Promoting the Public Benefit of Cultural Diasporas

Submitting Institution

University of Southampton

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Demography, Sociology
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

The University of Southampton has carried out a programme of research into transnational networks of migrants, especially musicians from African countries, and multicultural neighbourhoods across Europe. This has resulted in a series of popular multi-national arts events in Africa and Europe, involving artists numbering in the hundreds and audiences in the hundreds of thousands. These events have generated new independent cultural projects, leading to economic benefit for organisers and participants and to greater public awareness of migrant and mixed community issues.

Underpinning research

African migration to Europe is often conflated with negative issues such as overcrowding, community tensions or pressures on health and social services. Research led by Ulrike Meinhof, Professor of Cultural Studies (2001-present) at the University of Southampton, into the practices of migrant cultural practitioners and their transnational cultural networks has revealed how migration results in economic, social and cultural benefits across geographical borders.

This research has been framed by two interconnecting, interdisciplinary projects, TNMundi: Diaspora as social and cultural practice and SeFoNe (Searching for Neighbours): Dynamics of physical and mental borders in the new Europe. TNMundi was funded by the AHRC (Grant 1, 2006-2010; Research Fellows: Dr Nadia Kiwan and Dr Marie-Pierre Gibert). SeFoNe, co-directed by Dr Heidi Armbruster (Lecturer in German, University of Southampton, 2003-present), was funded by the EU (Grant 2, 2007-2010, Research Fellows: Dr Hauke Dorsch and Dr Casssandra Ellerbe-Dueck) and conducted in conjunction with the Universities of Berne (Switzerland), Nicosia (Cyprus), Catania (Italy), Chemnitz (Germany) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

For TNMundi, Meinhof analysed the patterns of movements and transnational networks created by different artists of Malagasy and North African origin travelling to, through and from Europe to address broader questions of sociocultural diversity, interaction and citizenship. This involved consumption and reception studies with migrant groups (individual interviews, focus groups), participant observation at cultural events and in-depth 'expert' interviews with media/cultural policymakers, executives and practitioners in Europe and Africa.

A key part of this research was the organisation of interconnecting multi-artist cultural events in Antananarivo, Madagascar (November 2007), Rabat, Morocco (October 2008) and Southampton (October 2009). Through such events Meinhof identified the significance and function of migration `hubs': individuals, formal or informal cultural organisations, and cities with vital infrastructures (e.g. Paris, London, Antananarivo or Casablanca) able to link new artists with established artists. In addition to these human, institutional and spatial hubs, the research demonstrated the importance of `accidental' hubs, such as the Antananarivo concerts, created through the research process itself [3.1.1 - 3.1.4].

SeFoNe took the research methods, findings and collaborative cultural event structures established in TNMundi and expanded the focus both geographically (to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and Cyprus) and artistically (to include photography, dance, art and cookery as well as music). Through exploring community relations marked by national, ethnic or racial boundaries and examining local negotiations of those boundaries, including attempts to overcome them, researchers brought into focus two normally distinct research agendas: border studies and migration studies. Interviews and community surveys with key stakeholders allowed researchers to evaluate and critique existing official policies on integration and identify activities for good neighbourhood building [3.2.1 - 3.2.2].

Key findings in both TNMundi and SeFoNe included the identification of obstacles in overcoming hurdles associated with migration (e.g. insecure minority status leading to mobility or work restrictions, obstacles resulting from prejudice, racism or other forms of `out-grouping') and the role `transcultural capital' (skills, talents, networks associated with migrants' origin) can play in overcoming these obstacles [3.1 and 3.2, and Report for European Parliament on cultural diasporas: see section 4, below].

