The Spiral Plait: Integration, Arts and Migrant Women

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The question of integration and the formation of ethnic enclaves in the United Kingdom form a central part of the experience of refugees and migrants. Ethnic enclaves can be constructed by new communities, particularly communities of migrant women. In these enclaves, questions of physical and existential safety mean that bonding experiences within specific refugee communities are privileged over bridge-building with the prevailing dominant culture. A large part of this debate has rested on how far some sense of “Britishness” becomes part of the core identities of new communities and what policymakers and activists can do to reassert the mechanisms that make integration work. This paper will examine three aspects of this question: “enclavization” and its discontents, particularly for those who want to force integration from above; the critical gender dimension of the refugee and integration experience; and the concept of identity and heritage work with new communities of women. The latter is supported by a case-study of a set of projects in the north of England, which practise a particular vision of integration from below, or grassroots integration processes, rather than assimilation from above. Data collected for the case-studies were based on conversations with refugee women and women from settled host communities. This study bridges academic knowledge with community activists' experiences on the ground and demonstrates a new way of working with arts and identity work amongst women where identity work is the work that women do themselves about their self-conceptions, biographies and destinations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-107
JournalSt Antonys International Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


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