PhD Studentship Opportunity: “Silence as an integration strategy?”

Please find below details of a 3-year PhD Studentship available from October 2016 working with case study 2 of the RM Borders project.

Studentship Package

Each studentship is tenable for three years of full-time study, and offers the following financial support package:

  • An annual stipend at RCUK rates for three years (full time) (see rates at;
  • Fee waiver from the College of Social Sciences for three years (full time);
  • Access to research training support funds, including conference and travel support.

Successful applicants will possess:

  • a first-class or 2:1 undergraduate degree in Law or related discipline (exceptionally candidates possessing an undergraduate degree with lower classification but who have equivalent relevant professional and academic experience may be considered);
  • an LLM/MSc (completed or in progress) in a relevant subject area; or relevant equivalent qualification and experience is desirable but not essential;
  • an outstanding academic record and research potential.


We are looking for an applicant who has an outstanding academic pedigree and research potential, such as through the publication of journal articles and other publications. Applications are considered according to their academic merit. Factors such as financial status and nationality are not taken into account.

Awards can be held on a full-time basis only over three years. The successful candidate is expected to complete the doctoral research within three years. They are required to be based in the School of Law, University of Glasgow during this period to benefit from the support and networking offered by the large grant project.

It would be of benefit to the candidate to have one or more European languages.

How to Apply

Please provide the following documentation to apply:

  • Current CV;
  • Two academic references;
  • Transcripts of your previous degree(s);
  • English Language certificate. Applicants whose first language is not English are required to include evidence of their English Language ability, this should be a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 with no sub test less than 6.5 or equivalent.;
  • A proposal of maximum 1500 words, describing a self-standing project. It should show how it would contribute to Case Study 2’s work within the Researching Multilingually project (see Project Topic below).

Send all application documents including references in one email to Sarah Craig ( & Karin Zwaan (
DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: Friday 29 April 2016 (5pm GMT).

Your application for the studentship will be reviewed by the proposed supervisors, Sarah Craig (School of Law, University of Glasgow) and Karin Zwaan (Centre for Migration Law, Radboud University, Nijmegen). Sarah and Karin lead Case Study 2 “Translating Vulnerability and Silence into the Legal Process” of the Researching Multilingually project.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview by skype, or in person, in May 2016. Applicants will be notified whether they have been successful in late May 2016. The start date of the studentship is 1st October, 2016.

Informal queries about the studentship can be directed to Sarah Craig ( & Karin Zwaan (

More information about the Researching Multilingually Project

This large-grant AHRC-funded project is embedded within the “Translating Cultures” theme. The theme addresses the need for understanding and communication within, between and across diverse cultures. It supports research that explores the role of translation, understood in its broadest sense, in the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives.

The project brings together an international, multidisciplinary team of researchers and collaborators to work on an imaginative programme that integrates the following: (i) empirical research on translation and interpretation at different kinds of border (relating to language, the body, law, and the state); (ii) the development of theory, ethical research practices and research methodologies; and (ii) a range of creative arts projects.

The innovative project structure has the following components: (a) a Researching Multilingually and Translating Cultures (RMTC) ‘hub’; (b) five original case studies (involving research in the UK and US, as well as in Bulgaria, Gaza, The Netherlands, Romania and Uganda); and (c) a Creative Arts and Translating Cultures (CATC) ‘hub’. This overall structure provides for the development within a single, integrated project of new theoretical, conceptual and empirical understandings of processes and practices of translation, interpretation and representation, and also of the methodological, ethical and epistemological issues that arise when research is conducted in contexts where more than one language is used.

The studentships is embedded within this research programme. Doctoral students will be working alongside members of the team, focusing on their own project and contributing to the research and publication programme of the project.

Project Topic: Silence as an integration strategy?

Adjudicative processes typically require communication in one language only (English) and interpreters are often used. Applicants may feel silenced, or pressurised to speak. What happens when language is replaced by silence as decisions about immigration status are taken? How do interpreters, legal practitioners, decision makers – and researchers – address the issue of silence in this field, where the fundamental human rights of extremely vulnerable people are often at stake?