References to the research

3.1 TNMundi: key publications and grant

3.1.1 Kiwan, Nadia and Meinhof, Ulrike H. (2011) Cultural Globalization and Music: African Musicians in Transnational Networks (Palgrave Macmillan). (Selected for REF2014)


3.1.2 Glick-Schiller, Nina and Meinhof, Ulrike H. (2011) `Singing a new song? Transnational migration, methodological nationalism and cosmopolitan perspectives', in Music and Migration, special issue of Music and Art in Action, Vol 3:3, (Selected for REF2014)

3.1.3 Gibert, Marie-Pierre and Meinhof, Ulrike H. (2009) `Inspiration triangulaire: musique, tourisme et développement à Madagascar'. Numéro spécial des Cahiers d'études africaines: Mise en tourisme de la culture: réseaux, représentations et pratiques XLIX (1-2) 193-194: 227-256. (Selected for REF2014)

3.1.4 Meinhof, Ulrike H., Gibert, Marie-Pierre and Kiwan, Nadia (2010) `Transnational musicians' networks across Africa and Europe', in K. Knott and D. McLoughlin (eds) Diasporas: Concepts, Identities, Intersections, Zed Books, 249-255.

Grant 1 TNMundi

Diaspora as social and cultural practice: transnational networks across Europe and Africa. AHRC-funded project (Diaspora, Migration and Identity Programme): 11/2006 - 3/2010.

Total grant value: £502,321 (AHRC contribution: £401,857); share for Southampton £336,358.

3.2 SeFoNe: key publications and grant

3.2.1 Armbruster, Heidi and Meinhof, Ulrike H. (eds) (2011) Negotiating Multicultural Europe: Borders, Networks, Neighbourhoods (Palgrave Macmillan).


3.2.2 Holly, Werner and Meinhof, Ulrike H. (2013) `Integration hatten wir letztes Jahr': Official discourses of integration and their uptake by migrants in Germany', in A. Duchêne, M. Moyer and C. Roberts (eds) Language, Migration and Social Inequalities, Multilingual Matters, 169-193.

Grant 2 SeFoNe

Searching for Neighbours: dynamics of physical and mental borders in the new Europe. EU 6th Framework project: 2/2007- 4/2010. Total grant value: 1,200,000 Euro; share for Southampton £331,520.

Details of the impact

As a direct result of events organised and close links forged with community, artistic, industrial and government leaders during her research, Meinhof has been called upon to advise arts programme organisers and EU policy makers. The research has also influenced an investigation of artists' rights by the Government of Madagascar and raised public awareness of cultural diversity issues in Europe and Africa.

As part of TNMundi, Meinhof organised a series of concerts/conferences in Antananarivo, Madagascar (November 2007, 200 participants), Rabat, Morocco (13-14/11/2008, 150 participants) and Southampton (12-19/10/2009, 200 participants) [5.1]. All featured resident and non-resident national musicians and focused on the role of artists and their music within transnational networks resulting in a raised awareness of the political, social, legal and economic concerns in the relationship between countries of origin and migrants living in Europe.

The two concerts held on 15/16 November 2007 in Antananarivo, bringing together famous resident and non-resident Malagasy musicians, paved the way for a wide range of impacts in the period 2008-13. The first concert played to a full capacity crowd of 200 government, industrial and cultural leaders. The second was attended by a public audience of 300 and was broadcast live to an estimated 325,000 prime-time TV viewers. This event was widely reviewed and commented on in the media and was accompanied by round table discussions including the then Madagascar Minister of Sport and Culture, with significant impact in the following years on the development of new structures for protecting authors' rights.

As a direct outcome of the successful Antananarivo concerts and conference, in 2008 the musician Dama Mahaleo was among a number of artists and others invited by the Madagascar Minister of Sport and Culture to participate in several consultations on artists' rights and cross-border artistic collaborations. These consultations highlighted as a particular concern the right of musicians to be identified as the authors of, and economically benefit from, the recordings of their music and led to the formation of the `Syndicate of Artists' (2012), which was charged with investigating the protection of artists' rights and co-led by Dama Mahaleo [5.2].

Dama had performed in all TNMundi concerts. Within several months he and a group of fellow TNMundi performers adopted the name The Madagascar All-Stars and in 2009 they released a debut album on the French Cinq Planètes label [5.2]. After a performance organised by Meinhof in the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton (November 2009, audience 200) the Editor of Songlines magazine said: "What was interesting was ... the experience of being an émigré and of missing your homeland .... I could see how beneficial the shared experience was for (The All-Stars) but also for us as the audience" [5.3].

