On the Move: Migration and Diasporas

The 2018 Annual Conference of the Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies


NOV 29TH – DEC 1ST 2018 • Estonian Literary Museum, Tartu, Estonia

2018/11/29 15:31:47

Important Dates

June 15, 2018

Submission window for CEES 2018 is now closed

July 16, 2018

Notification of acceptance

July 17 - October 5, 2018

Registration is now closed!

There is no participation fee

October 15, 2018

November 29 - December 1, 2018

Call for Papers

The contemporary world is increasingly defined by mobility – of people, memory, information, services, cultural and social practices – to the extent that more fluid, mobile and transnational belonging trajectories and identification frameworks are becoming an increasing trend. However, such positioning possibility is a privilege that cannot be extended to the current migration crises involving millions of people of different nationalities forced to leave their homelands.

Scholarly interest in migration and diaspora can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is worth considering how the constantly evolving ranges of critical approaches and methodological frameworks of the field can be productively applied to the current situation.

Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies welcomes international scholars from different fields to reflect on the issues of migration and diasporas, incl. questions of exile. Topics addressed include but are not limited to

  • the concept of the diaspora and modifications and changes in its use
  • transnationalism
  • othering and xenophobia
  • different waves of migration and remigration: causes, countries of destination, similarities and differences, migration journeys
  • the current migration crisis
  • migration as life-style
  • social and cultural adoption in host countries
  • identity-building processes, incl. hyphenated and transnational identities
  • home-making practices in diaspora communities
  • changes in the usages of languages of origin, bi- and multilingualism
  • communication networks of migrants
  • the contacts of diaspora communities with countries of origin
  • sources and methods of migration and diaspora research, incl. life writing and oral history interviews
  • representation of migration and diaspora in literature and visual arts; the poetics of exile

The conference working language is English. Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in presentation. Please submit your proposal of up to 300 words via online form on the conference webpage. All accepted abstracts will be included in the books of abstracts of the conference.

Organizing Committee

  • Leena Kurvet-Käosaar
  • Triinu Ojamaa
  • Aija Sakova
  • Marin Laak
  • Mare Kõiva
  • Piret Voolaid
  • Anne Ostrak

Conference Email

  • migrationdiaspora@folklore.ee

The conference is supported by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies), research project IUT 22-2 “Formal and Informal Networks of Literature, Based on Sources of Cultural History” of the Estonian Research Council, Professorship of Estonian Literature, and Nordplus project “From Past to Present: Migration and Integration trough Life-stories’ Network”.


Registration is now closed!



Sari Pöyhönen

Parallel Realities of Forced Migration, Belonging and Non-Belonging

Forced migration as an object of study is predominantly associated with flows of populations rather than movements of named individuals (Phipps 2016). During the particular political turbulence of the ‘refugee crisis’, where identity inscriptions, such as religion, ethnicity, and gender are securitized, it is important to pay attention to the emic side of the stories and lived experiences of individuals. Instead of avoiding stranger fetishism (Ahmed 2000), we need to focus on how an individual in a situation of forced migration is an effect of processes of inclusion and exclusion—belonging and non-belonging. This leads to multi-sited policy-making, which is not only top-down or bottom-up, but a complex, organic, and situated system that regulates individuals’ lived experiences and shows inequalities in the social structure.

In this paper, I will focus on two individuals, Fatema and Bakr, behind the human cargo (Moorehead 2005/2016). Fatema is a highly educated woman who fled to Finland from Iraq with her two children. Her husband has disappeared, and no one knows if he is dead or alive. Bakr is an actor and atheist, whose artistic performance is interpreted in his home country of Iraq as hostile to the political regime and Islamic religion. They both have lived in Finland since 2015. The stories of Fatema and Bakr derive from two linguistic ethnographies—one in a reception center in a rural Swedish-dominant region, and another in the heart of Helsinki, Finnish National Theatre.

Fatema and Bakr are examples of refugees seeking asylum, who live parallel realities both here within their current places and relationships and there by maintaining relationships with those who remain and the memories of the places from which they have been dislocated (Butler & Spivak 2007). They also experience moments of not-yet-belonging (Anderson et al. 2011) or non-belonging (Holzberg et al. 2018). Still, the most painful question remains: Have they escaped from, and to, misery?

Ahmed, S. (2000). Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. London: Routledge.

Anderson, B., Gibney, M. J. & Paoletti, E. (2011). “Citizenship, Deportation and the Boundaries of Belonging.” Citizenship Studies 15:5, 547–563.

Butler, J. & Spivak, G.C. (2007). Who Signs the Nation-State? Language, Politics, Belonging. London, UK: Seagull Books.