Courts and tribunals have consistently required communication in adjudicative processes to take place in English. In recent years other public institutions have also adopted requirements regarding communication in English. Such developments may be portrayed as an indicator of integration, with the result that the ability to speak English/Dutch becomes a substantive condition to be met.

For people applying for leave to remain under Immigration provisions, the ability to speak English may be one of the required conditions (see UK Immigration Rules for spouses or partners). Speaking English may also be regarded as a sign of integration when applying for citizenship. When UK Courts and tribunals are considering, under the Immigration Acts, whether the public interest justifies a breach of a person’s human right to respect for private and family life, they must regard, among other considerations, the ability to speak English as being in the public interest (Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 202 s 117). Current policy proposals would make the ability to speak English fluently a requirement for front-line public service workers (UK Immigration Bill 2015-16 Part 7).

Such requirements have both procedural and substantive implications.

In most immigration and asylum cases, the applicant’s first language will not be English, and translation/interpretation is likely to be relied on during the adjudicative process. The implications of such reliance for access to and participation in the adjudiative process have been the subject of research by linguists (Inghilleri, Rycroft, Pollabauer) and by social anthropologists and sociologists (Good, Gibb), and the processes of power negotiation in intercultural encounters have also been scrutinised (Piller, 2011). These procedural, linguistic barriers to participation in the process can have substantive consequences where they influence or determine whether (or not) refugee or other immigration status is granted. This project will explore such questions from an “access to justice” perspective. The methods and forums for that study will be explored with the successful candidate, but could cover immigration detention, or the overlap between immigration and criminal law and process, as well as immigration and asylum adjudication.

Substantively, the requirement to demonstrate an ability to speak English can influence, and in some cases determine, a person’s future work prospects or immigration status. The level of fluency required raises issues which concern colleagues working in the hubs and other case studies in the Researching Multilingually project. Where the ability to speak English determines a person’s future work prospects or immigration status, how is fluency to be measured? What tests will be applied? How are decisions on such matters arrived at, and their reliability and fairness ensured?

Where the question of a person’s entitlement to stay in the UK depends on the communication between an applicant, an interpreter and an adjudicator, what are the expectations on each side? This project will explore the scope for that duty to be interpreted so that its communicative dimensions are emphasised (Hathaway, Foster). Existing procedural rules, protocols and standards at EU and national levels provide for translation and interpretation. To what extent could an emphasis on communication incorporate the role of the interpreter more fully? What would be the procedural implications of such an approach?

Participation in a judicial process requires communication, silence may be treated as prevarication, and language is under pressure. To what extent can the human rights framework (international, European, national) be called on to assist in finding a more appropriate space for communication in such circumstances? What scope if there for equality/human rights perspectives on language and communication (e.g. on the role of the interpreter in immigration and asylum adjudication) to be developed? This project will explore the implications, from the legal perspective, of substantive English language requirements and/or of reliance on interpretation and translation in immigration contexts and procedures.

This project will develop (some of) the procedural and/or substantive issues outlined above, and the precise scope of the project will be developed in conjunction with the successful candidate. It will draw on legal standards and international, EU and UK norms and consider how they relate to the developing findings of the Researching Multilingually project. It will draw down knowledge and expertise from the wider project, and will contribute to the Researching Multilingually theme by providing knowledge and insights from a legal perspective. For example, where legal provisions specify a level of linguistic fluency, or provide for testing, interdisciplinary perspectives of the sort developed in the Researching Multilingually project are essential to the production of informed explanations of and critiques of such developments. The project will contribute to the work of Case Study 2, in particular in relation to its comparative examination of UK procedures, as outlined above, but also in relation to substantive aspects and consequences.

The project will also contribute to the wider Researching Multilingually theme in that the PhD student will have the opportunity to explore and develop methodological insights into ethnographic and narrative methods of inquiry where multiple languages are present. This part of the research is complementary to the PhD- research already being done on the topic of CS 3 (Project Topic 2: Intercultural dialogue at borders). The project will develop alongside the work of the hubs, and of CS3, and will contribute in key respects to the ongoing work of the Researching Multilingually project by providing crucial input on relevant legal and policy developments.

Supervision and support

The PhD student will be supervised by Co-I Craig and by Co-I Zwaan. The project student will receive full research training in a range of social science methods and conceptual frameworks and will join a cohort of PhD students in the College of Social Sciences and thoughout GRAMnet’s PG network who provide regular for a for discussion and presentation of work, seminars, student led conferences and publishing. Knowledge exchange and impact activities will also be part of the comparative scope of this project, with the multilingual film series and translated reading group texts generated in collaboration with GRAMNet The PhD student will conduct his/her own research with its unique and specific focus. As with the other PhD student projects, this student will benefit from being part of the RMTC hub team in receiving supervisory and research training in researching multilingually. The PhD student’s development is complemented by Co-I Craig’s role in researcher development and synthesis of PhD projects across the entire Researching Multilingually project.

Further information:

Informal queries about the studentship can be directed to Sarah Craig ( & Karin Zwaan (

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Questions about writing multilingually

Reflections on the “How We Write Multilingually” Round table held at the University of Glasgow on 24 February 2016.

Sarah Stewart
School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures , University of Edinburgh

My initial reflections at the ‘How We Write Multilingually’ round-table were of the usual personal challenges of moving from one language to another and the ceaseless guilt of translation (especially for meticulous academics). We all know there are no perfect translations – hence the need for us translators with our deep knowledge of the frustration and richness of rendering concepts from one language to another. Multilinguals everywhere understand the sensation of being ‘someone else’ when speaking another language. The tools language histories provide us, the grouping of concepts from one language to another, are just wonderfully and irreducibly distinct – this is what language is.

I am a native English and fluent Spanish speaker with a beginner’s knowledge of Te Reo Maori, lately taking my first steps in German and I have long thought of language acquisition as learning to breathe underwater. At first, you are always translating in your head, making foreign concepts fit into familiar frameworks that your language lungs can process. Then you start taking your first breaths in the new linguistic element, becoming more and more adept at ‘using the force’ to muddle through intuitively, as Ben White remembered his old Turkish teacher used to say.

Understanding the shortcomings of translation, acknowledging the multilingual parts of our own identities many of us are forced to erase in academic writing, as well as the power and authority we hold as English language academics became strong themes throughout the discussion. We talked about what place name to employ when all options are politically charged; the loss or gain of originality when work is translated by academics operating in different cultural and linguistic traditions; the power an academic with shaky Arabic still holds over the native Arabic speaking subjects of her research.

The questions that stay with me have mostly to do with challenges that come with the dominance of Anglophone scholarship. At what cost are Spanish, Polish, Italian, Korean or Chinese scholars forced to abandon the marks of their native languages in order to publish as English language scholars? How does the influence of English mask advances made in other places and languages? Who is this scholarship for?

When I was studying as an undergraduate at the University of Auckland a series of seminars in the English department asked the question, who are universities benefitting? In multicultural and multilingual Auckland, who should they benefit? What attitudes and knowledge are students taking back to their communities? In the context of discussions of multilingualism, at what cost are scholars working in ‘international’ languages like English favoured over scholars actually and potentially working in and for communities speaking Samoan, Aymara, Te Reo Maori, Quechua, Gikuyu, Navajo, or Mapuzugun, to name a few?  Esa Aldegheri noted eloquently that knowledge of other languages relevant to research interests, even and especially ‘minority’ languages, gives a scholar within the English academy more power and credibility, yet native speakers of those languages are not afforded this power if they do not also possess effortless fluency in English, as well. Elwira Grossman’s comments as a native Polish scholar working in English made it clear that such people would be forced to bury their linguistic particularity, their strangeness, in order to publish and obtain research funding in the Anglophone scholarly world.

What would scholarship look like if universities and publications were more open to ‘leaving it strange’? What if other linguistic communities had a greater share of cultural prestige and the resources that go with it? A number of years ago, I was involved in a project taking Mapuche resources written in Spanish and translating them into English for a Maori audience. This work was meant to build solidarity and understanding through information sharing between the two indigenous groups but I often felt like a rather ham-fisted intermediary. What rich exchanges would emerge between these two non-western groups if they had the resources to speak and research at length and often without colonising languages always in between? When current issues and histories of linguistic oppression are so apparent, it is difficult to remember that writing in another language is a creative enterprise, that things can be gained as well as lost in translation. And, for me, these gains, these new ideas and ways of representing the world and one’s place in it are what ‘writing strangely’, writing multilingually, makes possible.

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Music Across Borders – Documentary Film Premiere

Music Across Borders is a new documentary series created by and directed by Glasgow based Ghanaian documentary filmmaker Gameli Tordzro as part of the RM Borders project. 

Music Across Bordersjpg

The Music Across Borders series aims to trace the lively stories of how music crosses the borders of language, body, state and law.  These borders shift continuously and inflict pain poverty, pain and misery on innocent people.

The series celebrates the connections music brings and maintains between people across the world in spite of economic barriers, state barriers, barriers of language, war and race.  It responds directly to today’s migration crisis and explores musician’s view on how their music negotiates difficulties and impacts on people across the world.  The documentary series is part of Gameli Tordzro’s current PhD research on Creative Arts and Translating Cultures.

This World Premier of the first episode, is on Katrina Suwalski and her Another World Band’s Ghana Tour 2015 when she returns to the country twenty years after she first visited and was influenced by the the Ghanaian musical culture and its people.  The film captures her collaboration with some of Ghana’s musical ambassadors including Nii Ayi Solomon, Odomankoma Okyerema Pra and Tina Mensah aka Elivava.

It treats the use of music as language within the context of migration and multilingual cultures across the borders and how language can be understood through intuition.  The documentary film traces the manifestation of the historical and cultural links between Ghana and Denmark in the connections established between Danish Musicians and their Ghanaian counterparts, how they have used their music to cross multiple barriers and enriched themselves, others the cultures of many countries.

The director Gameli Tordzro the GRAMNet musician-in-Residence and a winner of the prestigious Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland Music Category (CATS) 2015

Glasgow Premier Screening and Concerts:
Monday the 11th April 2016 at the CCA: Centre for contemporary Arts Glasgow 350 Sauchiehall Street Glasgow G2 3DJ

Tuesday and Wednesday the 12th & 13th April 2016 at the Glad Café, 1006 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow G41

The screening programme includes a chat with the director and Katrina Suwalski, and a concert by Another World Band, Hesu (Spirit of Music) in collaboration with Paragon Music and the CCA.

Music Across Borders programme and info

Music Across Borders flyer

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Nov 2015 Bucharest mini-symposium reflections

Part 5: Reflecting on Music Workshop Facilitation

Music Workshop at CONNECT 

We all arrived in the music workshop full of expectations. Many of us were meeting each other for the first time in a small room in close proximity to each other, speaking different languages and having very different experiences in life.

I remember Richard, my colleague, asking me about how we would structure the workshop – later he explained to me that his question was prompted partly by his previous experience of organising workshops with music students. I said “we will know when the people arrive”.

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Before every workshop I try to rid myself of all expectations and prepare myself for a new encounter with the participants. The ‘normal’ thing to do is to prepare and over prepare. But experience has taught me that the best preparation before such a music workshop where the participants are not students of music, is to be open to receive what participants bring to express through music. We felt that it would be helpful to address the expectations of the participants. For our benefit, this was chiefly to enable them to ‘offload’ (so that these expectations are acknowledged but also put to one side) but also to enable us to gauge at the end of the workshop how their expectations had perhaps been met (or not) and/or shaped (or not) by workshop activities. We also hoped that, for participants’ benefit, there was a value in their tracking of their own personal journeys as the workshop progressed. So each participant was given a tag to write on before and after the workshop.

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The participants were clearly drawn to the strange instruments including the big Odrugya flute, the Atenteben Flute, Rain Drum, the Calabash, Axase shakers, Goje fiddles, and Irish whistles! Some of these instruments – even in Ghana (where many of them were originally brought from) – are rare and not encountered together as they are played in different places.

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So, in a sense, having been brought from Ghana to Scotland (and from Ireland to Manchester) and then transferred to Romania for a workshop with people from different parts of the world, the instruments were objects of ‘migration’ – they were mirroring our shared experiences and carrying stories in how they look and can be looked at and seen, how they are made and how it feels to hold them, how they sound and can be heard, how they can be played by different people with different capabilities, but most importantly how they can be played together at the same time in a little room by many people with differing cultural experiences who are meeting together for the first time.

