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The Power of Narratives: Demarcating Belonging with New Approaches

16 May 2016 @ 9:00 am – 17 May 2016 @ 2:00 pm Europe/Rome Timezone
Conference Room, Villa La Fonte
Via delle Fontanelle
18, 50014 Fiesole FI
Valentina Bettin

Co-funded by GGP and Max Weber Programme

Organisers : Aitana Guia and Julija Sardelić | Max Weber Fellows EUI

“Stories are wondrous things. They can also be dangerous” said Cherokee-Greek-American writer Thomas King in his renowned Massey Lectures ‘The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative’. 

This workshop explored how narratives are constructed, contested, shaped, and reshaped; how some narratives become hegemonic while others are abandoned and eventually forgotten. Narratives can be especially decisive when they contribute to demarcating who belongs to a certain community and who is excluded from it. This workshop looked at case studies in Europe, North America and the Middle East and focuses on how new narratives of belonging transform and define the boundaries between those included and excluded. It explored to which extent new narratives are being used to reinforce old exclusions and whether new narratives are creating cleavages in societies that hitherto did not experienced them.

New discourses appealing to gender equality and the rights of sexual minorities, as well as to the overall discourse on human rights, are increasingly being used, or rather misused, to label and stigmatize certain marginalized minorities and migrants, such as those belonging to Muslim and Roma minorities. Concepts such as nativism and autochthony are increasingly being used to explain transformations in the contours of belonging in Europe and beyond.

The workshop started with a critical analysis of how new xenophobic discourses addressing particularly Muslims, but also other migrants whether from within or outside the European Union. It continued with a focus on narratives mobilised to make sense of the refugee crisis in the former Yugoslav countries and in the Middle East. It concluded with a focus on the counter-hegemonic narratives of minority actors themselves and how they try to construct different narratives to make sense of the migration phenomenon.

The workshop included papers on changing narratives of ‘belonging’ and how they re-defined outsiders and recreated the community of ‘We’.