A report on the international workshop “Men and Migration in contemporary Europe”

plakatBetween the 9th and 10th of June 2016 a group of social science scholars from multiple disciplines such as sociology, law, political science and gender studies from Sweden, the United States, Poland, Estonia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy gathered at the Centre for European Studies at Gothenburg University (CERGU) to participate in an international workshop titled “Men and Migration in contemporary Europe”.  The workshop was organised by me and my colleagues from CERGU and was generously sponsored by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

Together with the audience, the event gathered more than 40 participants with a deep interest in men and migration issues. The main objective of the international workshop was to strengthen interdisciplinary discussion on men and migration studies centred on the multidimensional and intersectional aspects of male experiences and identities, migrant men’s practices, their roles in their host societies and public perceptions of them. The workshop participants therefore addressed the issues of migrant men’s vulnerability, discrimination (in the labour market, state institutions and in the public sphere), the impact of migration on gender equality, different types of masculinity models represented among migrant men and, last but not least, fatherhood models.

Another objective was to provide an opportunity for scientific reflection, update, and creativity in order to support the advancement of theoretical development and strategies on how to answer the most burning questions about the most adequate methods for researching masculinities and migration. Other key issues that were explored during the workshop included:

(a) chances and obstacles in merging the critical studies on men and masculinities perspective with migration scholarship

(b) the main trends in men and migration scholarship within European academia

(c) how to reshape often stereotype-based public perception of migrant men and masculinity

The workshop was divided into five panels over two days and included a roundtable discussion aimed at exploring the workshop’s main findings as well as pointing out not only future directions in men and migration research but also further research cooperation between the workshop participants and their institutions.

13413705_10154203877079350_8812560000364560695_nThe first panel, titled “Men and Migration – Theoretical and Methodological Challenges” and chaired by professor Ulf Mellström from Karlstat University, was opened by CERGU director Linda Berg and yours truly, who briefly introduced the main ideas behind the workshop’s organisation. This introduction was followed by the first keynote speech, given by Jeff Hearn, Professor at Hanken School of Economics, Örebro University and University of Huddersfield. In an one hour lecture entitled “Where have the men gone? The understated history and significance of migration in critical studies/politics of men and masculinities”, Hearn reconstructed the development of the migration question in critical men and masculinities studies, introduced recent trends in conceptualisation of the issue, and argued that migration is today central in terms of historical development and theoretical significance in critical men and masculinities studies.

13413637_10154203877044350_1735089683293212394_nThe second keynote speaker, Professor Pierrette Hondagneu – Sotelo from the University of Southern California, in the lecture entitled “Men, Migration, Masculinity and Place: Immigrant Integration and Homemaking”, explored what kinds of masculinities are welcomed and what kinds are rejected in societies. She started by analysing contemporary media and political discourses and continued with the presentation of her current research on Latino immigrant men’s homemaking strategies. Moreover, Hondagneu – Sotelo argued that immigration sociology should go beyond dominant paradigms of assimilation and transnationalism, that men and masculinities issues should be brought back into gender and migration scholarship, and that men should be analysed as actors with gendered, intersectional social locations imbued with both masculine privilege and social marginality.

The following panel focused on discussing the fatherhood and family lives of migrant men of non-European origin. The panel “Migrant Fathers, Husbands and Workers in Europe and Beyond” was chaired by Gabriella Elgenius from the University of Gothenburg and was begun by Melanie Griffiths from the University of Bristol, who discussed migrant men’s emotional lives based on the analysis of in-depth interviews with UK-based precarious male migrants and their British citizen or EEA national partners. The theme was 13394193_10154213552920699_7141806713117364472_ncontinued by Katharine Charsley from the same university, who explored the utility of men and masculinities studies in analysis the experiences and expectations around remitting for Pakistani migrant husbands in Britain. Finally, Michael Tunc from the University of Wuppertal presented the development and importance of a critical, intersectional approach to studies on fathering and father engagement programmes in Germany. The panel was concluded by Öncel Naldemirci from the University of Gothenburg, who raised the issue of non-normative migrant men’s experiences in the contexts of family life and intimacy.

Fatherhood issues were further explored at the third panel, “Fathering Practices and Intra-European Migration”, chaired by Andrea Spehar from the University of Gothenburg. Oksana S. Green, from the same institution, presented in this panel based on her qualitative research on Polish, Latvian and Romanian migrants in Sweden. She explored how care arrangements of migrating parents, especially fathers, are configured by institutional contexts in both the sending and receiving countries. Jagiellonian University representative Paula Pustulka then looked at Polish migrant men, analysing the variety of (gendered) social roles that are assigned to them and their strategies for coping with often conflicted identities and expectations. Finally, Marion Pajuments from Tallinn University focused on Estonian male migrants to ‘Old Europe’ who spend most of their time in the domestic realm as caring fathers and supportive spouses to their wives, who are meanwhile advancing their professional careers abroad. The panel closed with feedback from Julia Kubisa, sociologist from the University of Warsaw and the University of Gothenburg, who discussed the specificity of the Central Eastern European gender regime and its impact on the specificity of masculinity identities and work and family life strategies used by migrant men from the region.

On the second day, during the panel chaired by Amy Alexander from the University of Gothenburg titled “Men, Sexualities and Migration”, Sheeren al Feki from Promundo discussed the timely issue of migrant men and sexuality. Based both on the results of her previous research on sexuality in the Middle East region (published in the bestseller Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World), and on the primary results of her current research project “IMAGES MENA, the International Men and Gender Equality Survey Middle East and North Africa”, Sheeren analysed Arab men’s attitudes regarding sexuality, gender roles and gender equality. Sexuality was also the leading issue of the following paper given by Giuseppe Massulo from the University of Salerno, who focused on non-heterosexual migrant men from Morocco and Tunisia living in Italy. The panel closed with Katarzyna Wojnicka’s comments on the necessity of incorporating the theoretical frameworks developed within critical men and masculinity studies into research on migrant men and sexuality.

13413519_10154783301505616_4250279087251793766_nAt the final panel, entitled “Men, Masculinities and Migration in the Transnational Perspective” and chaired by Jonathan Polk from the University of Gothenburg, Alexandra Bousiou from the same university focused on the burning issue of the recent refugee flows to Greece. In her paper she presented not only a critical reading of “The Common European Asylum System”, but also analysed the composition of the flows in terms of gender, age and family composition and the corresponding representation of this data in the discourses of the different actors. Next, Agnieszka Trabka from Jagiellonian University spoke about a variety of masculine identities and strategies of constructing and managing such identities by young, highly skilled, transnational single migrant men belonging to the so called “third culture kids” group. Finally, Ulf Mellström looked at the gender (and masculine) politics of eduscapes. The panel ended with Katarzyna Wojnicka’s feedback, where she stressed the importance of class and class-analysis in research on men and migration.

13393926_10154203877104350_9102862057413663833_nThe closing event of the workshop was a roundtable discussion conducted by the workshop organiser. During the intense debate, workshop participants summed up the main findings, planned the publication of a double special issue focused on men and migration in NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies that will be out in Spring 2017 and discussed the future directions in men and migration research and possible research cooperation. Summing up, the workshop opened the door for collaborative work across disciplines and an international research group studying men and migration has been established to facilitate the sharing of research and future collaborations.

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