We had all met earlier on, and introduced ourselves to each other over tea and coffee in a very informal and safe way. So it was time to meet the instruments. Meeting for the first time is always an enriching encounter, that is where we discover how our expectations fit into the reality of the seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and generally sensing. Participants were encouraged to pick up any instruments they wished and explore them by themselves. This was a somewhat messy, noisy (cacophonous even) encounter but not at all very different from when we all met each other and people were talking among each other, finding out about each other, and initiating in some cases what could potentially became a lifelong relationship of friendship and collaboration or on the other hand, in many cases just a single meeting encounter.

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The most important aspect of leading this workshop for was how all of us could journey through discovering our individual communicative capabilities using these ‘strange instruments’ and creating a musical piece that represented a shared common communicative capability through all the instruments. What we all discovered was that this was possible, and more possible than maybe our initial expectations and curiosities, our uncertainties and doubts, our initial nervousness and excitements (which normally characterise first encounters) allowed us to anticipate. For me, this represented the power of humanities and resonate one participants’ hope.

It was very important to continuously relinquish the ‘power of the facilitator’ which sometimes impedes and stands in the way of participants creative capacities. Becoming a part of the circle was an important way of doing that. And encouraging everyone to feel free to make comments and ask questions was another element to this. This circle time of words was as important as the music-making part.

A participant asked: “Can we start playing by one person playing starting and the rest of us joining one after the other?” I took the opportunity and asked him “…can you show us how and lead this?”. He became one of two participants who conducted the final group presentation of the amazing piece created by the group.

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Afterwards, Richard and I talked about the workshop. One thing that struck him powerfully was the way the participants, in their small groups, each created a small piece, a soundscape, and then played it and told the group what it meant for them. The meanings were mostly positive (‘hope’, ‘new homes’) but as one man played a one-stringed fiddle in a piece called ‘Hope’ he commented that its plaintive sound reminded him of the pain of his home world. There, amid a cacophony of unfamiliar music-making, was a moment all of sudden, of intense loss alongside a performance of aspiration.

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It is in such moments that the power of this music workshop was most evident to him but also in this moment he could see the responsibility of the facilitator for the well-being of those participating. It is so much more than simply bringing a collection of ‘exotic’ instruments from which, relatively easily, sounds can be produced, and allowing the participants to converse; it is a space in which the facilitator recognises and responds to the intense and contrasting feelings which may be brought forth.

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How we write, multilingually: a round table

Date: Wed 24 Feb
Time: 2.30–4.00 pm
Venue: Wolfson medical building, Hugh Fraser seminar room (257)
University of Glasgow, University Avenue

Across disciplines, and in different countries, many academics are thinking about how we write—not how ‘to’ write, or how we should be writing, but how we actually do write. But what happens when we research and write multilingually?

This event is inspired by a really interesting book that came out last year: How we write: thirteen ways of looking at a blank page, edited by Suzanne Conklin AkbariIt’s an open-access collection of short articles written by academics in several disciplines, and at all career stages. It’s not a manual, a how-to book, or a collection of sage bits of advice: it’s about how we actually write, in a real world that includes plenty of other demands on our time and energy (including administrative duties, caring responsibilities, chronic illness, or simply having a life outside work).

We’d like to do something a bit different. All of the contributors to the book are writing in their mother tongue (English), and although many of them use other languages in their research, none of them talk about the experience of writing those languages into English. So: how do we write research in other languages into our native languages? And how do we write into languages other than our own?

The event will be a round table with short presentations from GRAMNet and Researching Multilingually researchers at different career stages, about how we write multilingually in different circumstances, followed by an open discussion.

All are welcome!  If you would like to attend, please register on the Eventbrite site.

If you’d like to read some or all of How we write beforehand, you can download it for free (or leave a donation) on the Punctum Books website.

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New MOOC – Register Now! “Multilingual Learning for a Globalised World”

This free online course has been developed by the RM Borders team and our critical friend, Elwira Grossman in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at The University of Glasgow.   The 3-week course freely available through the FutureLearn platform will explore multilingual education and how it can impact and improve education and even wider society.  The sign up page for the MOOC went live on Monday 25 January. Already we have over 100 comments and 1,000 sign ups!

