Identities in Flux: Pasts, Presents and Futures of Migrant Communities across Europe

Organised by the UCD Humanities Institute, University College Dublin in collaboration with the Irish Centre for Transnational Studies (ICTS), Mary Immaculate College/University of Limerick

13-15 May & 21-22 May 2021



In recent years, Europe has found itself in a state of seemingly unprecedented turmoil as it struggles to come to terms with an almost unrelenting contestation of the values upon which European identity, and indeed understandings of Western civilisation, rest. This struggle is manifested most notably in the string of terrorist attacks on European capitals such as London, Madrid, Paris, Berlin, and Brussels, but also – and equally – in the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Europe’s southern borders. Nowhere was the severity of the latter more prevalent than in the outcry provoked by the image of three-year old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s body which washed up on a Turkish beach on 2nd September 2015. In fact, current trends in migration have come to be seen as one of the major issues of our time as policy makers, scholars, the media and the general public seek to understand this complex process.  However, despite its current status as a ‘hot topic’ within European political discourse and the public domain more broadly, migration and the movement of people across borders, between countries and cultures are certainly not a ‘new’ phenomenon. 


The first strand of the conference thus seeks to place the current debate within the broader historical context of crises concerning migrant communities and identities across Europe.  It aims to interrogate, for example, the impact of past colonial encounters and resulting power dynamics on various national communities, and specifically on the migrant journey. In what way do enduring colonial mentalities of dominance and subjugation, superiority and inferiority of peoples and cultures, impact on perceptions and experiences of migrants arriving in a receiving country? And in what way do they frame the perceptions and experiences of the local communities? Ultimately, in addressing these questions, we approach constructions of migrant identity not as an isolated phenomenon but as part of a dialogic progress. 


Drawing on the research of Gurminder Bhambra on the link between migration and European colonial/post-colonial histories, the conference aims to place particular emphasis on processes of ‘othering’ and their role in ongoing (de)construction, articulation, and projection of identities – be they individual or collective, national or transnational. Within this context, the centrality of culture and education in identity formation, differentiation, and integration, will be of particular interest and will form the core of our second conference strand. This second strand seeks to address the (possible) futures of migrant communities and identities debating current/future attempts aimed at impacting positively on, or furthering general understanding of, migrant experiences.  This may include, for example, projects, which aim to combat exclusion through celebrating multiculturalism and embracing transnational identities, thus facilitating processes of integration and the fostering of global citizenship. It is envisioned that this interrogation of migrant experiences and most specifically analyses of identity constructions will shed light upon what many perceive to be a current crisis of European identity and citizenship, as we enter a new post-Brexit iteration of the European project.



“Diaspora Strikes Back” by Dr. Ipek Demir, University of Leeds, Leeds


Conference Organisers:

  1. Britta C. Jung, UCD Humanities Institute, University College Dublin, Dublin
  2. Mairéad Ní Bhriain, Dpt. of French Studies, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick



The conference organisers would like to extend their sincere gratitude to the UCD Humanities Institute, the Irish Centre for Transnational Studies (MIC), and the Irish Research Council for their unwavering support for this event. Furthermore, they would like to express a heartfelt thank you to the delegates who graciously and patiently endured all postponements and changes caused by the pandemic.


Full Programme

Day 1: Thursday 13 May

14.00-14.15 GMT: Welcome

Prof. Anne Fuchs (Director of the UCD Humanities Institute); 

Mairéad Ní Bhriain (Mary Immaculate College) & Britta C. Jung (University College Dublin) 


14.15-15.15 GMT: Plenary Keynote

Ipek Demir (University of Leeds): Diaspora Strikes Back

Chair: Anne Fuchs (University College Dublin)

15.15-15.30 GMT: Break

15.30-17.00 GMT: Panel 1

Narratives and Sites of Resistance

Chair: Britta C. Jung (University College Dublin)

Ayşe Polat (University of Cambridge): “They come with borrowed names and strangers’ likeness.” Migration, Identity, and Law in Ottoman Mediterranean, 1878-1914

Madeline Bass (Free University Berlin): Re/Locating Resistance in the Diaspora. A Study of the Horn of Africa

Tadgh Ó hAnnracháin (University College Dublin): Othering and Re-othering in Early Modern Ireland, 1641-46. From the Rebellion of 1641 to Sir John Temple’s Irish Rebellion

Day 2: Friday 14 May 

13.00-15.30 GMT: Panel 2

Journeys towards Asylum. Mapping and Documenting Human Mobility

Chair: Maria Roca Lizarazu (University of Birmingham)

Peter Jones & Anne Mulhall (University of Tyumen): Refuge as Political Capital? 1000 Years of Fugitive Democracy

Senka Neuman-Stanivukovic (University of Groningen): Colours of a Journey as an Archive of Human Mobility

Andrea Ciribuco (NUI Galway): Overcoming Silence. Language and Translation Practices of Asylum Seekers in Italy


15.30-15.45 GMT: Break


15.45-17.15 GMT: Panel 3

Interrogating Categories of Otherness

Chair: Joseph Twist (University College Dublin)

Aoife Connolly (TU Dublin): European Settler Migration. Colonial Encounters in Algeria and France

Rebecca O’Grady (Mary Immaculate College): The Significance of Language. Expressions of Identity in Turkish German and Algerian French Contemporary Novels 

