Author: Agata Lisiak

Positive Negatives

Positive Negatives, founded by Benjamin Dix, brings social and humanitarian issues to light through the production of animations, comics and podcasts. They integrate ethnographic research with illustrations and adapt life-stories into art. Their methodology consists of direct collaboration with the participants, by travelling to meet them face-to-face and interviewing them about their personal experiences. They then spend time immersed in the local culture to further understand the context and to take photographs which will later be given the artists as references. Once the drafted script receives the approval of the participant – who may choose to remain anonymous for safety reasons – the script and references are passed to the artist. The final result is then released as widely as possible, as a way to reach the general public globally and showcase the personal stories behind everyday headlines. One of their most recent works is North Star Fading, the story of four Eritrean refugees who dangerously crossed Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya to reach Europe. The animation is a consistent zoom into the path ahead of them. The illustrations, alongside the audio and voice over, cause the viewer to feel absorbed and hypnotised, tasting a small portion of the overwhelming confusion and terror these testimonies share.

Cheewit nay Israel

Cheewit nay Israel is a web series produced by Matan Kaminer, GLV Productions and the Israeli workers’ rights organisation Kav La’oved. Within the series, Kaminer and his co-host Adi Bachar from Kav La’oved, provide answers to the many questions of Thai migrant workers who come to Israel to search for employment. These migrants take on the labour of a great portion Israel’s agricultural sector, and due to linguistic and cultural barriers, they are made vulnerable to isolation and the violation of their legal rights. What started as a light-hearted approach to spreading information became a mission when, after the release of the first episode, dozens of concerning enquiries came through. Thai workers had sent a range of pressing questions, varying from issues regarding wages, contracts, and changing employer, to the legality of requiring workers to take on non-agricultural related tasks. To further the understanding of these workers’ conditions, Kaminer began interviewing them, although he found that through Facebook it was easier to get more authentic responses. As a result, Kaminer and his production team, have continued the production of episodes to provide useful and relevant answers to the many concerns of Thai workers in Israel. Please find more details here.

Building Bridges

Building Bridges is a project which focuses on storytelling through the use of outdoor theatre, crafts and puppetry. This project is run by Creating Ground CIC, a non-profit organisation founded by Laura Marziale in 2016. This organisation promotes cross-cultural awareness through educational programs and collaborative arts. In this project, the participants are groups of asylum seekers, refugees and migrant women, who work alongside the moderators. Throughout the first half of their process, they explore the themes of “home” and “journey” and they develop their drama and puppetry skills. These activities take place over the course of 16 weeks, in collaboration with Theatre Témoin. As a result, the participants have enough material to structure their final performance. The participants discuss the mediums of their storytelling before each session through the guidance of the moderators – all discussions are recorded. Through these discussions it is key to tackle the type of story they want to tell, what kind of character they want to tell it through and what “home” represents for everyone. The by-product, in this case, was a puppet named Nja, who represented a citizen of the world through the physical attributes they chose for her – such as jewellery, a head wrap and also make up. The outcome of the participants’ work was showcased at the Greenwich Family Arts Festival in June 2019.

The Sex Worker Zine Project

The Sex Worker Zine Project is a publication featuring the stories of 24 women, men and transgender individuals, who live and sell sex across several South African provinces. The aim of the project was to generate material produced by migrant sex workers to challenge the stereotypes around their nationality and occupation. The Zines reveal stories of migration, trajectories into sex work, and other aspects of life that were important to the participants. Many of the stories shed light on the experiences of selling sex and being discriminated for their job. Funded in 2015 by the Open Society Foundation and Wellcome Trust, the project was conducted by Elsa Oliveira and Jo Vearey through MoVE over the course of two weeks. During the first week, participants took part in the multimodal visual and narrative exercises, such as storytelling and art making. Throughout the second week, participants selected either a story or a theme to focus on with the support of peers and facilitators. The end result is a collection of beautifully assembled zines that can be found here. MoVE explores the ways in which research can be co-created between participants and researchers, to give migrant persons an option to create their own representations to share with public audiences.