Please do have a look at the page, and sign up!  The course starts on 4 April 2016.

Our Twitter is @UofGMultilingua – if you would like to tweet the educators of the course, please use our twitter handle or include #FLMultilingua.

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Nov 2015 Bucharest mini-symposium reflections

Read part 1 here

Read part 2 here

Read part 3 here

Part 4: Cecilia and Prue on the Crafting Workshop

Part 5 image 1

This workshop engaged participants in learning about important symbols in Ghanaian culture, and translating that learning into the process of using the symbols, manifested as stamps carved out of wood, which participants soaked in paint and then pasted onto cotton bags. The process worked at multiple levels: to introduce participants to a cultural heritage in Ghana, indirectly opening up possibilities for them to reflect on their own cultural heritage and beliefs; to allow participants to experience the aesthetic of working with materials (paints of rich natural colours, wooden stamps made in Ghana, cotton bags onto which participants stamped their Adinkra symbols); and to engage and enjoin participants in a creative arts process in a non-threatening and open environment.

After warmly welcoming the group of participants, Cecilia gave a brief history of the Adinkra symbols, their origin, meaning, and usefulness in society.

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The Adinkra symbols are believed to have their origin from Gyaman, a former kingdom in today’s Côte d’Ivoire. According to an Asante (Ghana) legend, Adinkra was the name of a king of the Gyaman (Nana kofi Adinkra). Adinkra was defeated and captured in a battle by the Asantes for having copied the “Golden Stool”, which represents for them absolute power and tribal cohesion. He was finally killed and his territory annexed to the kingdom of Asante.

The tradition had it that Nana Adinkra wore patterned cloth, which was interpreted as a way of expressing his sorrow on being taken to Kumasi, the capital of Asante. The Asante people around the 19th century then took to painting of traditional symbols of the Gyamans onto cloth, a tradition that was well practiced by the latter.

The Adinkra symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante. They mostly have rich proverbial meaning since proverbs play an important role in the Asante culture. The use of proverbs is considered as a mark of wisdom.

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Other Adinkra symbols depict historical events, human behaviour and attitudes, animal behaviour, plant life forms and shapes of objects. In fact, the Adinkra symbols continue to change as new influences impact on Ghanaian culture as some of the symbols now record specific technological developments.

In explaining this history, Cecilia used cards showing the Adinkra symbols; these were passed around to the participants to read and think about. They were invited to choose a symbol whose meaning they felt was important to them. Then they could choose the corresponding stamp (made from carved wood) and a paint colour with which to stamp, and then print the stamp onto their cream cotton bag. The colours of the paints and the meaning of the symbols allowed the participants to express themselves, and their feelings about who they are and their place in the world. Cecilia then showed them how the printing is done and left them to print the symbol(s) of their choice.

Cecilia spoke in English and translation was voluntarily provided by Andra, a colleague from the Romanian Association for the Promotion of Health (ARPS). Participants were all very happy and engaged, but there was a language barrier. Some of Cecilia’s words were difficult for the translator to translate, so participants who also spoke Romanian helped out. There were about five different nationalities in the group and not all of them understand English. Fortunately, two people in the group could speak languages that the other members of the group could understand, so they became our translators.

Already a dialogue had begun among us as we began to talk about the symbols, the words in English and their meaning among one another. This opened up discussion further: “Where are you from?”; “What is your name?”; “What are you doing in Bucharest?”; “Why did you come to Romania?”; “Why did you come here tonight?” So the workshop provided a medium for the group of women to make further connections with one another, even though at first participants had grouped according to language/nationality/ethnicity (China, Romania, Moldova, Poland).

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Cecilia: I realised that no matter where I do this Adinkra symbols printing workshop, the response and reaction is almost the same. It does not matter whether we understood each other language-wise. In the end the symbols, the bags and the paint become our language, our tool of communication in the gathering or space. The participants leave feeling very happy and content with what they have achieved within a very short time and they have something to remind them of their time spent at the workshop. The space becomes a place where new friendships are formed stories are shared between participants about themselves and their home countries.

