Differentiation processes between non-native groups in a Barcelona neighbourhood

ersWho can be from a place where virtually everyone –or at least everyone’s parents or grandparents– come from somewhere else? Who are “we”, in such a context? And, what resources can such “we” claim rights over? Over two years, from 2016 to 2018, I explored these questions in a peripheral neighbourhood in the city of Barcelona. The area, which was traditionally subjected to territorial stigma, was built in its current shape by internal migrants coming to the city from other parts of Spain in the second half of the twentieth century. More recently, at the turn of the millennium, people coming from abroad moved in to this part of the city. In such a context, how do the more established groups differentiated themselves from the more recently arrived?

The research identified the boundary-work carried out by the more estabished group and how it is substantivized thanks to the Barcelona-wide “civic ideology”. This way the project  showed how concrete public policies and the rhetoric used to justify them serves as a resource for the articulation of social boundaries at the micro level.

By focusing on the discursive construction of we and them between internal and international migrants, the research contributes to the denaturalisation of the sometimes problematic clear-cut categorization between internal and international migration as King and Skeldon did in their fantastic 2010 article Mind the gap! Integrating Approaches to Internal and International Migration, and which is one of the negative consequences of the well-spread methodological nationalism in Migration Research (Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2002).

The article is coming soon in the prestigious journal Ethnic and Racial Studies!


CfP Participatory Methods in Migration Research

Call for Papers




[You can download the pdf version of the CfP here]


Human mobility is a highly interdisciplinary and complex issue which has been approached from diverse national academic traditions and methodologies of investigation (DeTona et al 2010). Although the study of migration was initially dominated by empiricist-positivist approaches, there is by now a well-established tradition of qualitative studies (Iosifides and Sporton 2009). More recently, within the realm of feminist, critical and experimental scholarship, there has been an upsurge of new and creative methodological developments. These include a diversity of participatory approaches, ranging from social action-research, to research involving different types of participation (Arnstein 1969). This is particularly relevant at a time when not only scholars but also different institutions are currently promoting participation and societal involvement in research. This work has questioned well-established separations such as those between researcher and research participants, or between academia, activism and social work (Pereira et al. 2016). So far, though, these studies have not received systematized attention and to a large extend remain as scattered small case studies. Trying to redress this situation, this special issue aims to showcase overall connections and developments by providing an updated account of participatory approaches in migration studies, and to provide a fora to reflect on the possibilities, limits and challenges of making use of participatory methods in migration research.

We particularly welcome articles reflection on one or more of the following topics:

  • The nature of scientific knowledge and participatory methods:

Given that participatory projects often imply the use of artistic or non-textual elements, they compel us to consider the nature of scientific research, and how to accommodate other forms of knowledge production and dissemination. These include but are not limited to, considerations about how to account for the inclusion of the body and the sensorium into this type of research.

  • Gender dimension of participatory research:

We are particularly interested in works that reflect on the possible existence of a gendered aspect of participatory methodologies. Some elements found in many participatory projects (e.g. nurturing in research, carrying projects in personal time, non-conventional publication venues) may even contribute to the gender productivity gap in Academia and therefore work against already disadvantaged scholars (peripheral, female or early career researchers). In particular, we welcome considerations about if, and how, these methodologies may link, contribute and interpellate the postulates of the Slow Academia and feminist approaches to academic life and purpose.

  • Participation and power:

Participatory research is an umbrella term under which sits a wide-ranging variety of projects, therefore the need of studies on definitions and core features of participatory research and methodologies. These may take the form of review articles that report on the appearance and development of participatory projects in different disciplines (as long as they have any relation with migration), or works that attempt to advance conceptual clarity by mapping participatory projects. We are expressly interested in the power dynamics between different parties taking part in participatory projects, and in particular on the power dynamics that lead to define who is to participate and what participation actually means.

  • Structural obstacles:

Finally, we welcome accounts of the limiting and enabling forces around the possibility and sustainability of these type projects over time. Reflections on how to come around the issue of problematic access to funding particularly when involving open research agendas are needed. We foresee that comparative studies or projects carried out in areas or scholarly traditions other than Anglo-Saxon or European ones, may provide insights on the structural features of academic research that hinder or bloom the possibility of carrying out participatory projects.

Ideally, we envisage articles that present specific participatory projects from any discipline and covering any geographical scope and migrant group, but which go beyond the case-study at hand and provide broader theoretical reflections.


