Christiana Botic Fulbright-National Geographic Presentation

In this film, Christiana Botic shares her year in Serbia and Croatia. In it, she explores the relationship between migration and identity by discussing her own family’s history as well as the current refugee crisis. You can learn more about her work on the National Geographic Website and on her personal website.

Christiana Botic Fulbright-National Geographic Presentation from NGS Impact Media on Vimeo.

Research Update: “Navigating Chicagoland: Social Dynamics, Religion, & Mental Well-Being among Central Asian Muslim Immigrants”

by Natalia Zotova, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University

Natalia Zotova visiting a mosque at the American Islamic College

Migration the US creates a lot of opportunities, but also bring challenges. Navigating the new social and cultural environment is not easy. Migrants need to adjust and address different problems in their daily lives, which causes stress and has implications for health. What does it mean to be Muslim immigrant in the US? How does Islamic religious identity and observance shape life trajectories of new countries’ residents? What are the health implications of Muslim immigrants, and specifically of Central Asian natives?  The Global Mobility Graduate Research Grant gave me opportunity to address these questions by supporting my research in Chicago Metropolitan Area in September-November 2017.

Scholarship on religion and health indicate that stress among Muslim immigrants is intensified by experiences of discrimination, which negatively affects mental health. While studies on migration and health investigate stress, less attention is paid to the cultural context in which stress and coping occur. My research addressed the meaning and role of religion as a mediator of stress and mental well-being among Central Asian Muslim immigrants in Chicago Metropolitan Area. My work explored religious practices of Central Asian natives and culturally embedded stress responses through an ethnographic analysis of respondents’ narratives, completed with biological indicators of well-being (blood pressure, weight and height as secondary biomarkers of stress response), as well as self-administered mental health. That allowed to capture lived experiences of new immigrants to understand whether practicing Central Asian migrants have a stronger sense of mental well-being in the new social environment. During my time in Chicago, I conducted 5 informal expert interviews, 31 semi-structured interviews, as well as observations at mosques, Central Asian community gatherings and other social activities. The experts interviewed for this project included Central Asian community leaders and activists, academics at different universities of Chicago, as well as members of Muslim community centers.

Natalia Zotova with the head of Uzbek American Association of Chicago

While data analysis is in progress, some preliminary findings emerge. The influence of Islam differed between Central Asian immigrants due to the history of the region, development of Islamic communities and the secular pressures exerted by the Soviet Union and post-Soviet independence. While navigating new social environment, many informants became more religious during their stay in the US. Central Asians benefited from resources of Muslim communities, and settled in Chicago neighborhoods around other established Muslim groups. Connections with Turkish communities were of major importance. Central Asians were mainly not perceived as Muslims in their daily lives due to phenotype and lack of visual markers of religiosity (head scarf or beard). Practicing Muslims did not experience more discrimination than secular immigrants, unless they have visual markers of religious affiliation (head scarf or a beard). Major stressors producing adverse mental health outcomes were not religion-based. These stressors included migration-related factors such as insecurity, documentary status and work-related concerns. Recent immigrants (less than 3 years) had highest level of distress, which was likely to level up with the longer period of stay in the US.

A view of Chicago from Lakefront.

This study pointed at a negative association between religiosity and mental health disorders. Religion buffered stress, and moderated negative health implications among Central Asian immigrants by providing meaning and hope. At the same time, Islamic religious identity did not help Central Asian immigrants to bridge their way to mainstream American society. Visual markers of Muslim religious identity informed stress around experiences of marginalization and discrimination. Providing comfort as well as resources, Muslim identity informed segmented assimilation (Portes and Zhou, 1993) trajectories for Central Asian immigrants in Chicago Metropolitan Area. Culturally embedded and gendered stress responses, stigma around mental health disorders, as well as structural barriers to accessing health care services left mental health problems among Central Asian immigrants unaddressed. Chronic stress linked to migration and marginalization in the new country might severe immigrants’ health and lead to development of chronic diseases in the future.

Natalia Zotova gives a talk at the University of Chicago.

I was invited to share this projects’ preliminary findings and give a talk at the University of Chicago. The talk was sponsored by the Committee on Central Eurasian Studies, and brought together faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as guests from Central Asian communities. Aiming to give back to Central Asian communities that I studied, I made a presentation on my experiences and findings at the Uzbek American Association of Chicago. I gratefully acknowledge support from the Global Mobility Project, which allowed me to conduct fruitful research.

Natalia Zotova’s talk poster. The background theme is a photo of a Kyrgyz scarf, which she got as a gift at a Kyrgyz-Thai wedding

The Global Mobility Project Podcast

The Global Mobility Project Podcast invites scholars from the Humanities and Arts to discuss their research about migration and mobility.  The episodes are available on iTunes or by clicking on the links below.

Episode 4: A Chat with Tomislav Longinovic – On Monday, October 9, Yana Hashamova sat down with Tomislav Longinovic to discuss the migration of refugees through the Slavic route.  They also discussed how migrants make a new home in their destination countries.