We had a brilliant time printing and chatting amongst ourselves and also dancing to music coming from Gameli and Richard’s workshop next door.

Prue: As a participant-researcher observing the process of participants “crossing borders”, I noticed how quickly the group settled into the task, but employed many sharing and relational experiences that talking and creating together provided. Each was concerned in ensuring that she did the task correctly. While organising seemed important initially (how we set up the room, chairs, paints and bags on tables), the space soon became a site of multilingual/multimodal interaction and movement. To try and engage with the Chinese participants I used some of my basic Chinese to express delight with the Chinese woman (“hao kan” [that looks good]; “piaoliang” [attractive]; “wo shuo yi diar hanyu” [I speak a little Chinese], to which the Chinese woman replied in English “Beijing accent”, meaning I spoke in the style of standard Mandarin).

The workshop helped to forge new connections—understandings, relationships, experiences, and a new sense of belonging—for all of us. Through shared smiles, warm tones and friendly dispositions, feelings of awkwardness or shyness that we shared initially were soon dispelled through the physical experience of expressing our beliefs and feelings through the stamps and colours (of the paint) and through our interactions with one another. The participants appeared to enjoy the opportunity to communicate in English and meet new people, and expressed interest in returning to Connect. Although I was assisting Cecilia during this workshop, I too felt very much like a participant, sharing and learning the value, meaning and aesthetic of Adinkra symbols as a multimodal and communication medium that allow multilinguality and human relationships to flourish.

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Nov 2015 Bucharest mini-symposium reflections

Read part 1 here

Read part 2 here

PART 3: Mariam and Tawona on the Poetry Workshop

It’s a Gathering of Hearts

As I sit and think

plan and prepare

As I hope and wish

wonder and imagine

I try

I try hard not to forget

what’s in front of me

Real people,

lives, experiences and beyond

If the ship sinks we all drown

This, is a gathering of hearts

I try

I try hard not to forget

I am one bead of this bracelet

Though we begin from a strange exterior

In the end we all share the same interior

It’s a celebration of diversity

A mum, a baby, a graduate of a university

Many nationalities: Iraqi, Syrian

Turkish, Libyan

but mostly Romanian

A resident, a refugee, a visitor

In life, everyone is a traveller

This, is a gathering of hearts

I try

I try hard not to forget

These are days of war

somewhere inside this broken body

is a soul

somewhere inside this tangled mass

is a life

Somewhere inside this lonely heap

is a poet

Writing about oneself is to some exciting

To others unsettling

This, is a gathering of hearts

Take my hand, if you may

It’s dark where we go

Take my hand, if you will

It’s hard what we do

Lend your trusted tongue to my wavering words

Lend your astute eye to my wavering ways

It’s done together,

Better together

Here we get in touch with ourselves

Here we try to CONECT

Even if we don’t achieve

at least we relate

This, is a gathering of hearts

In my nhorwa I bring tasaamuh

and my strangeness

I hope our strangeness makes a fine mess,

a fine mesh of memories and stories

Metaphors of rivers, trees, birds, and pebbles

A way of making sense of our puzzles

I try

I try hard not to forget

Our precious shared humanity

In the words of one of ours:

“Every person is a richness

of depth and beauty

If you just take the time

to listen to them

with your whole being

you will be impressed

by the mysterious light

you will find”

Writing is mostly done in English

In Arabic comes a line by Darwish

“Upon this land there is that which deserves life”

Words of hope for Palestinians

And now also for Syrians

In a different language it is sent

But everyone knows what is meant

What it means

To lose a home

To cling to hope

This, is a gathering of hearts

Part 3 image 1

By Mariam Attia & Tawona Sithole

Read part 4 here

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Nov 2015 Bucharest mini-symposium reflections

Read part 1 here

PART 2: Katja and Jane on the Drama Workshop

Katja: Preparation for the creative workshops began long before the actual day. Our host Rodica from NGO ‘Connect’ reminded us over skype to keep in mind participants’ plentiful language skills and diverse age range. Participants who attended our workshops were between 6 and 66 years old (a rough estimation) and brought a rich variety of language resources, including Arabic and of course Romanian and English. A rich presence of languages was guaranteed. It was however unrealistic to expect that we would all be fluent (or even be able to communicate at all) in each others’ languages. One of the main aims I set for the drama workshop was thus to facilitate a communicative space that wasn’t solely dependent on our perfected verbal exchange. I hoped to take into account our human ability to make meaning as an act of sich durchwurschteln (colloquial German for ‘to muddle through’).