Contributors are invited to submit 500-words abstracts which address any of the topics above or is coherent with the broad theoretical conceptualization of the Special Issue by December 15th, 2018. All submitted proposals should not have previously been published or be currently under review for publication. Proposals need to be submitted by email to all the SI editors:

Diana Mata-Codesal, d.mata.codesal@gmail.com

Concha Maiztegi, concha.maiztegi@deusto.es

Laure Kloetzer,  laure.kloetzer@unine.ch

Authors will be informed about the outcome of the pre-selection process by 15th January 2018.

Full drafts of 3,500-4,000 words excluding references, tables and graphs will need to be submitted by 1st April 2019. Please note that full articles will have to undergo double blind peer review in order to be accepted into the final publication.


Migration Letters is abstracted and indexed widely, including by SCOPUS and Web of Science. It is ranked as a Q1 journal in ScImago. It is the first ever letter-type journal in migration studies following a strict double blind peer review policy for research articles. It is published four times a year in January, April, July and October. For more information please see the journal webpage


Cuerpos malolientes

A lo largo de la historia ciertos cuerpos han sido descalificados como malolientes. Los cuerpos de los mendigos, los extranjeros, los pobres, judíos, gitanos, prostitutas… todos ellos han sido en algún momento rechazados por hediondos. Los cuerpos explotados en trabajos físicamente demandantes, huelen siempre a sudor, indendientemente de lo limpios que en realidad estén, porque el olor es un marcador simbólico: oler es estar sucio, tanto física como moralmente.

Los grupos malolientes cambian según las necesidades del contexto pero los mecanismos de descalificación que utilizan el olor como marca de inferioridad se mantienen. En general lo que comparten todos los grupos calificados como malolientes es su localización marginal en el orden social. Algunos están en la parte inferior de la jerarquía, otros directamente están fuera de la clasificación social. Los otros, los inferiores, los diferentes, los marginados, los excluidos, huelen.

Texto originalmente escrito en catalán para La Directa: https://directa.cat/cossos-pudents/

Disponible en español en el blog de OACU: https://observatoriconflicteurba.org/2018/10/19/cuerpos-malolientes-huele-a-capitalismo-segunda-parte/

Si te interesa el tema tal vez quieras leerte el artículo en AIBR-Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana El olor del cuerpo migrante en la ciudad desodorizada. Simbolismo olfativo en los procesos de clasificación social.

Desired immobility

Presentation at the Panel on Two-step approaches to understanding migration at the IMISCOE 2018 Conference (2-4 July).

DhA832jXUAEX1CRAlthough immobility has gained status as a proper research object, its image as a default situation still prevails in some of the migration literature, where stayers are still labelled as ‘left behind’ (Jónsson, 2011). However, similarly to the migrant category which subsumes together different realities, the immobile label is imposed on situations that present internal disparity. The idea of staying put as the result of taking no action is severely compromised in the analysis of the ethnographic data collected in the small Mexican village of Zacualpan. In the socio-geographical context of this village, crossed and built upon a myriad of present and past mobilities, the research explores how villagers willing to remain, manage to stay put in a context of high physical mobility. Data show how, similarly to migration, staying put is often part of complex life strategies which involve changing mobility-immobility articulations. The ethnographic material supports the explanatory power of breaking down the aspiration phase from the realisation one to understand the (mis)matching between desires and capacities for situations of permanence (Carling, 2002). Three broad types of stayers are identified: desired, acquiescent (Schewel 2015), and involuntary (Carling 2002) stayers. The research particularly explores how villagers willing to remain, have managed to stay put in a context of high physical mobility, and how staying villagers perceive the desirability and feasibility of staying put compared with that of migrating.


