Transnational Communities: towards a sense of belonging

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Social Sciences


The proposed research will build upon and help to sustain the work that the partner organisations have been involved in as members of the AHRC-funded regional network 'Making the Connections: arts, migration and Diaspora.' The regional network is an outgrowth of previous AHRB funded research in the East Midlands region (O'Neill and Tobolewska 2001; O'Neill 2001) and the work of 'The Long Journey Home' initiative funded by the regional arts council. These projects identified the central role of the arts and culture in facilitating processes of belonging and integration and the importance of renewing social research methodologies that generate knowledge to help us understand experiences of migration and diaspora, challenge myths and stereotypes and produce work that can feed into social and cultural policy.

Exploring the social role of the arts in processes of social change and the space between ethnographic, participatory research and arts based work, the partners will engage in three strands of activity taking forward the key aims of the regional network funded by the AHRC until 2008: to enhance the lives of recent arrivals in the East Midlands; to stimulate high-quality inter-disciplinary research and the production of art works; to facilitate connection, communication and feed into public policy; and to contribute to public awareness of the issues facing new arrivals.

The three strands of activity are:

1) Develop an 'Artists Pool' event to launch the production of a directory of artists with experience of working with new arrivals, refugees, asylum seekers and a directory of artists in exile. This will be located on-line at

2) Develop, extend and sustain the '' web-resource currently managed by the convenors at Loughborough University, Department of Social Sciences. The proposed KT activity will therefore develop the electronic resource in order that it will serve as a hub and repository for regional research and arts activity in the area of arts, migration and diaspora.

3) Conduct a performance event that focuses upon new arrivals taking a walk with a local dignitary/member of the refugee forum from a place they call home to a special place in their city/town. The conversation will be taped and transcribed. In the course of the walk (led by the new arrivals) processes of place and home-making will be discussed. This event will be followed by a series of twelve workshops with the new arrivals and fellow walkers in each city/town that will focus upon the senses of belonging that they negotiate, working through themes of place, space and identity. This is an outgrowth of research conducted by the PI in the region (O'Neill and Tobolweska 2002a, 2002b; O'Neill and Harindranath 2006; O'Neill 2004) and the discussions partners have engaged in through regional network events. The inspiration for the walks comes from the work of Misha Myers at, and is informed by performative and cultural geographical praxis.


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