I wanted to enable encounters in which we could share our languages and life experiences drawing on a range of communication strategies. Here, a drama workshop which prioritises bodily expression can utilise our nonverbal and embodied ways to understand the world around us. Drama creatively lives off our linguistic limitations as it emphasises communication processes beyond words. Our linguistic exchanges in the drama workshop were thus embedded in more embodied encounters.

The workshop was structured in three sections. Firstly, we learned each others’ names, shared favourite activities and ways of greeting. We then showed each other places that were important in our lives. And finally, we all learned a song in a foreign language together. Elements from all these creative exercises were integrated as part of a short devised performance which was rehearsed during the workshop and later shared with everybody over dinner.

Names &  Greetings
There were a lot of giggles during the workshop. We learned each other’s names in combination with our favourite activity expressed as a non-verbal gesture. We mimed, exaggerated activities and giggled (probably) at the shared ordinariness of our everyday favourite pursuits:

  • sleeping
  • watching TV
  • jogging
  • eating
  • reading books
  • sitting on the computer
  • cooking
  • swimming

We learned and shared multilingual greetings and gestures over and over. This became an important part of our final performance, in which our ‘starting scene’ always went back to the act of greeting: Merhaba, Guten Tag, Bonsoir, Salut, Buna Seara, Norrik … We walked around the room, shook hands, hugged, waved and smiled. This was definitely a greeting and meeting overload, but one that (theatrically) celebrated the act of welcoming and meeting; and one that evoked (in me at least) a real feeling of connection to all workshop participants.

Bucharest Part 2 image 1Important places
We shared places that are important in our lives through a simple tableaux exercise. Everybody was invited to mould three to four of their fellow workshop participants into a nonverbal sculpture or tableaux that represented their ‘place’.  All of this happened (almost) without words. The ‘sculptor’ silently moulded people as ‘clay’ into the positions and postures that represented her place. These were some of the pictures and themes that emerged:

  • A couple watching TV together
  • A mother and son doing sports in the park together
  • Exercise in the swimming pool
  • Going for a walk in local hills

These non-verbal body sculptures were shown and then narrated by the sculptor in their chosen language. Our multiple languages became part of the performance event itself. The metaphoric gaps created through the dialogue between body sculptures and multilingual narration were part of the ‘aesthetic enjoyment’. I venture that the audience was able to make enough meaning to get a short glimpse into our lives and our shared creative process, without needing to fully understand what was linguistically going on. At the same time this linguistic disorientation might have also protected us performers from any hasty conclusion by the audience about who we were and what we were trying to say ‘exactly’ about ourselves.

Learning a song in a new language
Our final performance was framed by singing. An enthusiastic delivery of ‘Bruder Jakob’ in German opened our short piece and was closed by an equally wholehearted chanting of  ‘À la pêche aux moules’ in French. This act of shared singing was not an expression of gained linguistic ‘competence’. At times I wasn’t even quite sure what I was singing exactly. I just knew that it was extremely enlivening belting out a French song with six other people who were possibly equally linguistically disoriented. Maybe we just bonded over our linguistic limitations and general foolishness of agreeing to sing in a foreign language in front of an audience.  I certainly enjoyed this act of shared, musical, ‘multilingual bluffing’ and getting to know people in the process.

Jane: I appreciated the chance to get to know the other workshop participants in a creative context and, most importantly, learn everyone’s names and interests. With each of the activities, there was plenty of rehearsal time and modelling so that we could learn from each other and also enjoy being together.  I enjoyed finding out about how to say everyone’s name and what everyone was interested in. By singing, moving, listening and speaking in our different languages we were encouraged by Katja to share our work with everyone else at the arts workshop and it made a great way to end our drama workshop experience.

Read part 3 here

Read part 4 here

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