by Joshua Truett, PhD Candidate Performance/History/Theory Department of Theatre & Sexuality Studies
Project Location (Summer 2017): Juchitán de Zaragoza and Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico
My mission as an artist/scholar is to create work that expands social discourse and instigates introspection about social and political issues. I was born in San Diego, less than twenty miles from the Mexican border. During my childhood in Southern California, I became fascinated by intersections: the places where peoples, cultures, and ideologies converge. This is reflected in my academic research and creative work, which is situated between the intersections of various art forms—prerecorded media and live performance, and the borders between theatre, dance and film.
My dissertation research focuses on a study of the festival performances of the indigenous populations of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. In particular I focus on the festivals, known as velas, in the Zapotec town of Juchitán de Zaragoza. During my third fieldwork trip to the city, I was part of a group of artists who began collaboration on a project to explore issues around borders and immigration. We were later invited by a local arts and educational organization, El Foro Ecológico Juchiteco, to use their community center for rehearsing and devising the production, which the Global Mobility Project grant helped to support in the summer of 2017. The artists involved in the project hail from the United States, Mexico, and Cuba. Together we have initiated an investigation into our collective experiences as migrants and border dwellers.
During our work over the summer we explored how borders and border crossings can be experienced not only physically, but also conceptually and spiritually. We began by asking how individuals navigate distances, mobility, and cultural clashes in fluid, creative, and productive ways that counter the common narratives constructed about migrants by politicians and mass media, especially in the United States and Europe.
These questions then contributed to a wider discussion of the challenges and opportunities created through national and transnational mobility, gaining insight into how these dynamics have affected our own individual lives and the communities we live in. The material we generated from our own experiences became the foundation for the original text and dance that we created during the workshop, which we plan to fuse with video and film as the project progresses. The performance we are creating will be multilingual, including Spanish, English, and Zapotec text.
At the end of our two-week workshop, we were challenged by the realties of creating a transnational collaborative project in which the collaborators involved live in four different cities, separated by thousands of miles. How do we continue the creative work when we are not together in the same place? What are the hurdles to collaborating in a digital rather than physical space? In the future, how can we sustain a tour of a performance with the challenges of visas, “travel bans,” and the high costs of touring? What is the best medium to contain and share our work, so that it can circulate most widely? We are still seeking answers to these and the other questions raised during our summer workshop.
A couple months after the workshop, in September of 2017, two massive earthquakes and numerous large aftershocks rocked the southern region of Mexico. The Isthmus and Juchitán de Zaragoza were hit especially hard, with over 100 deaths and countless numbers of buildings and other structures destroyed or damaged, including the complete leveling of a large section of the city hall, the palacio municipal. In a year that has witnessed so many natural disasters, the tragedy in Juchitán has gone under reported, and it has quickly faded from the headlines. However, the challenges faced by the inhabitants of the Isthmus persist and the need for aid and supplies is still urgent. Please consider donating to one of the organizations who are mentioned in this New York Times article.
This book may be of interest:
Editors introduce the collection of 11 accounts drawing on a rich base of field researches carried out by a multidisciplinary group of researchers on Syrians in Turkey. They argue “all in all, an accumulating body of theoretical and empirical evidence has shown us that there are changing dynamics affecting Syrian refugees’ presence in their destination countries.”
The collected volume includes contributions by H. Yaprak Civelek, Funda Ustek Spilda, Helen Macreath, M. Utku Güngör, S. Gülfer Sağnıç, Aslı Ilgıt, Fulya Memişoğlu, Tahire Erman, Güneş Gökgöz, Alexa Arena, Cansu Aydın, Bilge Deniz Çatak, Nagihan Taşdemir, M. Murat Yüceşahin, Ibrahim Sirkeci, K. Onur Unutulmaz, and Deniz Eroglu Utku.
Our friends at the Migration Studies Working Group has just announced a call for presenters for the 2nd Annual OSU Migration Studies Symposium
“WALLS AND PASSAGES”
Call for Presenters
The Migration Studies Working Group invites OSU graduate students and faculty, as well as Columbus-based community organizations and teachers, to send a proposal for a paper, or for a roundtable or interactive workshop, for our second annual Migration Studies Symposium, a full day event on Friday, March 2, 2018. Interventions may directly or indirectly connect to the theme “Walls and Passages”; they are interested in a variety of interpretations of and responses to this phrase. This interdisciplinary symposium will offer a forum for sharing and discussing a range of current work connected with migration experiences and migration studies. In curating this event, they welcome opportunities to collaborate and are especially interested in creating space for conversations that bridge community building, advocacy, teaching, and scholarly work.
