnel and audiences. Contact zones are sites of transnational and cross-cultural encounter, spaces of creativity and representation, and fora of cultural dialogue and translation.

The World Service has long been “a contact zone” for diasporic (including exilic and refugee) artists, writers and intellectuals, providing them with a creative ‘home’ as well as political opportunities. Set up in 1932 as the Empire Service, it has provided a “home from home” for the worldwide British diaspora. Audiences for its 32 foreign language services (radio; internet; Arabic TV station planned for 2007) also include diverse diaspora populations. Surprisingly, little academic research exists on the historical and contemporary work of cultural brokerage and public diplomacy performed by BBCWS. This project plugs that gap.

BBCWS is in transition. After its Empire and Cold War phases, it is a less centralised global institution. Regionally devolved production involves negotiating issues of “fit” between local and diasporic values, and maintaining the key BBC brand value, “impartiality”. These issues often hinge on the politics of translation (particularly of controversial or culturally sensitive terminology as well as of genres and formats) which is one of the project themes.

Dr Marie Gillespie, Open University
Tuning in: diasporic contact zones at the BBC World Service


Fashioning diaspora space: textiles, pattern and cultural exchange between Britain and South Asia 1850s-80s, 1980s-2000s

‘South Asian’ clothing textiles have had an important presence in ‘British’ culture in both colonial and post-colonial times. At the height of British imperialism, ‘Indian’ textiles, patterns and techniques of printing and embroidery were both celebrated as part of the exhibition of colonised cultures and adopted as commercially successful inspirations for innovation in British fashion design and textile manufacturing. In a contemporary echo, today British-Asian fashion designers and aesthetics are being proclaimed as representative of a postcolonial cosmopolitan multiculturalism. Focusing on the periods of the 1850s to 1880s and the 1980s to the present day, and working with both the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the displays of fashion retailers and designers, this project compares these colonial and postcolonial forms, untangling their genesis, their cultural designations and translations, and their implications for wider British material and visual cultures and landscapes. (Photo copyright: Helen Scalway 2007)

Professor Philip Crang, Royal Holloway, University of London
Fashioning diaspora space: textiles, pattern and cultural exchange between Britain and South Asia 1850s-80s, 1980s-2000s


Home and away: experiences and representations of transnational South Asian children

This project seeks to explore the experiences of belonging, place and diaspora of South Asian children in East London, many of whose families retain close transnational links with their places of origin. Whilst the majority of children are likely to be Bangladeshi, the project will be open to all children whose families originate from the Indian sub-continent. A key element will be how these children (aged 8-13 years old) experience and represent ‘transnational lives’, whether this involves travel to ‘the homeland’, or being part of families and communities in which people constantly move. The research will pose important questions concerning the formation of cultural identity that move beyond models of ‘between two cultures’, or ‘hybridity’. The project will involve close collaboration with local community and arts groups and provide forums for children’s voices to be heard.

Dr Katy Gardner, University of Sussex
Home and away: experiences and representations of transnational South Asian children


Tate Encounters: British and Asian Identities, Britishness and Visual Culture

The project will produce in-depth case studies of how fifty first year undergraduate students and their families encounter Tate Britain and the National Collection of British Art over a two year period. The project will recruit family participation through first year undergraduate students at LSBU, who are the first generation of their family to attend higher education and whose family migrated to the UK over the passed three generations.
The project will develop new knowledge and understandings of how narratives of Britishness are contained, constructed and reproduced within the curatorial practices and collection of Tate and of how such notions are received and valued by different migrant and diasporic family members within the context of the active material/visual cultural practices of everyday life. From this encounter the project will develop new curatorial and educational perspectives relevant to wider and more culturally diverse audiences and will contribute towards cultural change within the Museum and Galleries sector.

Professor Andrew Dewdney, London South Bank University
Tate encounters: Black and Asian identities, Britishness and visual culture


Cityscapes Of Diaspora: Images And Realities Of London’s Chinatown

This eighteen month research project based at Middlesex University focuses on images of London’s Chinatown and the ways in which is it used by different groups, both Chinese and non-Chinese. The project explores images of Chinatown, its importance for different individuals and groups (both Chinese and non-Chinese) and the extent to which Chinatown ‘belongs’ to the Chinese community.  It is also aimed to produce information relevant to community organisations and other agencies providing services for Chinese communities. The project uses variety of methods, including interviews, ethnographic observation  a street survey and the collection of visual material to map the ways in which different groups use Chinatown the role it plays in the everyday lives of London’s diverse population.

Dr Rosemary Sales, Middlesex University
Cityscapes of diaspora: images and realities of London's Chinatown


Black Sea Currents: Migration and cosmopolitan dynamics in two post-Imperial cities, Odessa and Istanbul

This project compares the changing cosmopolitan dynamics and migration flows of two great port cities on the Black Sea - Odessa, Ukraine and Istanbul, Turkey. Both cities have been represented as 'cosmopolitan' in historical and contemporary contexts and extolled for their harmonious spirit and diversity. Yet, it is important to study critically the real underlying processes of urban formations and (post) Imperial cosmopolitan imaginaries.  The Ottoman Empire and Republican Turkey, not unlike Imperial Russia and the USSR, have a long history of uprooting and moving people around. Forced migration, internal exile and residence restrictions are facets of cosmopolitanism created by the authoritarian state.