Aquí huele a capitalismo

Me decía un amigo que había vivido en Suiza en los tiempos de la emigración española a Europa allá por los años sesenta, que entonces eran los españoles los que olían mal. Obligados a vivir hacinados en condiciones precarias, el gueto español desprendía olor a chorizo y cebolla. Décadas después estas representaciones parecían no haber existido y la convivencia con esos migrantes del sur de Europa en los paises europes como Suiza o Francia se presentaba como libre de tensiones. En 1991, el entonces alcalde de París y futuro presidente de la república francesa Jacques Chirac hizo un polémico discurso en el que, además de la ya clásica referencia acusadora a la supuesta buena vida que se ve que da vivir de las ayudas sociales, mencionaba el ruido y el olor [le bruit et l’odeur] que salían de las casas de algunos inmigrantes en Francia como un motivo que justificaba las quejas racistas de algunos trabajadores franceses (blancos). El discurso no tiene desperdido. Entre otras cosas decía Chirac que “Puede ser verdad que no hay más extranjeros que antes de la guerra, pero no son del mismo tipo. Es cierto que había españoles, polacos y portugueses trabajando aquí, pero eso generaba menos problemas que tener musulmanes o negros”. El mal olor que se atribuía a les espagnoles  desaparece de los registros sustituído ahora por el de los inmigrantes árabes y africanos. De hecho, en cada momento, los cuerpos explotados en trabajos físicamente demandantes, huelen siempre a sudor, indendientemente de lo limpios que en realidad estén, porque el olor es un marcador simbólico: oler es estar sucio, tanto física como moralmente.

Puedes seguir leyendo el texto aquí está el texto original publicado en La Directa (en catalán): https://directa.cat/fa-olor-de-capitalisme/

En español en el blog del Observatorio de Antropología del Conflicto Urbano: https://observatoriconflicteurba.org/2018/07/31/huele-a-capitalismo/

Identidades en resistencia: Daniela Ortiz y Sirin Adlbi Sibai

Un proyecto de La Virreina Centre de La Imatge con el apoyo de Pla Barcelona Interculturalitat. Comisariado por Tania Adam


Maternidad, alegría, fuerza, luchas por ser y existir de manera digna, preguntas de otra manera, respuestas en construcción y lucha, complicidad, apelaciones más que necesarias a la euroblanquitud, creadoras de discursos de una lucidez tan escasa como necesaria en estos tiempos que corren. Tres mujeres racializadas increíbles, Daniela Ortiz, Sirin Adlbi Sibai, y Tania Adam, con unos de los discursos más potentes que existen en este momento en el panorama español. Unas mujeres que luchan con sus palabras y discursos pero por desgracia teniendo que poner literalmente el cuerpo, jugándose la integridad física y emocional dadas las violencias de todo tipo (como mujeres, como cuerpos racializados, como sujetos coloniales) a las que son sometidas. Muy agradecida a la lucidez de estas personas, que no tienen el lujo de poder poner solo sus ideas, sino que también ponen el cuerpo y la vida al cuestionar las estructuras racistas coloniales profundas sobre las que se asienta nuestra sociedad.

Es un honor poder escuchar a personas como Daniela Ortiz o Sirin Adlbi Sibai. Totalmente necesarias sus llamadas de atención hacia la blanquitud. Apelándonos de manera directa a quienes tenemos el privilegio de poder pensar desde la comodidad de no jugarnos nada más allá del trabajo o cierta tensión familiar. Gracias de corazón por la infinita generosidad de personas como ellas que comparten en este tipo de foros sus ideas. Y qué diferente de las lógicas académicas actuales en las que impera la competencia, el no compartir las ideas por miedo a que sean robadas, cautivas por las dinámicas empresariales del sistema de publicaciones científicas. Porque no nos engañemos, ahora mismo la academia ha perdido su papel de crítica social y fines transformadores, si es que alguna vez los tuvo. Es en los movimientos sociales de personas racializadas contra el racismo, desde los otros feminismos o feminismos no hegemónicos, es en la lucha contra la islamofobia, o el antigitanismo, desde donde en la actualidad se cuestionan de manera más articulada y feroz las estructuras de dominación sobre las que se asienta nuestra sociedad. El conocimiento que se crea desde esos espacios, esas otras maneras de mirar que por desgracia y como ellas mismas denuncian, son en demasiadas ocasiones apropiados, tergiversados y mercantilizados por algunas personas del mundo académico que han/hemos hecho del “expertismo” nuestro modus vivendi.

Trabajando en migraciones hace tiempo que comenzó mi incomodidad con el extractivismo epistemológico pero también económico que llevamos a cabo desde los entornos académicos. Cada vez estoy más convencida que mi papel en la lucha anti-racista (si es que es alguno) pasa por reenfocar mis capacidades de análisis hacia conceptos y procesos sociales como el de autoctonía, la blanquitud, el racismo o la construcción del nosotros. Dejar de poner el foco en las personas con (ciertos) procesos migratorios a las espaldas y enfocarnos en esos supuestos “autóctonos” y en los mecanismos de diferenciación que posibilitan que ciertas personas sean construidas como otros indeseados.