Please send your 150-word proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org by Dec. 31, 2017.
If you would like to volunteer for this event, please contact the Migration Studies Working Group at the email address above.
In episode 9 of the Human Rights in Transit Podcast, Kathryn Metz (Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Slavic and East European Studies) and Eleanor Paynter (PhD student in the Department of Comparative Studies) discuss conditions of transit for migrants both outside and inside EU borders. What factors shape the journeys of migrants as they reach and attempt to enter the EU? How do migrants’ descriptions of their own experiences of transit complicate popular representations of migration to Europe? Their conversation draws on fieldwork observations and interviews from Summer 2017.
Visit here for more information, including additional resources to contextualize their conversation and some further reading: https://u.osu.edu/hrit/2017/11/27/hrit-podcast-episode-nine/
By Nikki Freeman, PhD Candidate in History
Displaced children and incomplete families were a major international concern among governments, nations, and humanitarian organizations in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. My dissertation studies the rehabilitation, care, and education of Jewish children after the Holocaust in Poland and the US Zone of Allied-occupied Germany. I specifically focus on children’s centers, orphanages, schools, and summer camps as transnational sites where competing relief organizations and Zionist youth movements aimed to influence the future of Jewish life on the local level. Thanks to funding from the Global Mobility Project, I was able to spend three weeks at the Center for Jewish History in New York City conducting archival research for my dissertation.
During my time at the Center for Jewish History, I was particularly interested in learning more about Jewish infiltree children. In 1946, the US Zone in Germany received an influx of Jewish refugees, known as “infiltrees,” who fled from postwar antisemitism in Eastern Europe. I read one archival report that estimated that 76,924 infiltrees entered the US Zone between June and November 1946. Of that number, 13,878 were children. It is important to note that the majority of Jewish infiltree children were from Poland. Their wartime experiences can be divided into three categories. The largest group were children who fled with their parents to central Soviet Union or western Ukraine in September 1939. Then at the end of 1939 or early 1940, they were transported to Siberia. The second group were Polish Jews who lived in the area invaded by the German army in September 1939, but then were ceded to the Soviet Union and occupied by the Red Army. Finally, the third group were Jews who could not escape and stayed in Poland. Some were sent to ghettos and concentration camps while others hid on the Aryan side or in the woods with partisans.
In 1946, approximately 2,458 unaccompanied infiltree children entered the US Zone usually in kibbutz groups. They were organized under the care of youth leaders known as madrichim. Each kibbutz had its own political, social, and religious philosophies and teachings. They came to Germany with the intention of eventually immigrating to Palestine. The Child Welfare Division of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) accepted responsibility for providing care for unaccompanied Jewish infiltree children in the US Zone. They coordinated with the Jewish Agency for Palestine, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Central Committee for Liberated Jews. Archival documents suggest that this was not an easy task, and they encountered many problems.
For example, many unaccompanied infiltree children were not orphans. In fact, many had one or even both of their parents. Jewish families gave up their children to kibbutzim for many reasons. Unaccompanied children received better care and provisions, and they were given priority to leave Poland sooner. Once they reached the US Zone, they temporarily stayed at a reception center and then transferred to a more permanent children’s center. According to one report by Susan Pettis (child infiltree officer of UNRRA), this caused further problems because when the families learned that their children were not going to move immediately through Germany, they began appearing at centers to claim the children as their own. Pettis wrote that the Jewish children experienced emotional conflict because they had become attached to the kibbutz. It was also difficult to prove the relationship between the child and relative. In other cases, these children were under a lot of pressure from the Zionist youth movements and did not really want to go to Palestine. UNRRA had to intervene and remove the child in these particular situations because they believed “a child’s wishes should be recognized.” My larger project exposes tensions between these competing organizations and youth movements that all claimed to have the child’s best interests in mind.
Receiving the Global Mobility Project grant allowed me to finish an essential portion of my doctoral research in the US, and now I am able to focus on my archival research in Europe. I look forward to sharing my research in the near future at academic conferences.
by Carolin Mueller, PhD student in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University
The recent influx of refugees to Germany lead to renewed discussions of how the “integration” of ethnically diverse actors is understood, practiced, and organized in German host communities, where national identities are highly contested. In 2014 PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), a nationalist, anti-Islam, far-right protest movement, emerged in Dresden, and caused a range of debates about the social inclusion of migrants. In response to nationalist claims, NO-PEGIDA counter-protest engaged in the cross-lingual and cross-cultural production of art to explore coping mechanisms for the impacts of global mobility. This summer I spent time in Dresden, exploring one of the most significant examples of this development, the musician collective “Banda Internationale” to understand the impacts of their efforts on community-building through the arts.