Professor Caroline Humphrey, University of Cambridge
Black Sea Currents: Migration and Cosmopolitan Dynamics in Two Post-Imperial Cities, Odessa and Istanbul


From diaspora to multi-locality: writing British-Asian cities

The diverse local character and trajectories of the South Asian diaspora in Britain today is the product of post-war immigration from particular parts of India, modern Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as East Africa. Recognising that there is now an urgent need to reflect historically upon 60 years of this presence, the network will be the first to compare the changing dynamics of five British-Asian localities (Bradford, London's East End, Manchester, Leicester and Birmingham). It will examine how each presence has been ‘written’ by different constituencies in scholarly ethnography, novels and other forms of cultural production, as well as in the media and official reports.

Dr Sean McLoughlin, University of Leeds
From Diaspora to Multi-Locality: Writing British Asian Cities


Emotions and Human Mobility

This is the Ghanaian US-based artist George Hughes, while doing the art performance of "What you perceive is what you conceive". This took place on 9 February 2007 at the University of Belfast and was part of the conference "Migrant art, artefacts and emotional agency", which was funded by the "" workshop grant awarded to Dr Maruska Svasek, School of History and Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Queen's University, Belfast.

Dr Maruska Svasek, Queen's University, Belfast
Emotions and Human Mobility


Viking Identities Networks

The Viking Identities Network (VIN) is researching the implications of reconfiguring the Viking Age and its aftermath as a diaspora, with effects on ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural and genetic identities. The founders of the network are based at the Universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham, but its activities include a wide range of participants from Europe and North America.

Professor Judith Jesch, University of Nottingham
Viking Identities Networks


Afghan Music in London

Yusuf Mahmoud is from a celebrated family of hereditary musicians from Kabul, favours the more traditional genres of Afghan music, using the musical instruments characteristic of the country.  Timur Shaidaie is the grandson of the singer Ustad Sheida and is an outstanding vocalist specialising in ghazal, the major form of classical Persian poetry.

Veronica Doubleday, musicologist and writer, studied singing with Herat's foremost professional woman singer in the 1970s, Zainab Herawi. Matthaios Tsahourides is a virtuoso player of the Pontic lyra, a bowed lute originally from Asia Minor. John Baily, Professor of Ethnomusicology at Goldsmiths, studied the Afghan plucked lute called rubab in Kabul with Ustad Mohammad Omar, and later with Amir Jan Khushnawaz and his son Ustad Rahim Khushnawaz in Herat.

Belqiss Younusi, also from Kabul, is the UK's leading Afghan woman singer. In the early 1990s she performed a number of songs on Radio and Television Afghanistan, and her "Shawam Sadqa" was a big hit. The music of Belqiss represents the new Afghan music that was already developing in Kabul in the 1970s. It is associated notably with the singer Ahmad Zahir, who was one of the first to use an electronic keyboard. Najib Ebadi, Belqiss's brother plays drum machine and drum pads, a modern form of electronic percussion.

Professor John Baily, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Afghan music in London and its ongoing communications with Kabul and the Afghan Transnational Community


Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

This is an international Research Network which, under the leadership of Dr Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr Claudia Sternberg (University of Leeds) brings together ten researchers as well as filmmakers and representatives from the film and media industry and the cultural sector. The Network seeks to identify the numerous ways in which multi-cultural and multi-ethnic presences and themes have revitalised contemporary European cinema by introducing an eclectic mix of non-Western traditions and new genres. Over the past 25 years, European cinemas have been increasingly determined by multicultural and multiethnic presences and themes.  Critical paradigms which examine these cinemas in terms of their national specificity do not adequately address the shift from the national to the transnational which has been fuelled by the ongoing process of European integration and other geopolitical changes. These wider socio-political processes have meant that the concept of European identity and nationhood is becoming ever more contested and fluid. This is reflected in a growing number of films made by migrant and diasporic filmmakers which challenge traditional concepts of national identity and ‘Europeanness’.

Dr Daniela Berghahn, Royal Holloway, University of London
Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe


Ferham Families

Artefacts and narratives of migration: Rotherham Museum collections and the Pakistani/Kashmiri community of Rotherham, led by Kate Pahl of the University of Sheffield with Andy Pollard, researcher, Sheffield Hallam University, and Zahir Rafiq, visual artist, involves a collaboration between the Universities, Creative Partnerships, a museum, local families, a school, a Sure Start centre, and a visual artist. The project explores ways in which museum practices and the collection of artefacts within a museum are both upheld and disrupted through the presentation of an exhibition of identity narratives. The exhibition, at Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham, is scheduled for February 2007, and a web-based version is in the process of development at  For a discussion of the research process and its location in debates about museums and the narration of identities, see Working Paper 2 by Kate Pahl and Andy Pollard.