Episode 3: A Chat with Peter Gatrell – On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, Dr. Theodora Dragostinova sat down with Dr. Peter Gatrell, Professor of History at Manchester University, to have a chat about migration, immigration, and repatriation in Europe. In the discussion, Dr. Gatrell discusses the value that arts and humanities can have in discussing and understanding migration, as well as what happens when citizens relocate because of war or economic reasons and then return to their home country.

brunnbauerEpisode 2: A Chat with Ulf Brunnbauer – On Tuesday, November 14, 2016, Dr. Theodora Dragostinova sat down with Dr. Ulf Brunnbauer, Professor of History of Southeast and Eastern Europe at the University of Regensburg, to have a chat about the other side of the migration debate, emigration and immigration in Europe. In the discussion, Dr. Brunnbauer discusses his work on the social history of the Balkans in the 19th and 20th centuries with a special emphasis in the historical genealogy and migration history.

sirkeci-2 Episode 1: A Chat with Ibrahim Sirkeci – On October 24, 2016, Dr. Jeffrey Cohen sat down with Dr. Ibrahim Sirkeci, Ria Professor of Transnational Studies and Marketing Regent’s University London, to discuss Turkey’s migrants and migrants from Turkey.  They also discussed the role of the arts and humanities in addressing the global challenges of migration, what it means to leave home, and how communities accept newcomers.

The Book of My Lives

by Lisa Beiswenger, PhD candidate in Anthropology, GAA for The Global Mobility Project

On Wednesday, October 11, I joined Dr. Dragostinova’s History 4650 class.  On this day, the class was visited by Tomislav Longinovic (University of Wisconsin), Scholar-in-Residence for The Global Mobility Project, to discuss Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives.  Both Longinovic and Hemon were born in Yugoslavia and watched from the United States as their homeland dissolved into war.

The students, Longinovic, and Dragostinova touched on many themes in their discussion.  After briefly explaining Longinovic’s personal journey to America, they discussed the value of memoir in providing a unique personal narrative that offers context to statistics and cold data that come along with global mobility and immigration.  This book provided the unique perspective of describing the experience of war vicariously through friends, family, and through the television screen.

Next, they discussed the atmosphere of Yugoslavia prior to the war.  Following World War II, Yugoslavia was set up as a federation of six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. Two autonomous provinces were established within Serbia: Vojvodina and Kosovo.  In the 1950s, Josip Broz Tito, Prime Minister of Yugoslavia (1953-1963) and later President for Life (1963-1980), was ejected from the communist block by Stalin.  Unlike Stalin, he believed that politics should not dictate aesthetics, and thus abandoned socialist realism which demanded that all writers and painters followed certain guidelines.  Yugoslavia allowed writers to write whatever they wanted.  Also in contrast to other countries in the Communist bloc, uncensored American movies were permitted, presenting audiences with additional perspectives.

In the 1960s, joint ownership of companies allowed foreign capital into Yugoslavia.  This and other economic reforms led to high unemployment forcing workers to leave the country to find other employment opportunities, leading to student demonstrations in 1968.

Throughout the following decades, revolution continued on the margins and became mainstream.  Young people were trying to present alternatives to Communism.  It was part of the youth subculture that moved as the culture changed.  These youths, took political symbols and played with them out of a desire to provoke without necessarily thinking about the consequences of toying with such powerful symbols.  One example was the band Laibach, an avant-garde music group which was part of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) collective.

Following Tito’s death in 1980, federal government was left unable to cope with economic and political challenges, including increasing nationalism and a demand for more autonomy by the republics within Yugoslavia.  In the early 1990s, Yugoslavia broke up along its republics’ borders leading to increased ethnic tensions and the Yugoslav Wars.

For both Hamon and Longinovic, watching the war from a distance took an emotional toll.  Footage from the war-torn country showed areas that should have been familiar but were left unrecognizable.  Ultimately, reading the account from Hamon and hearing the experience of Longinovic demonstrated how the past and present can meld together into multiple lives.

Research Update – Transit Migration in Europe: Methods and Dialogues

by Eleanor Paynter, PhD student in the Department of Comparative Studies


Prof. Luisa Passerini responding to a presentation Eleanor Paynter gave at the end of the seminar

For migrants crossing the Mediterranean and arriving to the southern regions of Sicily, Calabria, or Puglia, entering Italian space is, importantly, also both symbolic and legal entry into the European Union. I’m interested in how this arrival is, for many, not the end of a journey, but the beginning of a kind of limbo. How do migrants describe their experiences arriving to and waiting in Italy, for aid, visas, and the right to independent movement? How do these experiences intersect with or recall colonial history and the limited public awareness of that history? How do experiences of limbo influence migrants’ ideas about where they hope to settle, or about Europe more generally?

This summer I spent time in Central Italy exploring these questions through oral history interviews with recently arrived migrants who are at various stages of the processes of applying for asylum or other humanitarian visas. In fortuitous connection with this project, and thanks to a graduate student grant from the Global Mobility Project, I was also able to participate in the Summer Seminar “Memory, Visuality, Mobility,” held at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence and organized by oral historians Mary Marshall Clark and Luisa Passerini.

