“Dr Tom Western (Refugee Studies Centre)
Tom Western is an Early Career Fellow in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford. He is an ethnomusicologist researching the relations between sound, borders, displacements and citizenships.
Public Seminar Series, Trinity term 2019
Everyday Resistance to the European Governance of Migration
At protest marches in Athens, where people gather to voice dissent at the violence of asylum regimes, the chants have shifted from ‘Open the Borders’ to ‘Open the City’. Border struggles become urban struggles. Athens once again becomes a polis – a centre of political action – and people use sound to make claims on belonging at street level. This paper does two things. First, it listens to these migrant activisms, focussing on sound as a way of understanding citizenship – of hearing inclusion and exclusion. The city is a testing ground (or maybe dumping ground) for European experiments in border management, but is also a sounding board for solidarity, a resonance chamber for resistance. Second, it reports on a collaborative sound recording project, working with refugee-led organisations and people who resist refugeeness. Together we run workshops on the city and citizenship, using sound as a heuristic and a catalyst for narration: opening creative engagements with representing displacement; and distorting the dominant tropes of ‘European refugee crisis’. We focus on everyday sensory experiences and performances of citizenship in protracted displacement. In the sonopolis, vocabularies of integration are reclaimed, disrupting the moral authority of NGOs to speak on behalf of those who have crossed borders. In the sonopolis, migrant activisms open ways of rethinking citizenship altogether. “