Out now: Remixing Europe

Remixing Europe – Migrants, Media, Representation, Imagery – A publication by Doc next Network unveiling the imagery of migrants in European media.

4 Individual case studies of recent media incidents provide the starting points for an analysis of country-specific, cultural and historical contexts that influence public perception of migrants and migration. The publication includes a film catalogue and DVD.

book_catalogHow does the Polish media portray Ukrainian female immigrants? How does the media reflect the way internal migrants in Turkey are positioned within movements like the Gezi Protests? What are the challenges for an Ecuadorian woman fighting for social rights in Spain in an era of evictions and the housing crisis? How do notions of “Home” influence British debates around migration and race?

REMIXING EUROPE is a publication unveiling the imagery of migrants in European media. It is a Doc Next Network publication, produced in the framework of “Remapping Europe, A Remix Project Highlighting the Migrant’s Perspective”. This investigative and artistic project explores the tools and concepts of remixing media as a method to re-view, re-investigate and re-consider prevailing imageries of migrants in European societies.

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An introduction to ‘Remixing Europe’ – by Vivian Paulissen, European Cultural Foundation.

How are migrants portrayed in mainstream media in Europe? How does this affect the imagery of what a migrant is, or of the Europe we live in or the Europe we’re headed towards? What are the perspectives of migrants? ‘Remixing Europe’ is a challenging publication in its attempt to answer some of these questions. It is part of ‘Remapping Europe – a remix project, a programme by Doc Next Network that investigates the tools and concepts of remixing media as a method of re-viewing, re-investigating and re-considering prevailing imageries of migrants in European societies.

“One must be as wary of images as of words” as one of Europe’s great film directors Harun Farocki has put it. There is no such thing as an aseptic or pure image: every image provokes a multiplicity of imageries, gestures, thoughts, ideas, prejudices, and ways of looking. Both in form and in content, this publication is unconventional in its approach to deconstructing and debating some prevailing imageries of migrants across Europe and specifically in Spain, the UK, Turkey and Poland.

In this publication, four individual case studies of incidents that occurred recently
in the media provide the starting points for an analysis of country-specific, cultural and historical contexts that influence public perception of, and general attitudes to, migrants and migration. An eclectic mix of images from mainstream media sources – footage “found” and introduced by the cultural organisations of Doc Next Network – represent how migrants are portrayed, or in some cases, made invisible in each country. The images are snapshots of the representation of migrants in media: they show how migrants are stereotyped, criminalised, racially categorised, objectified and subjected to hate speech, all of which serves to deny their individual voices and agency. The images have been taken out of their original contexts; in this publication they are framed by and juxtaposed with each other. They are further remixed with facts from different sources and with in-depth reflections from jour- nalists, academic researchers, artists and activists. These authors unravel how the migrant condition is primarily represented as something problematic in mainstream media, and thereby challenge existing prejudices and assumptions.

In Spain the publication considers the compelling case of the Ecuadorian activist Aída Quinatoa, who is a prominent leader of social movements in the wake of the country’s sub-prime mortgage crisis. In an interview with Juan Luis Sánchez, she argues that the mainstream media has never really been interested in the precarious condition of migrants in the Spanish housing crisis. Carlos Delclós confronts the unpleasant spectres of representation, race and post-colonialism in Spanish media, while Sami Naïr redefines the migrant condition in relation to identity and mixture.

In the UK, the government’s Home Office caused a public scandal with the launch in 2013 of a media campaign targeting illegal migrants with mobile billboards that read: ‘go home or face arrest’. Sarita Malik deconstructs the portrayal of migrants and minorities on British television and how the idea of ‘home’ has come to accrue racist overtones. Jamie Bartlett examines the public perception of migrants in social media, in relation to more mainstream news sources within the migration debate. David Somerset zooms in on the migrant’s perspective in the country’s history of cinema with iconic films from the archives of the British Film Institute.

The Turkish case focuses on how internal migrants in Istanbul, who are forced to move due to urban transformation processes in the city, are criminalised and dehumanised in public opinion. The country’s recent Gezi Protests brought an enormous amount of press attention
to “right to the city” movements in Turkey. The question of how urban transforma- tion affects internal migrants is explored in an essay by Imre Azem based on the footage of his film Ekümenopolis (2011). Sırrı Süreyya Önder considers migration and media within the wider context of post-Gezi politics in Turkey. Tahribad-i Isyan, a group of young hip-hop artists from areas affected by urban transformation, voice their personal experiences and their right to the city.

In Poland, Ukrainian female domestic workers have been pilloried as submissive, and sexualised in the media. Michał Bilewicz has engaged in a public polemic around these issues on a political news blog. In this publication, Bilewicz further explores the phenomenon of hate speech in Polish media and addresses the social implications of such language. Krzysztof Czyżewski tests the boundaries of borders, which, particularly in Poland, symbolise the contradiction of being torn between Eastern and Western Europe.

Beyond these country-specific cases, broader notions of migration, race, representation and borders are deepened in an overarching chapter. Fatima El-Tayeb provokes confronting insights on the European attitude towards “otherness”. Daniella Berghahn routes us through the evolution of diasporic cinema and migrant representations of film in Europe, and finally, Abu Ali imagines possible imageries of borders and migration.

This publication certainly does not pretend to set out one definitive viewpoint or conclusion regarding the imagery of migrants in Europe and the European media. Imagery is a complex phenomenon that is always under construction. It is strongly rooted in public opinion, which both shapes, and is shaped by, by an ever-changing media landscape in which consumers of media have become its producers as well. At the same time, within and beyond the physical borders of the continent, there is no shared notion of what “Europe” means.

The act of migration is a blank space on the map: it is tied to no place and it is rooted only in movement and in the transgression of borders. That a border is a constructed entity, drawn on a map, has to be taken for granted. However, to at least mentally reshape and re-investigate notions of the border – to remap – we must acknowledge different interpretations of “locality”, of “region” or of “home”. We must include the personal perspectives of people who migrate and we should not shy away from the realities of Europe’s legacy of complex migration and colonialism. Only then can we approach the border, not as a fixed line, but as a shifting entity that is produced by our imagination and that produces its own imagery.

Throughout this publication, quotes of young migrants in Europe, with whom the Doc Next Network works, provide a proof of this: thought-provoking individual comments on the issues raised in this publication, they raise a counter-perspective to common generalisations about migrants in mainstream European media.

In its attempt to remix prevailing imagery of migrants with new perspectives, does this publication reveal a new perspective on Europe itself? Perhaps. More impor- tantly, however, ‘Remixing Europe’ is a document that contributes to the living archive that is Europe. It is significant as a landmark within the larger discourses of contemporary Europe, its inhabitants, travellers and its media. It is significant not just as a merely journalistic document, academic, nor creative publication, but as a remix of all of these approaches. And it is significant, as a remix, in that it highlights diverse and inclusive perspectives on migrants, migration and Europe.