Conflict, Memory, Displacement

Examining the relationship between conflict, memory and displacement surrounding global conflicts in the UK and Italy.

Conflict, Memory, Displacement


Research background

The project was funded by an AHRC Innovation Award through the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security (PACCS) scheme.  It was a collaboration between academics at BCU, University of East London, Goldsmiths and University of Pisa, as well as two community organisation (Birmingham Asylum and Refugee Association) and two theatre companies (Implicated Theatre in the UK and Cantieri Meticci in Italy).  The project explored how the public understands global conflicts (particularly those outside of Europe) as they relate to the "European refugee crisis”, through fieldwork carried out in the UK and Italy.

Research aims

The project explored the construction of global conflicts in the UK and Italy in media representations and public debates, within a climate of changing media habits, widespread mistrust, and fake news. In so doing, we examined the role of historical amnesia around legacies of imperialism - and how this leads to a disavowal of responsibility for the causes why people flee their countries. We examined how this shapes institutional and popular responses in receiving countries, ranging from hostility-such as the framing of refugees by politicians, as 'economic migrants' who are abusing the asylum system; to solidarity initiatives.

How has the research been carried out?

We tried to resist what Back and Sinha term “extraction research” (2013); instead of asking refugees for individualised testimonials about their migration journey  the interviews explored experiences of discrimination as well as acts of resistance. The final chapter explored theatrical methods for challenging xenophobia.


  • Media analysis of two UK and three Italian newspapers covering a selection of countries experiencing conflicts and people seeking protection;
  • A survey of over 200 people aged 18–33 in the UK and Italy about their media use and understanding of global conflicts and the role of political institutions;
  • Online ethnography of citizen solidarity initiatives (including Facebook groups for addressing refugees’ basic needs, hosting refugees in private homes, and crowdfunder pages) and anti-refugee groups.
  • Semi-structured interviews with over 30 asylum seekers and refugees in the UK and Italy, where they were asked to critically reflect on their experiences within the asylum system and in the receiving countries, and the political situation in their country of origin;

  • Workshops for encouraging encourage critical reflections about the asylum process and the impact of bordering processes on everyday life. Two theatrical performances (one in Italy and one in the UK) were developed from these workshops.

Results and outcomes

Key findings include:

  • Mainstream media coverage offers almost no route to understanding histories of Empire, i.e. colonialism and neo-colonialism, as a factor in contemporary conflicts and the management of human displace­ment
  • Global and national institutions are increasingly seen to be ineffective in the resolution of conflicts and the management of displacement, which produces radical distrust
  • Refugees and their supporters make use of social media platforms to organise mutual aid, in the absence of state support and official hostility.
  • People are ‘made into migrants’ by the government, the media and members of society.
  • There is a blur between being ‘made a migrant’ and racialisation – and even being a ‘model immigrant’ is no protection against this.
  • Faith, music, comedy, self-organisation and knowledge of history (including legacies of colonialism and anti-colonial struggles) can be important resources in challenging injustice and dehumanisation.

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