Holzberg, B., Kolbe, K. & Zaborowski, R. (2018). “Figures of Crisis: The Delineation of (Un)Deserving Refugees in the German Media.” Sociology 52:3, 534–550.

Moorehead, C. (20015/2015). Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees. London: Chatto & Windus.

Phipps, A. (2016). “Refugee Crisis. How Should the Government and the EU Address It. A 10 Point Plan by Alison Phipps.” The National. http://www.thenational.scot/comment/refugee-crisis-how-should-the-government-and-the-eu-address-it-a-10-point-plan-by-alison-phipps.7223


Sari Pöyhönen is professor of applied linguistics at the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. Her research and writing focus on language, identity and belonging, minorities and language rights, migration and asylum policies, and adult migrant language education. Through linguistic ethnography, creative inquiry and narrative approaches she is focusing on individuals interacting with others and telling their stories that are embedded with wider cultural and political contexts and social structures.


Vytis Čiubrinskas

Challenges of Transnational Belonging: Homeland Nationalism, Cultural Citizenship, and Social Remittances of Diasporic Lithuanians in the U.S.

The processes of transnationalism, large-scale transmigration from Eastern Europe (e.g., Poland, the Baltics, and the Balkans) to North America, created ‘new realities’ of an expansion of space for personal and familial practices (Olwig & Sorensen 2002) as well as within social and political fields. For instance, the presidents of all three post-communist Baltic States at the turn of the twenty-first century came from diasporas, although old Soviet models of sociability are still noticeably transmitted there. We argue for a grass-roots level of understanding of the complexities of Eastern European transnationalism and inter-ethnic relations. Our work is based on ethnographic fieldwork done in Chicago in 2006 and 2013 among Eastern European immigrants and in Lithuania in 2014 among Lithuanian-American and Lithuanian-Canadian return migrants.


We discuss three cases of “cultural embeddedness” and the uncertainties of transnational belonging, in which the immigrant challenges the social and cultural resources of the host country and takes them back to his or her homeland. The first case looks at the diasporic politics of identity of homeland nationalism formed by Baltic exiles who fled communist advancement in their countries at the end of WWII. The second case examines cultural citizenship, i.e., “the right to be different” (Rosaldo & Flores 1997, Bretell 2008) in terms of ethnicity, native language, religion, etc. (cf. Nick-Craith 2004), framed by moral and performative dimensions of membership beyond the domain of legal rights (Glick-Schiller & Caglar 2008). This applies to the moral economy of recent post-socialist immigrants, accumulated through personalized networks in exchange for favors (Giordano 2012), and shared ‘culture’ as a model of festive culture. The third case shows challenges faced by re(migrants) returning to post-communist countries that often go beyond the economic dimension through the transference of social remittances, such as norms, initiatives, values, knowledge, and philanthropic activities, which are often met with skepticism by locals ‘having local life experiences’. We emphasize the agency and models of sociability of (re)migrants How sociocultural resources transmitted from overseas are used to cope with challenges and contestations of transnational belonging. How (re)migrants become agents of particular social and cultural practices, e.g., by creating ethnic schools in New York, co-founding a university in Kaunas (Lithuania), ‘selling jobs’ in Chicago, or recruiting ‘friends of friends’ from their homelands to sustain their businesses in the U.S.


Vytis Čiubrinskas is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania and visiting Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, USA. His research interests include migration and diaspora studies, ethnicity, nationalism and identity politics, anthropology of post-socialism, social memory and heritage, and politics of the discipline of anthropology /ethnology in the East/Central Europe.



Art hotel Pallas *** (conference rates for the period 29.11- 01.12.2018)

Single room 60 Eur

Double room 70 Eur

Breakfast included

25 rooms are available. Conference rates available until September 30. Please send an e-mail to pallas@tartuhotels.ee, booking reference “On the Move.”


Academus hostel

The hostel is conveniently located right across the street from the Estonian Literary Museum, and offers affordable yet conformable accommodation.

Single room or single occupancy in double room: 28 Eur

Double occupancy in double room: 36 Eur

10 % discount applies to ISIC, ITIC, IYTC card holders. Please use the online booking form http://academus.ee/broneerimine/?lang=en, booking reference (in the “Comments and additional questions” section) “On the Move.”

All rooms have kitchenettes. Breakfast can be ordered separately, it will be served in the same building in pub Kotka Kelder. For ordering breakfast (Eur 6), please send an e-mail with your name and required dates to kiri@kotkakelder.ee. We will arrange for similar breakfast times for all participants.

18 double rooms and 1 single room are available.

Booking deadline: October 12.


Conference Venue

Estonian Literary Museum
42 Vanemuise
51003 Tartu, Estonia



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