My research was guided by questions such as: What spaces were made available to migrants through community engagement through music? What impact did incoming band members have on intergroup interactions? What forms of artistic expression were explored, developed, or merged? And, what passageways does music offer to come to terms with culturally-different forms of expression?
These questions helped me reflect on the recorded concerts. At the TFF in Rudolstadt in July, the opening performance allowed me to observe how the instrumentalists occupied spaces for individual and ensemble performances:
The qanun interrupts the cheering by quickly clicking on the high notes. While it carefully sounds out the distances of the concert space, the kalimba joins trotting out of the silence in deep tunes.
The kalimba hits different tones.
How far does it travel?
Deep electronic outcries,
People pouring in,
And sonic signals reflected from the body of the audience.
The drumsticks interrupt.
An attempt to disturb the kalimba’s melancholic journey?
There is not much time to further think about this question. The saxophone begins to breathe deeply: in and out, long and deep. The cymbals are slightly brushed. the breath is deepened even more.
The qanun jumps back in, tickling the saxophone.
back and forth
sounding the chirping of crickets, while the saxophone breathes on.
As the saxophone feels out the concert space, the other instruments seem to be jumping over the heads of the people in the audience who are standing or bouncing their bodies to the sound.
The rattle sets in
The bass drum gets louder.
As the frequency of the sound augments, the drum sets in. The niches taken up by the individual instruments get smaller and smaller. I feel overwhelmed by the clicking and the clacking, the breathing, and the ambience of the space filling with a range of different instrumental voices. I hear the qanun and rattle chasing each other around my ears, flying of the stage, through the branches of the trees and back. Their run is interrupted by the dark and slow bouncing of the saxophone, which tries to calm the lively crowd. But the drum does not want to have that and protests the saxophone stomping loudly. In response to the competing voices at play, the tuba takes charge of the chaos and announces the starting point for the remaining orchestral body that has been quietly observing from the back.
Thanks to a graduate student grant from the Global Mobility Project, and the felicitous connection that I was able to establish to the Banda, I observed and recorded their performances at twenty concerts, conducted seven interviews with different band members, and attended several band practices to gain a better understanding of their work and community. Focusing my data collection on their performances, my analysis of the visual and audio material explores the interactions between performers, instruments, and their environment, the stage. Our conversations were often centered on how the instruments were able to communicate, which involved re-developing ways of communication among performers through different languages and play. Making music together stands as the primary goal for the band project, and allows for gateways to address questions of the inclusion of different voices at different stages of interaction.
I was invited to share this project’s preliminary findings at the Midwest Modern Languages Association Conference in Cincinnati. The conference, themed “Artists and Activism”, brought together faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as artists to discuss the connections between arts-based expressions and social change. In a co-sponsored effort by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, the School of Music and the Undergraduate Studies Committee in AAAS, I was able to arrange an artist exchange with Banda member Ezé Wendtoin who will be visiting Ohio State University March 18 – April 4 2018. By bringing Mr. Wendtoin to the Ohio communities, we hope to explore further impact of this project’s activist objectives in sharing their ways of community-building through the arts.
Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité presents A Drop of Midnight: Musical meditations on race, culture and identity.
Co-sponsored by the Global Mobility Project, Office of International Affairs, African American and African Studies, Comparative Studies, Germanic Languages and Literatures, Ethnomusicology Program.
Date: Tuesday, November 14, 1:00-2:30
Location: Enarson, room 160
On Tuesday, November 14th, 2017, at 1:00-2:30pm The Global Mobility Project will be hosting a roundtable on “Research Methodologies in the Study of Global Migration.” The discussion will feature OSU faculty members Yana Hashamova (Slavic), Robin Judd (History), Hannah Kosstrin (Dance), Arati Maleku (Social Work), Elizabeth Morgan Fitzgerald (Nursing/Latina/o Studies), and Ryan Skinner (School of Music/AAAS) and will be moderated by Theodora Dragostinova (History).
Please email email@example.com with any questions. Light refreshments available.