2) Diaspora as Social and Cultural Practice

Submitting Institution

University of Aberdeen

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Demography, Policy and Administration, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Events organised as part of the TNMUNDI research project in 2008 and 2009 set out to increase understanding of the processes and practices of migration among a range of audiences, including cultural practitioners, public policy representatives, school children and the general public. The research team focused on migrant musicians and their transnational networks through concerts and workshops held in Rabat and Southampton, demonstrating how transnational musicians create their professional networks and how, in turn, they use these to make positive contributions to the social and cultural well-being of nation-states inside and outside Europe. At both events, the researchers discussed the cultural and artistic impacts of transnational migration with representatives from educational and cultural institutions, NGOs, the media, the music industry and the artists themselves. As a result of the project, new professional and cultural networks have been formed and the researchers provided input to the development of European cultural policy.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research was carried out as part of the TNMUNDI project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council between November 2006 and March 2010 (application submitted May 2006). Dr Nadia Kiwan (in post at the University of Aberdeen since 1 January 2006) was Co-Investigator, working with Professor Ulrike Meinhof (University of Southampton) as Principal Investigator. Building on previous research by the team on migrant musicians in European capital cities (Kiwan 2007; Kiwan and Meinhof 2006; Kiwan and Kosnick 2006), the project investigated the transnational networks of migrant musicians. It considered how artists and cultural practitioners originating from North Africa and Madagascar are able to construct or enter complex and diverse networks across Africa and Europe; and how networking affects their own personal and professional lives and those with whom they come into contact. Kiwan and Meinhof showed that artists who create or enter such networks make use of, but go far beyond, the traditional diasporic links which tie them to their countries of origin (Kiwan and Meinhof 2011a; Kiwan and Meinhof 2011b; Meinhof, Kiwan and Gibert 2010). Instead, they follow a different logic of translocal or transnational networking. The project extended existing transnational network research by providing systematic examples drawn from empirical research, including substantive accounts of forty musicians and musical groups originating from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt; forty musicians and musical groups originating from Madagascar; and other arts professionals, entrepreneurs and institutions with whom they come into contact.

The researchers used the material gathered to re-theorize migration networks. They elaborated the concept of `transcultural capital' (Kiwan and Meinhof 2011), understood as the cultural knowledge, skills and resources which transnational migrant musicians mobilise in order to develop and sustain their artistic practice, and developed new methodological approaches based on `hubs' of interconnection between key individuals, places and cultural institutions across transnational spaces. Of particular significance was the study's ability to demonstrate the complex movements of migration, including settled migrant musicians in their new countries of residence; migrant musicians who move transnationally between their country of origin and new country of residence; and those migrant musicians who move within and across `sending and receiving' countries. The project's focus proved vital in achieving a much more complex picture of the reach and impact of globalization. Consequently, it produced an in-depth understanding of the various flows and cycles of migration: country-internal migration, transnational migration, and return migration. For example, it highlighted the country-internal migrations of rap artists moving between Fes and Casablanca; the transnational `to-ing and fro-ing' of one particular musician between Lyon and Tunis; and the return migration of two female musicians from Morocco, who had been based in France and Turkey before returning `home'. Their network model thus embraced a much wider set of interconnections than is usually the case in migration studies, and provided a range of empirical material linking artists, cultural institutions and civil society organisations in Madagascar, North Africa (mainly Morocco and Algeria) and many countries in Europe (the UK, Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland).

References to the research

Research Outputs

Kiwan, N. and Meinhof, U. H. (2011a), Cultural Globalization and Music: African Artists in Transnational Networks, Palgrave Macmillan. (Author contribution: Kiwan 50%; Meinhof 50%). [REF 2]


Kiwan, N. and Meinhof, U. H. (2011b), `Music and Migration', Music and Arts in Action, vol. 3, no. 3. [Co-edited special issue of the journal]

Kiwan, N. and Meinhof, U. H. (2011c), `Music and migration: a transnational perspective', Music and Arts in Action, vol. 3: 3, pp. 3-20.

Meinhof, U. H., Kiwan, N. and Gibert M.P. (2010), `Transnational musicians' networks across Africa and Europe' in Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities, edited by K Knott and S McLoughlin, Zed Books, pp. 249-255.

Kiwan, N. (2007), `When the Cultural and the Social Meet: A critical perspective of socially embedded cultural policy in France', International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 153-167.


Kiwan, N. and Meinhof, U.H. (2006), `Perspectives on Cultural Diversity: France, Germany and the European Union', in Transcultural Europe: Cultural Policy in the Changing European Space, edited by Ulrike H. Meinhof and Anna Triandafyllidou, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 57-81.

Kiwan, N. and Kosnick, K., (2006),'"Whiteness" and Cultural Policy: Paris and Berlin', in Transcultural Europe: Cultural Policy in the Changing European Space, edited by Ulrike H. Meinhof and Anna Triandafyllidou, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.105-130.

