“Materializing the Transient:
Ethnographies and Museums in the
Study of (Forced) Migration”
Göttingen, May 14–16, 2020

Materiality is a fundamental dimension of migration which is
closely linked to temporality and has only recently made its
way into the scope of migration research. During journeys of
migration, people take things with them, or they lose or find
things along the way. Journeys themselves are framed by
objects like borders, passports, tents and other camp
infrastructures, boats, and not least mobile phones.

For people on the move, some of these things can arouse
memories, some are linked with powerlessness or loss, some
with hopes and aspirations, while other things lose their
relevance along the way.


The conference aims to bring together the findings of studies of the material dimensions of (forced) migration in different settings around the world. Presentations draw on theoretically grounded ethnographic case studies based on thick descriptions.

Five main themes will structure the conference. They will be both treated individually in dedicated panels and workshops and brought together and intertwined systematically:

Temporality is a decisive aspect of the relationship between materiality and (forced) migration and will thus be an overall topic of panels and public lectures.

Panel I will address the various methodological strengths, challenges, limits, and pitfalls of doing (forced) migration research.

Migration and things, in many forms, evoke passionate reactions. Therefore, Panel II will address the emotions related to ‘moving objects’, in contexts of migration and public debates alike.

The material and temporal conditions of refugee camps will be subject of Panel III. Here, the consequences of these political and logistic infrastructures will be explored.

Panel IV will deal with representations of migration. Besides (social) media, this section will give particular focus to the museum as a changing zone of representation, reception, contact, and interaction.


Wednesday, 13.05.2020 (Convention Centre by the observatory)

17:30-18:00Opening of the Conference
18:00-19:30Conference Keynote: Georgina Ramsay (University of Delaware)

Thursday, 14.05.2020 (Convention Centre by the observatory)


Panel 1: “On the materiality of (forced) migration: Methods”

Panel Keynote: Marta Vilar Rosales (University of Lisbon)

Panel 2: “On the materiality of (forced) migration: Emotions“

Panel Keynote: Maruška Svašek (Queen’s University Belfast)

Friday, 15.05.2020 (Friedland transit camp (building 4) & museum)


Panel 3 “On the materiality of (forced) migration: Representations“

Panel Keynote: Burcu Dogramaci (LMU München)

Guided Tours Museum Friedland & Friedland transit camp (GDL),

Poster Presentations

Saturday, 16.05.2020 (Convention Centre by the observatory)


Panel 4: “On the materiality of (forced) migration: The Camp”

Panel Keynote: Simon Turner (University of Copenhagen)
13:45-15:00Concluding discussion and final remarks

Keynote speakers

Georgina Ramsay (University of Delaware)

Assistant Professor at the Department for Anthropology at the University of Delaware. She has conducted extensive fieldwork with refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi in Australia and Uganda. She specialized among other things in research about forced migration and refugees, citizenship and sovereignty, time and temporality. Her recent publications include her book "Impossible Refuge: The Control and Constraint of Refugee Futures" and her article "Time and the other in crisis: How anthropology makes its displaced object" which has been published in "Anthropological Theory". More information about her research, activities and publications is available here.

Marta Vilar Rosales (University of Lisbon)

Social Anthropologist with and interest in contemporary material culture and consumption, Portuguese migrations and migration movements in the Lusophone space, colonialism and post-colonialism and media anthropology. Since 2014 she is a research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon. Currently she is the Principal Investigator of "TRANSITS - Material Culture, Migration and Everyday Life". The research project explores the movements of people and things to and from four cities (Berlin, Lisboa, Luanda and Sydney). More about the project and Marta Vilar Rosales' research is available here.

Maruška Svašek (Queen’s University Belfast)

Reader in Anthropology at the School of History and Anthropology at Queens University, Belfast. She studied painting in Groningen and cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. In her research she focusses on the topics of emotions, migration, material culture, transnational families and art. Her publications include ‘‘Emotions and Human Mobility. Ethnographies of Movement‘‘ (Routledge 2012) and ‘‘Moving Subjects, Moving Objects: Transnationalism, Cultural Production and Emotions‘‘ (Berghahn 2012). More information on Maruška Svašeks work is available here.

Burcu Dogramaci (LMU München)

Professor at the Institute of Art History of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich since 2009. After her studies of Art History and German Philology she specialized in Art History with a focus on 20th century and contemporary art. In her research and teaching she focusses on exile and migration, photography and photo book, fashion, architecture and city, modern and post-war sculpture, live art. She is a co-founder of the DFG network ‘‘Entangled Histories of Art and Migration‘‘ (2018-2021) and works in her current ERC-project ‘‘Relocating Modernism: Global Metropolises, Modern Art and Exile‘‘ (2017-2022) on six global metropolises that served as cities of arrival for exiled artists in the first half of the 20th century. Further information on this project and Burcu Dogramaci's research is available here.

Simon Turner (University of Copenhagen)

Simon Turner is Associate Professor at the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies (AMIS) at the University of Copenhagen. His research has amongst other things focused on humanitarian governance and everyday life in refugee camps. Recently, he has been exploring issues of hope and despair among Burundian refugees in Nairobi and Kigali. Presently, he is heading a research project on refugee camps as ‘carceral junctions’; exploring camps as sites of both stuckness and mobility. His future research will be exploring everyday humanitarianism in Tanzania. He has recently published ‘‘Reflections on Life in Ghettos, Camps and Prisons: Stuckness and Confinement‘‘ (Turner, Jensen S. et al. 2019). Further information on Simon Turners work is available here.


  • Tagungszentrum an der Sternwarte
    Geismar Landstr. 11b
    37083 Göttingen
  • GDL Friedland
    Heimkehrerstr. 18
    37133 Friedland
  • Museum Friedland
    Bahnhofstr. 2
    37133 Friedland
  • Hauptbahnhof Göttingen
    Bahnhofspl. 1
    37073 Göttingen
  • Bahnhof Friedland
    37133 Friedland
  • Institut für Ethnologie
    Theaterstraße 14
    37073 Göttingen
  • Leine Hotel
    Groner Landstr. 55
    37081 Göttingen

Organizing team

Friedemann Yi-Neumann

Researcher and Coordination of the project "On the materiality of (forced)migration", email.

Antonie Fuhse

Researcher and Coordination of the project "On the materiality of (forced)migration", email.

Andrea Lauser

Head of the projekt "On the materiality of (forced)migration".

Joachim Baur

Cultural scientist and curator, Die Exponauten.

Peter Bräunlein

Researcher in the project "On the materiality of (forced)migration".