Migration Museum

The Migration Museum presents exhibitions and events which explore themes of integration, migration, and the identities of the people who migrate from and to Britain. The range of their methods and activities vary greatly, from multi-disciplinary storytelling approaches, to the use of visual medias, such as film, photography, and performing arts, to more alternative ways of engaging with the public, such as their annual Imprints fundraising walks across London, in which the walkers can explore the migration history of the city. The Migration Museum has staged several successful exhibitions, such as: 100 Images of Migration, a collection of photographs which tell the story of migrants in the UK and what their experiences means to them; Call Me By My Name, a multimedia exhibition identifying the complexity of the migration crisis; and No Turning Back, an exploration several stories of migration which have changed the course of Britain’s history. The Migration Museum provides a vast range of educational programs as well, including workshops, teaching resources and partnerships. Their educational materials are based on the themes explored in exhibitions. All materials are downloadable and are provided across the UK to primary, secondary and university students. The Migration Museum aims to bring studies of migration to the school curriculum and to expand their audiences beyond BAME communities, migrants and refugees, reaching those of a lower socio-economic background and those with a less positive attitude towards migration.

Sexhum: Migration, Sex Work, and Trafficking

Led by Nicola Mai, the SEXHUM (Sexual Humanitarianism: Migration, Sex Work and Trafficking) project studies the correlation between migration, sex work, and trafficking in the global sex industry, as well as the impact of anti-trafficking and other humanitarian and social interventions targeting migrant sex workers in strategic urban settings in Australia, France and the United States. SEXHUM’s aim is to analyse migrants’ experiences of agency and exploitation, as well as producing new data reflecting the perspectives of migrants working in the global sex industry. The project seeks to ensure that more efficient and ethical policies and social interventions are developed to address sex workers’ needs. The methodology for this research draws upon several qualitative methods, particularly art-science ethnographic filmmaking. Research participants partake in the ethnographic film making to narrate their realities and to address the relational and performative dimensions of their experiences. This methodological approach was adopted to ensure that all intersubjective dimensions of the individual were covered by the research team. Furthermore, ethnographic film-making has been used to explore how the sex workers’ understandings of agency and exploitation have emerged and evolved along the migration experience.

MoVE (Methods: Visual: Explore): Marginalized Migrant Populations and the Use of Visual and Narrative Methodologies in South Africa

The MoVE project was founded in 2013 by Elsa Oliveira and Jo Vearey at the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. MoVe is a repository for innovative visual and narrative research showcasing the subjective realities of migrants in southern Africa. MoVE’s approach seeks to incorporate social action and research by engaging migrant participants, local social movements and students in participatory work through photography, narrative writing, participatory theatre, and collages to produce research on migration. These participatory approaches encourage the narration of migrants’ lived experiences whereby the recording of each storytelling becomes an ‘artefact’ that can be shared with diverse audiences through MoVE. MoVE specifically includes innovative research that can facilitate increased insight into the complex lived experiences of migrants and communities and actively promotes partnerships created with inter-represented migrant communities. MoVE believes in the importance of participatory research to inform advocacy projects.

Little Portugal: Stories of Portuguese speakers living in London

The Little Portugal Project is an activist London-based project led by Ana Có and Carolina Mesquita. The aim of the project is to represent the diverse voices of the Portuguese-speaking community in London including those of African and Latin American descent. Through videos, photographs, and other visual content, the Little Portugal Project explores the stories of Portuguese-speakers in Stockwell, an area in the Borough of Lambeth in South London known as Little Portugal. Migrants in this area have created a community where Portuguese businesses are managed by the migrants themselves, offering everything from traditional dishes to Portuguese-made products. The Little Portugal Project actively enables the subjective experiences of Portuguese speaking migrants to be heard. The use of visual media is effective in capturing the experiences of Portuguese speaking migrants and depicting their work trajectories, which can function as possible role models for other migrants. Video interviews featured by the Little Portugal Project are produced at a professional standard and successfully capture the worldviews of these migrants who are largely unrepresented in the media and in accounts about London in general. The visual methodology in this research enables interviews to become personal and intimate, allowing the embodied experience of these migrants to be communicated meaningfully to a larger audience.