The seminar drew on work by both scholars. Mary Marshall Clark directs the Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts Program and the Rule of Law Oral History Project (see below). Luisa Passerini is the Principal Investigator of the project Bodies Across Borders: Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond (BABE), housed in the Department of History and Civilization at the EUI. The methodological approaches of BABE include interviewing migrants in Italy and the Netherlands. The seminar was organized around BABE’s multiple themes and methods, which sparked reflection and discussion on methodologies, in particular on incorporating visual tools into interviews and analysis, as well as on thinking about the context of a project in terms of archives. Our collective discussions of archives included scholarly work as well as visual and written narratives, movement, and sound. For BABE and for my own project, studying migration to Europe necessarily involves revisiting cultural archives, exploring and prompting understandings of the present as shaped by colonial histories. Approaching archives as changing, visual, living and lived constellations expands the possibilities of this kind of work.

Moving forward, my work on transit and limbo in migration has certainly been shaped by these experiences. The seminar’s focus on visuality addressed aspects of interviews and interpretation, from the visual aspects of language, to video art representing border crossing. In the oral history interviews I conducted after the seminar was over, I was more attuned to visuality. In walking interviews, for example, I paid attention both to the geographical itinerary, and to how the conversation between myself and an interviewee engaged the visual cues of our surroundings. A focus on on visuality and an attentiveness to the dissonant archives in which we work seem to me crucial for understanding experiences of limbo. I’ll close this reflection by sharing a few of the pieces and resources I found to be especially thought-provoking:


Note: Thanks to the Global Mobility Group for the opportunity to carry out this summer study. Funding for this project was also provided by the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, as well as through an OSU Global Gateway Grant.


“Zionist Vipers and Jewish Pseudo-Nationalists:” Anti-Zionism, Liberalism, and Slavophobia in Interwar Greece

Paris Papamichos Chronakis
University of Illinois at Chicago

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
214 Denney Hall
3:30-5:00 pm

Please note this event co-sponsored by the Global Mobility Project, together with the Departments of History, Classics, and History of Art.

Kathryn Metz – “Resilience in the Face of Exclusion: Refugees and Migrants on the Closed Balkan Route.”

Check out the latest blog post by Kathryn Metz from the Center for Slavic and East European Studies, OSU, “Resilience in the Face of Exclusion: Refugees and Migrants on the Closed Balkan Route.”

“What is left of the so-called Balkan Route? The path taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees in the summer of 2015 has been effectively closed off with border fences and increased police presence along the borders of Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia.

In 2015, the Western Balkan countries viewed themselves as a transit zone; the path that migrants took as they attempted to enter the European Union. However, with the closure of borders in 2016, tens of thousands have been trapped on the fringes of the European Union in the Balkans for over a year, and the possibilities for reaching Western Europe are increasingly limited.”

Read more on the Center for Slavic and East European Studies website.

Exhibit Shows Bhutanese-Nepali Refugees Living in Central Ohio

There are 20,000 Bhutanese-Nepali Refugees living in Central Ohio making this community one of the largest refugee communities in Columbus.  According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, “since the 1980s, roughly 80,000 of Bhutan’s ethnic Nepalese have resettled in the United States after the Bhutanese monarchy banned their Hindu religion, language and customs. Many others were jailed or killed, and still others were driven into exile after being forced to turn over their land and resources to the government.”

This exhibit, profiled in the Columbus Dispatch on May 11, presents the faces of 30 of our Bhutanese-Nepali neighbors and friends.  Each photograph, taken by Tariq Tarey, is accompanied by a narrative written by Doug Rutledge, which explains each individual’s history.  These photographs tell the story of the Bhutanese-Nepali refugees, their lives in Bhutan, their experience leaving, life in refugee camps, and their new life in Columbus.

The exhibit runs until Sunday, January 7, 2018 at the Ohio History Center; 800 E. 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211, Weds.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. Noon–5 p.m.  For more information, visit the Ohio History Center Website.


Waiting in Limbo: Life as a Refugee in Serbia

By Kathryn Metz

This article was originally published on Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
Published by the History Departments at The Ohio State University and Miami University


Graffiti outside of the Belgrade barracks.

I met Jamil in Subotica, Serbia, 15 miles from the Hungarian border. He had a sunken face and dark circles under his eyes. “If you saw my picture on Facebook, you would not recognize me,” he wearily told me. For three months he had been stuck in Serbia, and after nine failed attempts to enter Hungary, he was growing increasingly hopeless.

Jamil is from Swat, Pakistan, where he was pursuing a graduate degree in computer engineering. He left seven months ago because he was not religious enough for the Taliban, who had occupied his village. Fearing for his life, he left everything behind and departed for the European Union. All that stands in his way is the border fence spanning 109 miles along the Hungarian – Serbian border, restricting entry for Jamil and thousands of other refugees who remain trapped in Serbia.

Hungary completed its first razor-wire border fence in September 2015 as a response to the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees who irregularly entered the country that summer. The fortified border is not the only obstacle restricting irregular entry into the country. Hungary has also recruited over a thousand new border hunters deployed solely to remove anyone who enters Hungary illegally.

Continue reading here