Adeline Bauder (Washington University in St. Louis): “Der Plural ist schwer zu ertragen”. Marcia Bodrožić’s Das Gedächtnis der Libellen and Life as Plurality – Or: Deconstructing Either/Or Categories Imposed on Migrant Identities 

Day 3: Saturday 15 May

11.30-13.00 GMT

Postgraduate Session

Chair: Loïc Guyon (Mary Immaculate College)

Miriam Gartner (University of Birmingham): Beyond Empathy. Resistances to Border Regimes in Contemporary Transnational Theatre

Ross Fraser-Smith (Trinity College Dublin): Landscapes of Exile. Memory Traces, Travel and Trauma in W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants (1996) and Austerlitz (2001), Understanding Traumatic Displacement through Sebald’s Emigrants

Koreana Ko (University of Birmingham): Exploring Long-Term Transnational Immigrants’ Concepts of Home through Identity

Paromita Sengupta (Mary Immaculate College): Migration, Memory, Identity. Home Is Where You Can Brew a Cup of Tea?


13.00-14.00 GMT: Lunch Break


14.00-15.30 GMT: Panel 4

Liminal Spaces of Empire. Questioning Transnational Identities in the Modern Arab Mediterranean

Chair: Ayşe Polat (University of Cambridge)

Dónal Hassett (University College Cork): When the Colonised Become the Coloniser. The Failed Schemes to Settle Irish Peasants in Colonial Algeria

Hussein Omar (University College Dublin): Shaykh of the Jews. The Cosmopolitan Lives of James Sanua

Chris Rominger (University of North Florida): Hybridity at the Crossroads of Empire. Arab-Muslim Solidarity, France, and the Ottoman-Italian War of 1911-12


15.30-15.45 GMT: Break


15.45-17.15 GMT: Panel 5

Constructions and Representations of Transnational Identity 

Chair: Joseph Twist (University College Dublin)

Cordula Böcking (NUI Maynooth): “I can’t build walls/Define limits, cut territories”. (Trans)national identity in Paucker/Schuster’s Afghan Joan of Arc after Friedrich Schiller (2017)

Maria Roca Lizarazu (University of Birmingham): “Integration ist definitiv nicht unser Anliegen, eher schon Desintegration”. Renegotiations of (Non-)Belonging in Contemporary German (Jewish) Literature and Culture 

Cristina Balma-Tivola (Independent Scholar) & Giuliana C. Galvagno (University of Turin): “Cross the borderline / Freedom's no crime”. Music Videoclips on Migration

Day 4: Friday 21 May 

14.00-14.15 GMT: Welcome, Again

14.15-15.15 GMT: Panel 6

Performing Identities. Constructions of the Self and the Arts 

Chair: Sabine Egger (Mary Immaculate College)

Ailbhe Kenny (Mary Immaculate College): ‘There for Decoration’: Afro-Irish female experiences of being a DJ

Geneviève Guetemme (University of Orléans): Identity and Migration. A Case for Art Education


15.15-15.30 GMT: Break


15.30-17.00 GMT: Panel 7

Performing Transnational Identities. Citizenship and Belonging

Chair: Mairéad Ní Bhriain (Mary Immaculate College)

Maria Adamopoulou (European University Institute in Florence): Fifty Shades of Greek. Guest Workers in West Germany and their Identity Formation through Leisure Activities (1960-1989)

Marc Scully (Mary Immaculate College): From Migrant Communities to Transnational Citizens. Applications for Irish Passports Post-Brexit

Sabine Egger (Mary Immaculate College): Encounters, Similarities or Parallel Worlds? The TV-Documentary 24H Europe and Colum McCann’s Novel Apeirogon

Day 5: Saturday 22 May

 13.30-15.00 GMT: Panel 8

Conceptualising the Self

Chair: Britta C. Jung (University College Dublin) 

Rozalia Ligus (University of Wrocław): Looking for the Biographical Identity. Life Histories of Descendants of Polish Re-Emigrants from a Former Yugoslavia

Hanna Maria Rompf (Mary Immaculate College): Identity and ‘Heimat’ in Dmitrij Kapitelman’s Das Lächeln meines unsichtbaren Vaters

Mekhala Dave (University of Applied Arts Vienna): Conceptualising Human Rights as a Transnational Strategy through the Modes of Art History and Legal Studies


15.00-16.00 GMT: Panel 9

Voices from the Margins

Chair: Sarah O’Brien (Mary Immaculate College)

Ayala Paz & Rebecca Kook (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev): “It Reminds me that I Still Exist”. Critical Thoughts on Intersectionality; Refugee Muslim Women in Berlin and the Meanings of the Hijab 

Mamobo Ogoro (University of Limerick): The Discursive Representations of Ellie Kisyombe during the 2019 Irish Local Elections

16.00-16.15 GMT: Break


16.15-17.45 GMT: Panel 10

  • Past and Future Legacies from/in Migrant Communities in Ireland 

Chair: Mekhala Dave (University of Applied Arts Vienna)

Santhi Corcoran (Mary Immaculate College): Identities and Belonging. Challenges for Education and Irish Society

Diane Sabenacio Nititham (Murray State University): Ten Years On. A Visual Ethnography of Filipina Migrants in Ireland 

Sarah O’Brien (Mary Immaculate College): Remapping Memories of the Irish Diaspora


17.45-18.00 GMT: Closing Words