Workshops were held in four local schools, and one master class for music students in the Turner Sims, with the artists playing with children and students. A young saxophonist wrote: "Thank goodness I had run home before the concert to grab my saxophone; I went over to thank the band after the master class; they saw my sax and asked me to jam! I don't think I will ever forget it; for that brief moment I felt I had dipped into their culture and world; it was very special. After hearing them at the lunchtime concert, I had to have more! In the evening concert I felt myself mouthing the familiar sounding words from before and even singing out! I had an interest in World music prior to experiencing the music from the Madagascar All-Stars; but these guys made me hungry to seek out more. I could really relate to them, their music was so expressive and meaningful. When I play my saxophone, I feel as though I am trying to send out similar vibes; I loved them!" And the Headteacher of Bevois Town Primary School said: "I found that the children related to the musicians as they came from different countries. They enabled the children to see what could be done. Some of the children were particularly impressed that they were playing at the Turner Sims and that they (the children) had played there last year. It gave them a great feeling of pride." [5.3]

The All-Stars were subsequently invited to Songlines' Encounters Festival (9/6/12) [5.4]. Also resulting from a first collaboration with the TNMundi project, musicians Erick Manana (Malagasy) and Jenny Fuhr (German) formed a musical group. They played twice in concerts at the Paris Olympia (November 2009 and January 2013; 1772 seats, sold out), completed a successful concert tour of Madagascar (June 2011) and released their debut album (January 2013) [5.5].

As a direct result of expertise gained and contacts made during her research, Meinhof has also been asked to facilitate collaborations between `world' musicians, cultural associations, NGOs such as the Freunde Madagaskars in Munich, and music festivals such as the Rudolstadt World Music festival 2009 and the Madagascar Festival in Weinheim 2013 [5.6].

As part of SeFoNe Meinhof, Armbruster and their research partners organised cultural events (public concerts, exhibitions, workshops in schools) for groups of between 50 and 200 in Hungary (1-3/5/2009), Cyprus (22-23/5/2009), Slovakia (30/4-3/5 2009), and Chemnitz (24/9/2009) and Bayreuth (29/10-1/11/2009) in Germany. In Bayreuth, a renowned German-Nigerian photographer trained schoolchildren from under-privileged backgrounds in photography culminating in an exhibition in a major gallery [5.7]. One of the young participants, Fabian, wrote (translated from the German original): "I learned to see things very differently. Before I walked past without noticing anything and would have thought: why would anyone bother to take pictures of fences?" [5.7]

Building on the initial findings from SeFoNe, Meinhof was commissioned by the European Parliament to report on Cultural Diasporas. The report, co-authored with Armbruster in 2008 and commended for its high quality by two officials at the European Parliament, drew on research to include empirically underpinned arguments to support the need to secure better mobility for artists by improving residencies and visa regulations [5.8]. The research was further disseminated at an EU conference (Brussels 20/1/2010) attended by the European Economic and Social Committee President of Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship [5.9].

In May 2013 Meinhof led a workshop on cultural diversity as part of the Global Governance Programme at the European University Institute for 40 participants including diplomats, EU policymakers, representatives from NGOs and business. Feedback from the organisers said: "Your lecture got among the highest evaluation marks ... . We also felt it was most appropriate for explaining to the participants in what ways cultural diversity can become a true asset for employment and creativity" [5.10].

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Link to TNMundi website:

5.2 Letter from artist, project consultant and Secrétaire Générale of Syndicat des Artistes, Madagascar.

5.3 Manager, Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton to corroborate audience responses.

5.4 Editor, Songlines magazine, London.

5.5 Information on CD

5.6 President, Freunde Madagaskars, Munich, Germany.

5.7 Photographs and film clips from cultural events:; exhibition catalogue.

5.8 Emails from European Parliament officials.

5.9 Brussels conference programme:

5.10 Director, Global Governance Programme and Scientific Coordinator of Research Strand on Cultural Pluralism, European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy.