Review - De-migranticisation

Published on 30 January 2020 at 16:17

How can we think and do ‘inclusion’ differently? This was the topic of the seminar on the 11th of November, called ‘De-migranticisation? An interactive discussion for practitioners and researchers on thinking and doing ‘inclusion’ differently.' It was organised by the Cultural Geography (GEO) Group of the WUR, by the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment of the Radboud University, and by OtherWise.

The term de-migranticisation was coined by migration scholar Janine Dahinden. In the Lumen building, she told us that the categories of migration and integration are based on the nation state logic that assumes congruence between nation and culture. Migration researchers use these categories non-reflexively and in this way reproduce this nation state logic. According to Dahinden, this leads to exclusion processes and the reproduction of hegemonic structures. Therefore, she makes a plea for reflecting on these categories.

Then we heard about several initiatives that concern inclusion. Two policy advisors of the municipality of Utrecht talked about Plan Einstein, a project that focuses on refugees, local residents and others, living, learning and working together. So far, there have been many good results. The policy advisors accounted these to various factors of the project like the fact that they try to find common denominators for refugees and local residents. For example, they offer courses on how to start your own business, in which many people are interested.

Then we heard about the WURth-while programme, that gives asylum seekers the chance to take some courses at Wageningen University. Although it is difficult to pass the courses, at least asylum seekers can get used to the education system and can be seen as students, not merely asylum seekers.

Lastly, the buddy program Welkom in Wageningen was presented. What was interesting about this program is that they do not focus on integration, but on belonging. Belonging is seen as feeling like you matter. For that reason, the program looks at what someone’s capabilities are and finds buddies based on these.

After the presentations by Janine Dahinden and the different initiatives, we could grab some sandwiches in the garden of Lumen and Gaia. After this lunch, we went back into the seminar room for a discussion with the speakers and all the attendees.  

One attendee asked whether the Dutch culture might have some characteristics that make it difficult to relate to ‘others’. According to the policy advisors working for the municipality of Utrecht, a lot of humour is needed in order to bring people from different cultures together. Dahinden emphasised that culture is a difficult concept and that we should not think of culture as something that links to one nation.

Another interesting topic that came up during the discussion was about the use of categories. If we want to address problems, categories are also very important. However, we should remain careful and reflect on them.

It was a very interesting seminar that succeeded in challenging us to think beyond the common terms of migration and integration and in inspiring us by presenting existing initiatives.

- Review by Lois Markusse