The Last Country – Migration, Gender, and Inclusion in Durban

The Last Country is an immersive 50-minute theatrical production. The script was created using 30 oral histories collected by migrant women fieldworkers in the city of Durban, South Africa. The oral histories consist of 10 stories from women requesting asylum seekers permits, 10 from women who have obtained various kinds of entry visas, and 10 stories from South African women who have come from surrounding rural areas to live one of the “hostels” in the city centre. Sitting in a circle with the actors the audience intimately listens to experiences of leaving home and arriving in Durban, where the women find various strategies in which to make the city a place something like home. The script carefully weaves together experiences of struggle, pain, humour, hope and resilience in ways that explore the complexities, commonalities and differences of migrant women in the city. The play was performed around the city for both city officials and at public venues. The Last Country is part of a broader research and advocacy project, funded by the Cities Alliance, titled Migration and the Inclusive City. This project is a collaborative partnership between two civil society organisations, the Democracy Development Program and the African Solidarity Network, and the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology. The research produced creative public engagement outputs, such as The Last Country, as well as a strategic research reportfor the city on inclusion, gender and migration in Durban.

Researchers: Kira Erwin (Durban University of Technology), Nomkhosi Gama (Durban University of Technology), Jeremy Grest (Transformation Journal); Theatre practitioners: Mpume Mthombeni and Neil Coppen; Partners: Democracy Development Program and the African Solidarity Network

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Cities for girls, boys, and everyone else

RC21 2018, Delhi, September 18-21, 2019

P4: Cities for girls, boys, and everyone else

This session is an invitation to revisit the popular slogan “cities for people, not for profit” with a specific focus on urban youth. Rather than speaking about youth generally, however, we propose to explore the gender aspects of young people’s access to the city and their sense of belonging. We model our approach on feminist interventions into the Lefebvrian notion of the right to the city (Fenster, 2005; Vacchelli and Kofman, 2018), which propose to understand everyday life as “the mediator of rights underpinning the usage of urban space to its fullest extent” (Beebeejaun, 2017: 327) and insist on taking into the account how said rights are shaped by “patriarchal power relations, which are ethnic, cultural and gender-related” (Fenster, 2005: 217). With this session we aim at overcoming the polarity between viewing urban space as necessarily disabling or enabling for various genders (Bondi and Rose 2003) and seek to draw attention to the complex dynamics in which urban belonging is negotiated through daily practices (Lisiak 2018).

The papers featured in the session will discuss the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, age, and citizenship in the processes of minoritization of the urban youth, going beyond the ever-present heterosexual binarisms. Recognizing that with its focus on urban girlhood or urban boyhood research reproduces gender binaries and thus further silences the experiences of non-binary urbanites, we invite contributions that critically propose a revision of the dominant strands of the research on urban youth, going beyond its binarisms and thus rendering our understanding of urban social worlds more complex and inclusive.

We invite contributions from urban sociology, geography, migration studies, criminology, gender studies, queer studies, cultural studies, and other related fields. We encourage approaches engaging with the intersections of class, race, gender, sexuality, migration status, citizenship, etc. and welcome papers that make use of non-conventional research approaches to address the dynamics of belonging in cities across the world.

We encourage contributions that engage with one or more of the following topics:

  • Criminalization of minoritized youth
  • LGBTQ youth and the right to the city
  • Migrant and refugee youth and the city
  • Nationalist youth and belonging
  • Social media activism and the right to the city

If you are interested in joining this panel, please email your 300-word abstract and a short bio to the panel convenors Elena Vacchelli ( and Agata Lisiak ( by 20 January 2019.