Notes from the field. Faces, Places & Spaces.
Exploring Migration in All it's Forms
Published November, 2021
MIGRANT JOURNAL explores the circulation of people, goods, information, but also fauna and flora, around the world and the transformative impact they have on space. While migration is part of humanity’s genesis, it seems the phenomenon has become ubiquitous, happening faster, with complex ramifications. MIGRANT aims at exploring the relationship between these elements, events, journeys and spaces bound under the idea of ‘migration’ in all its forms, crucial to understand today’s society. In order to break from the prejudices and clichés on migrants and migration, MIGRANT asks artists, journalists, academics, designers, architects, philosophers, activists and citizens to rethink our approach to migration and critically explore the new spaces it creates. We sat down with Justinien Tribillon, Editor Migrant Journal to discuss the immense task of creating a journal centered on inclusivity.
I think ISSUE 5 - MICRO ODYSSEYS was uncannily prescient. What would an issue of MIGRANT journal look like in a post-pandemic world?
A lot of people told us to do a special "pandemic" issue! We floated the idea but decided against it. This pandemic probably calls for a new format, a new ethos too. And the previous issues have already brought a lot of elements to the discussion around the circulation of viruses and bacteria, and specifically our fifth issue as you mention. This "post-"pandemic era (will we ever go past it, or will we learn to live with it?) brings a lot of interesting aspects to the fore: like, we're all about papers, but bookshops have been shut for months, book fairs are all suspended, and when museums or galleries will open again you will not be allowed to touch anything. Book fairs, bookshops, all of these have been so important for us, it's hard to imagine the magazine without them.
There are so many difficulties associated with living a life in exile and of the psychological and practical complexity inherent in the act of abandoning one’s country and starting a new life elsewhere. I know this is hard to gauge but do you think Journals such as yours help create a dialogue between migrants and ‘natives’ in a way that makes clear the importance of respect and humanity within our international landscape?
With this project we really wanted to embrace all conditions of exile, migration, hybridity, multiple identities, nationalities, lives across countries and continents. We wanted it to be a platform, a space for everyone to engage with. As a platform, it's an open space for discussion. But we also know that as a magazine, published in English, we are leaving a lot of people out. To achieve inclusiveness you need to be proactive, you need to work towards it and that would probably mean partnering with local organistions, community groups, NGOs, etc. It's an immense task to get involved in, and it's not something we have found time to do. But the magazine is there, open by nature.
Culture is a by-product and actual coping mechanisms of displaced people who, in the process of migration, experience a traumatic event. Sometimes the result of this trauma births beautiful creations such as art, writing, music, etc. (you cover the creolization of culture in ISSUE 6) What are some sub-cultures that you covered in the journal that you were surprised to discover but make total sense given their context?
That is the great thing about being an editor, and inviting contributors in open call. People come to you with so many great stories, that you wouldn't have heard otherwise. I think two of the great stories of hybridisations that I particularly loved over those six issues of MJ are for instance, Jesse Connuck's take on what the American army leaves behind when it occupies or invades a country, for instance the influence on Korean cuisine. I also found fascinating the stories we published in MJ No. 4 about the Saramaca, one of the six Maroon peoples in the Republic of Suriname and French Guiana. The video stills by Yeb Wiersman were paired with two poems by Ishion Hutchinson.
I think the non-linear nature of the migrant experience is a recurring theme in the journal. While physical migration may be seen as finite in the sense that it begins at a specific place and point in time and ends at another, the psychological ramifications underlying migration, which include trauma (both as a cause and consequence of migration), memory, and the feelings of guilt, regret, and loss, represent a constant, never-ending reminder of the past and render migration crucial. Do you think if Brexit supporters were empathetic to this point, there would be different outcomes?
I have given up understanding what's going on in Brexit supporters' minds! But what I find really interesting is that we could say that some migrant cultures and Brexit are animated by the same nostalgia for a fantasied past — that may be a distant land, or a distant time. This might be especially true for second, or third generation immigrants — the way you perceive your roots, the way you imagine the place you come from. Well, Brexit supporters have the nostalgia for the British Empire, Churchill, for a simpler world that could be separated between "good" and "bad"... It might be that with their votes they genuinely thought they could go back in time and be reunited with the "good old days." Well, I think even the most ardent Brexit supporters are now realizing their vote won't act as a time machine.