Evidence of quality

• All items peer reviewed and published by journals and presses of international standing in their respective fields

• Underpinning research funded by a project grant from the AHRC, `Diaspora as social and cultural practice: a study of transnational networks across Europe and Africa' (TNMUNDI) (award number AH/E508626/1, value £401,857, dates 01/11/2006-31/03/2010)

Details of the impact

As part of the TNMUNDI project, the team organised two cultural events on `Music and Migration' in Rabat (10-14 November 2008) and Southampton (12-17 October 2009). [1] The events involved a range of participants and audiences, including representatives of cultural institutions (the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, the Institut Français-Morocco and the British Council-Morocco); the music industry (Casablanca-based recording studio manager and festival organisers); the media (Hit Radio in Rabat, Chief Editor of Songlines magazine in the UK); infant and primary schoolchildren (at the Southampton event); and the general public (in Morocco and the UK). Their aim was to increase understanding of the processes of transnational networking amongst migrants, and demonstrate in practice some of the more positive possibilities of transnational migration.

At both events, a musicians' residency lasting three days brought together migrant musicians who had participated in the project's empirical research, and who also performed in public concerts. Conferences consisting of academic papers and round table discussions were open to the general public. The event in Rabat comprised 6 artists of Moroccan background resident in Europe and Morocco, and the final event in Southampton brought together 15 artists, 7 of Malagasy, and 8 of Algerian and Moroccan origin. Kiwan was the principal organiser of the Rabat event and co-organiser of the Southampton event. In both Rabat and Southampton, specially devised concerts were curated by Zafimahaleo Rasolofondraosolo (known as Dama), a leading musician, politician and cultural activist from Madagascar who also served as one of the TNMUNDI project consultants. The concert in Rabat attracted an audience of approximately 80-100. At the Southampton event, two public concerts by Malagasy and North African musicians each attracted an audience of approximately 200. The first was a lunchtime concert featuring the Madagascar All Stars. It was followed by a masterclass with the musicians open to university music students. The second was an evening concert showcasing work from the three-day residency between the North African and Malagasy musicians. A number of the musicians also took part in workshops in three infant and junior schools in Southampton and Portsmouth which involved approximately 90 school children in years 3 and 5.

The TNMUNDI project impacted on civil society because it influenced the form and content of associations between migrant musicians. In doing so, it presented an alternative view of migration to the wider, non-academic public. It also contributed to continuing personal and professional development of the artists involved in the residencies. For example, the Rabat event created a link between Dama, the London-based musician Farid Nainia from the Moroccan group Momo, and the Paris-based group Binobin, which subsequently was reconfirmed in their collaborating in the final event in Southampton; and the event in Southampton itself sparked off a new connection between London-based oud player Yazid Fentazi from Algeria and Régis Gizavo from Madagascar. Similarly, since the Southampton event took place, the Malagasy musicians have gone onto play again at the Turner Sims Concert Hall and at the Songlines Encounter Festival. [2] Furthermore, the Rabat event contributed to the professional development of one of the musicians involved (Badre Belhachemi) in that it allowed him to further develop the cultural enterprise, ABSAWT, of which he is a founding member. ABSAWT's aim is to promote Moroccan musicians across Africa, Europe and Canada and the Rabat `Music and Migration' event which took place as part of the TNMUNDI project is listed as one of their main public activities on the ABSAWT website. [3] In addition, the partnership between the researchers and the Turner Sims Concert Hall continued and led to a further EU funding bid in 2013 involving Kiwan, Meinhof and the Turner Sims Concert Hall. Quantitative indicators of impact are the funding for our cultural events. The Rabat event was funded by the British Council, the Institut Français, the Conseil de la Communauté marocaine à l'étranger and the Fondation Hassan II, Rabat. After the Rabat event, the director of the Institut Français noted that `In Rabat, the organisation was very professional [...] I attended a good concert (essentially thanks to the work done by the musicians and thanks to you'. [4] For the final event in Southampton, the Arts Council England provided a grant for the two public concerts at the Turner Sims Concert Hall.

The TNMUNDI project impacted on cultural life by generating new ways of thinking that influenced the creative practice of the artists involved; by creating, inspiring and supporting new forms of musical expression from them; and by presenting their cultural heritage to different audiences. Evidence for this is provided by testimonials from the musicians and cultural sector professionals involved in both events. With regards to the Rabat event, one of the Paris-based Moroccan musicians said: `As artists, we have a tendency to function by instinct and passion. Encounters of this type allow us to see things with more distance and objectivity. This allows us to move forward in our work thanks to the experiences of others.' [5] The co-founder of one of Africa's largest urban music festivals, Le Boulevard des jeunes musiciens in Casablanca, observed of the Rabat event that: `It's very rewarding to stimulate the interest of researchers and academics. I realise that our adventure with the Boulevard has become a real societal phenomenon. It's also an opportunity to learn about other experiences, which is very enriching for us.' [5] Finally, the curator of the Rabat concert commented that: `The arts are an excellent vector of communication which go beyond chauvinism and create bonds between people.' [5] The TNMUNDI's impact on cultural life is further demonstrated by the following comments from the Turner Sims Concert Hall manager in Southampton: `The week's activities had an energy and enthusiasm unlike almost anything else that we present here. There was a genuine feeling among the musicians that they wanted to create something different and meaningful rather than a repeat of what they might have done elsewhere and this came across on all the occasions I met them.' [6]

