Proposal Information of Contribution 2144


ID: 2144 / 29 SES 08 A JS: 2
29. Research on Arts Education
Paper (Copy for Joint Session)
Alternative EERA Network: 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Keywords: refugees, arts-based, social inclusion, place-making

The Art of Belonging: Exploring the Potential of Cultural Place-Making for Social Inclusion of Young Forced Migrants in Europe - JS2

Joanna McIntyre1, Katarina Blennow2, Sinikka Neuhaus2

1University of Nottingham, United Kingdom; 2Lund University, Sweden

Presenting Author: McIntyre, Joanna; Blennow, Katarina

With 31 million refugees and asylum seekers recorded mid-2021 (UNHCR, 2021), forced migration is a global issue with European significance with many young migrants arriving in cities across Europe. This presentation reports findings from the Art of Belonging project bringing together city leaders, artists, and those working with refugee and asylum-seeking young people in schools and communities in Sweden and England.

The project aimed to explore how place-making through arts and culture potentially fosters a sense of engagement, supports inclusion and challenges dominant discourses of ‘othering’ (Jensen 2011) of the new arrival in their new context. In part, this comes about through national and local initiatives to realise young refugees’ rights ‘to participate fully in cultural and artistic life’ (Tillborg and Ellefsen 2021) along with their peers in their new context. Thus, in 2015, Culture Ministers across Europe agreed that culture and the arts have a role to play in the process of integrating refugees into host societies (McGregor and Ragab 2016).

Our main research question was ‘How can place-specific arts and cultural initiatives in our cities help young refugees to develop a sense of belonging, and increase participation in the civic, social and cultural life of their new cities.’ In the presentation we also address questions about enabling factors and barriers to social and cultural participation for young new arrivals.

We argue that working with cultural organizations offers opportunities for examining the potential of the arts for inclusion and social integration of disenfranchised and ‘othered’ groups such as forced migrants. Art provides a connection to place, but also provides opportunities for social connections that enable the formation of a sense of community in a place. In so doing, participation in arts and cultural activities which acknowledge and build on the experiences and skills of the new arrivals acknowledges that through the arts, integration can become a two-way process between the incomer and the ‘host’ community.

Our conceptual thinking was influenced by Kraftl’s (2020) provocation to focus on developing inclusive spaces for young people in cities through practices that enhance recognition, participation, support, and collaboration in order to develop the social and cultural value of these spaces for those who are marginalised. Two theoretical framings are central: art as place-making activity, and cultural capabilities. First, people engage in place-making through arts and cultural activity, and this brings about increased ‘points of connection’ (Lankshear and Knobel 2011) to communities and places. Second, a capabilities approach enables us to focus on ‘What … people really (are) able to do and what kind of person are they able to be’ in a place (Robeyns 2017, 9). Our intention is to foreground a process of recognition (Honneth 1992) that enhances individuals’ capability and capacity to aspire on an individual as well as collective level, leading to enhanced experiences of cultural citizenship for new arrivals and their new communities.

In each case study city, we draw on the concept of the Cultural Rucksack (CR), a programme for arts and culture for young people (Christophersen et al 2015) intended to develop cultural citizenship (UNESCO 2012). Young people are invited to participate in a variety of activities and metaphorically ‘fill’ the rucksack with place-significant cultural experiences. In our presentation we explore how we have sought to extend conceptual understanding and application of the CR concept to support the integration of young forced migrants within their new urban spaces and create opportunities for dialogue with local residents. We wanted to explore the extent to which interaction with the CR led to reciprocal change for the young person, the community and the arts institutional base of our cities.

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
The research uses a two site case-study design. Each urban context is taken as a single case which explores the problem of how the municipality, and social actors within the municipality, can develop means, through art activity, of enabling young migrants and refugees to build connections with their new place such that they can go on to lead lives of meaningful engagement in their city. We draw on different methods to answer the research questions and meet the objectives. These include:
• Desk-based review of research literature and documents.
• Interviews with municipality leaders (2), representatives from arts and cultural institutions (4), those supporting new arrivals within the communities (7) and the refugee participants on the CR programmes (25).
• Ethnographic study of engagement with the arts/cultural intervention.
• Action research methodology working with key stakeholders to adapt the model of the Cultural Rucksack for the specific needs of refugee and migrant youths.
• Co-creation of both the arts interventions within the CR and the research instruments with representatives/advocates from refugee community groups to ensure these are culturally sensitive in order to engage the young new arrivals
• Comparative case study methods to compare the experiences and learning across the two sites and identify commonalities, differences and policy implications.

The data were analysed thematically firstly by each specific country team and then the two teams came together to undertake a cross-site comparison of the salient themes in response to the Project’s main and subsidiary questions.

Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
We report on the development of a programme of arts-based place-making activities for forced migrants in two cities in each context. The specific articulation of the CR programme in terms of arts form, types of cultural organization, and age of target group differed in each location allowing for comparison of what is common and what is unique in the extension of the CR programme for young refugees to inform further roll out in urban spaces across European cities. Evaluations of the CR programme are overwhelmingly positive, but there are a number of challenges and criticisms, most notably the critique of its role as a means of ‘civilizing’ the population (Bjørnsen 2012), with inherent notions of what counts as art and what participation looks like (Chrisophersen et al 2015). We explore how in the application of the CR in this project, city officials and cultural organisations aimed to intentionally foster new arrivals’ participation in arts activities as both critical consumer and as producer of arts reflecting elite and common cultures.
We conclude that the project deepens conceptual understanding of how arts-based place-making activities contribute to enhanced social and relational connections between communities in urban places. Second we found that the activity facilitates young migrants’ place-attachment and integration through cultural participation. Third we found that across differing European city contexts barriers and enabling factors to youth participation in arts and cultural activity have a high degree of commonality such that shared policy solutions can be developed.
The findings from the project contribute to a shared knowledge platform for cities across Europe to find sustainable solutions to social integration through arts-based activities that enable all citizens, including the newly arrived, to contribute to urban societies.

The Art of Belonging project was funded by JPI Urban Europe, ESRC/AHRC and FORTE

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Intent of Publication
International Journal of Inclusive Education