Are women less mobile than men?

The State ideology, says Deleuze and Guattari, has the “pretension to be a world order, and to root man” (1980: 24). And I add, to root women as well.  The rooting process resulting from the sedentary logic of the nation state, does not deploy its effects homogeneously over the whole population. Who is perceived as mobile and whose mobility is considered socially abnormal is a highly gendered issue. As Carla Freeman states “travel, with its embodiments of worldliness, adventure, physical prowess, and cultural mastery, is widely constructed as a male pursuit” (2001: 1018). Gender ideologies of what being a woman versus being a man entail are key to understand the differential representational processes women and men are subjected to regarding immobility. There are many studies, particularly in Mexico and other places where migration is prevailing and there is a “culture of migration” in place, which show how men are expected to migrate in order to become fully members of their community, while women are expected to stay put and wait for their male relatives to return. The sedentary logic of the nation state, which normalizes immobility, couples with a patriarchal ideology which aims to control and regulate women’s behaviour. The intertwining of both ideologies, roots women more deeply than men. As Jaume Franquesa states “power is not so much an attribute of the “mobiles”, but an attribute of those who can decide who is mobile and who is immobile” (2011: 1024). Such power is exerted through the gendered social desirability of mobility and immobility, with the construction of female mobilities as an exception.


Women are often portrayed as rooted to the soil, charged with the physical and cultural continuity of the group. They are expected to give birth and to pass on the central values of the group to their offspring. Because of this frequent association between women and roots/soil, the relationship between being a woman and not migrating is naturalized: female immobilities are socially constructed as natural. Women, particularly those with children, who fail to comply with this imaginary, are discredited as denaturalized and bad mothers.

In Ecuador, and this is well-known for anyone working on migration in the Andean region, men have been migrating to the US for decades. When women started to migrate internationally as pioneer migrants to Europe in 1990s, there was an upsurge in catastrophic discourses about the risks of family disintegration brought about by women’s migration. Migrant women were nationally portrayed as bad mothers, contrary to migrant men who have been traditionally portrayed as entrepreneurial selves. In a context of acute economic crisis, I found in my research in Ecuador that in many cases, women had to resort to international migration in order to make a living for their children because of men not taking care of their family responsibilities. But still, migrant women were portrayed as bad mothers. Gender ideologies are key in shaping the process of stating who is desired to stay put, which in turn influences who is perceived as immobile. I found something similar in Mexico. Although women in the village of Zacualpan have been migrating for decades for family reasons, to study, and even to work as unqualified and qualified workers (domestic workers, teachers, etc.), their mobility was still presented as an exception.

The logic of the nation-state permeates much of the academic work on mobility and human migration of the recent decades. It means that too often studies have taken the limits and categories of the nation state as units of analysis. Although this idea goes a long way back, in Migration Studies it has been best articulated by Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Schiller, with the concept of methodological nationalism. To put it simple, methodological nationalism is to take the nation-state units as our units of analysis without thinking previously if such units are relevant or not for the specific research project. By doing so, some realities are obscured while some others are brought to the front. For instance, taking the State borders as the natural delimiters of our research units, zooms in on the mobility patterns more often followed by men while hiding women’s mobilities. In Mexico, as in many other locations worldwide men have traditionally outnumbered women in international migration. The academic importance given in the last decades to international migration has contributed to overshadowing the mobilities women more often engaged with. Already in 1885, Ravenstein, one of the pioneers of Migration Studies, stated in his Laws of Migration that: “woman is a greater migrant than man. This may surprise those who associate women with domestic life, but the figures of the census clearly prove it […] women certainly are greater migrants than men, but they go shorter distances”. The academic importance given to international migration has gender-biased our understandings of mobility. By overshadowing mobilities more often followed by women, women’s mobilities have been socially constructed as more unusual than men’s. By constructing women’s mobilities as exceptional, women become rooted.

To read more:

Mata-Codesal, Diana (2017) Gendered (Im)mobility: Rooted Women and Waiting Penelopes. Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture 8(2): 151-162.

Mata-Codesal, Diana (2015) Ways of Staying Put in Ecuador. Social and Embodied experiences of mobility-immobility interactions. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies41(14): 2274-2290.