Dr Kate Pahl, Sheffield University
Artefacts and narratives of migration: Rotherham Museum collections and the Pakistani/Kashmiri community of Rotherham


The Impact of Lutheran Migration on Music in Australia

The project examines the impact of Lutheran migration on music in Australia. It looks at the import of German vocal traditions, both secular and sacred, through historic documents, study of contemorary Liedertafel cultural performances and church services and interrogation of the influence of Lutheran missions on indigenous music. The role of Lutheran institutions in shaping choral music in Australia will be examined by looking a ta selection of commissioned pieces. The works of three leading Australian composers with significant Lutheran connections, Andrew Schultz (b 1960) Graeme Koehne (b 1956) and Ron Nagorcka (b 1948) will be analysed in detail. The project is led by Dr Fiona Richards from the Music Department of the Open University.

"Crow Chorale" was written by Ron Nagorcka in 1995. It is part of the Secret Places suite and weaves together the sampled natural sounds of Tasmania and Nagorcka's Lutheran background in a mysterious and haunting peice of music. The forest raven, often called a cros in Tasmania, is an amazing microtonal singer and in this piece its song is extended in a chorale using baroque just intonation.

Dr Fiona Richards, The Open University
The Impact of Lutheran Migration on Music in Australia


Answering Exile: How Sudanese Refugees Deal with Displacement

The cultural dimension of refugees' experiences have until now been largely neglected in a literature that has focused on legal, technical and political questions. This project, led by Dr Tania Kaiser, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, focuses on some of the multiply displaced Southern Sudanese groups, who are now living in Uganda and in Sudan.

The project will investigate the relationships between places and the social and ritual activities performed there, and will ask questions about how people construct identities in these situations. In some refugee settlements, for example, great efforts are made to protect and perform certain important rituals, whilst others have fallen into disuse. Dr Kaiser will investigate the implications of this, and explore both memories of the past, and imagined futures, issues which areparticularly pertinent at a time when repatriation to the homeland is being actively considered.

Dr Tania Kaiser, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Answering Exile: How Sudanese Refugees Deal with Displacement


Black Spirits, White Saints

In Tunisia, descendents of slaves, migrants, pilgrims, and other members of the sub-Saharan diaspora developed a healing music called stambeli. From without, stambeli is understood as African, meaning non-Tunisian, sub-Saharan, and Other. From within, however, stambeli ritually negotiates the encounter between sub-Saharan and North Africa by invoking Black Spirits (sub-Saharan) and White Saints (North African), who heal and make their presence known through ritualised trance.Dr Richard Jankowsky's small grant will enable him to finalise his ethnomusicological fieldwork on stambeli for a monograph on music, spirit possession, and the geo-cultural imagination in North Africa, and to produce the first audio recordings of stambeli.

Dr Richard Jankowsky, School of Oriental and African Studies
Black Spirits, White Saints: Sub-Saharan Music, Spirit Possession and the Geo-Cultural Imagination in North Africa


The Spice of Life

We are often told that we are what we eat, but the consumption of food can be about much more than eating. By appealing to our senses of smell, taste and touch, food has the capacity to transport and connect us to other places and cultures. With the support of a small grant, Dr Ben Highmore, of the University of the West of England, is exploring how food practices also transcend national boundaries.

Since curry is regularly voted Britain 's most popular food, Dr Highmore will be concentrating on the example of Indian food in the UK since the Second World War. Building on existing research on food culture, he will also explore representations of food in modern popular culture, such as Little Britain , Goodness Gracious Me, and Monica Ali's 2003 novel, Brick Lane. By leading workshops in Canada and Australia , Dr Highmore hopes to establish an international network of research tackling food and Diaspora, and produce guidelines for future research into the sensual culture of Diasporas, Migration and Identities.

Dr Ben Highmore, University of the West of England
The Spice of Life: Migrating foods and the sensual experience of diasporic culture


Toleration and the public sphere

The issue of immigration is never far from the headlines, and one question in particular which is frequently debated is that of Britain as a multicultural society. There is undoubtedly an ever more diverse range of cultures living side-by-side in the UK , but it seems that political and legal structures are struggling to keep pace with this changing environment. The Government's decision to outlaw incitement to religious hatred, for example, raises questions about rights to freedom of expression.

Dr Gideon Calder, of the University of Wales , Newport , has received funding under the Networks and Workshops scheme to set up a series of workshops which will explore whether it is possible for Britain to embrace cultural difference in these political and legal structures, and so become a genuinely plural community. The workshops will take place around Britain and will each address a different theme, bringing together academics, officials, political lobbyists and members of cultural minority groups.

Dr Gideon Calder,University of Wales, Newport
Toleration and the public sphere

Back to top