The TNMUNDI project impacted on public discourse by presenting a very different picture of `the migrant' to researchers, arts and cultural professionals, public policy representatives and the general public. The vast majority of research on migration is socio-economic in character. Very often, migrants are portrayed by the media and governments as a source of economic, cultural and social problems for the receiving society, with migrants often being depicted as victims or fraudulent (whether they be political exiles, students, economic or postcolonial migrants). By focusing on artists in general and musicians in particular, TNMUNDI demonstrated how migrants have a positive influence on the quality of life of individuals and communities locally, nationally and internationally. Evidence for this impact is demonstrated in the comments of the Head of Southampton Music Services regarding the Madagascar All Stars lunchtime concert, held at the Turner Sims Concert Hall: `I thought the Allstars demonstrated beautifully how music works across cultures and generations, presenting an ethos of inclusivity and belonging.' [6] The impact on public discourse can also be demonstrated in the following commentary from the moderator of a public round-table discussion organised as part of the Southampton event, entitled `Moving music, roots and routes: the artists' view'. The moderator, (Co-editor of the Rough Guide to World Music and Editor-in-Chief of Songlines Magazine, a major UK world music publication), said: `I've seen a lot of performers from Madagascar, but I've enjoyed none as much as the Madagascar Allstars who basically came together thanks to this project. Great artists, from inside and outside the country, making totally compelling music together. The collaboration with the Moroccans was put together in a few days and had more rough edges — which everybody admitted and that was the point. What was interesting was the areas in which they met — often conceptual rather than musical — the experience of being an émigré and of missing your homeland. In the Round Table both Moroccan and Malagasy artists spoke of how they became more Moroccan or Malagasy as a result of being outside the country. One of the most moving songs in the concert was when this was expressed musically in a haunting Moroccan song of nostalgia. Having been at the collaborative concert and chairing the discussion I could see how beneficial the shared experience was for the musicians, but also for us as the audience of a one-off concert.' [6] Further confirming its impact on public discourse, the Southampton event was listed as part of Southampton city's Black History Month in October 2009. The aims of Black History Month are `to promote knowledge of black history and experience, to disseminate information on positive black contributions, to heighten confidence and awareness of black people in their cultural heritage'. The TNMUNDI Music and Migration Conference was listed in the Black History Month Guide as an event which contributed to these aims. [7]

The TNMUNDI project impacted on education by informing and influencing the education of university students from Morocco, Europe and North America who participated in the Rabat concert and conference. The project also had an educational impact on primary school-age pupils in Southampton, as the following testimonial regarding a workshop held with Kiwan and three Moroccan musicians (14/10/2009) demonstrates: `The children particularly enjoyed handling the instruments as some were familiar and others totally new to us. [...] The multi cultural aspect was an eye opener for our children who have little opportunity to meet enthusiastic people/musicians from different countries and cultures.' [6] The workshops fed into the primary pupils' music curriculum and Ludlow Junior school in particular have continued to build on their international links following the workshop.

The TNMUNDI project impacted on policymaking at European level. Kiwan and her colleagues were invited in 2007 by the Directorate General for Internal Policies of the Union to report on Cultural Diasporas to the European Parliament. They produced a 70-page policy document which discusses and analyses aspects of the TNMUNDI project findings.[8] Drawing on her TNMUNDI research on North African cultural diasporas, Kiwan was a contributing author to this policy report, which was subsequently read by European Members of Parliament.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Event programme details, reports and testimonials at the project website,
  2. News report on Southampton University website, http://bit.ly/1gtvpmC
  3. ABSAWT website, http://www.absawt.com/relation_presse.html
  4. Email correspondence from Director of the Institut Français, Rabat, 17/11/2008.
  5. Interview in newspaper article, `Quand les académiciens s'en mêlent', Le Soir (Morocco), 17 November 2008
  6. Report for Arts Council England on TNMUNDI cultural activities, available under "Report from Participants" link, Southampton Event'
  7. http://www.citylocal.co.uk/Southampton/events-in-Southampton/Black-History-Month-October-17541/
  8. Meinhof, Ulrike H. and Armbruster, H. (2008) Cultural Diasporas, European Parliament Policy Department B, Structural and Cohesion Policies (PE 389.600, IP/B/CULT/IC/2007-038 23/05/2008).