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Stuart Hall Library Reading Group Discussion Post, 13 October 2011


Thanks to everyone who attended this month’s reading group, our first this Autumn. A recording of the discussion will soon be available via the library website. You can also listen to recordings of our previous reading group sessions.

We discussed ‘Melancholic Migrants’, a chapter from Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness (Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2010) pp.121-159.

This text was chosen because it provides an interesting perspective on the individual migrant, concepts of multiculturalism, and ideas of happiness relating to affect studies. In the introduction Ahmed describes ‘the happiness turn’ (p.3) in which there has been an increase in research into happiness and ‘well being’ in the past decade, particularly in the disciplines of social policy and psychology. It has influenced David Cameron’s political discourse, and the Conservative party pledged to conduct a survey to measure the nation’s happiness [Stratton, Guardian.co.uk, 14 November, 2010, accessed 12.10.2011]. Also, its themes are closely linked with Iniva’s current exhibition, Entanglement: the Ambivalence of Identity.

More about Iniva’s exhibition here: https://iniva.org/exhibitions_projects/2011/entanglement

The discussion illustrated the way in which theories of identity touch individual lives, and therefore became general. Group members were able to give examples of ‘migratory experience’, either their own, or that of their parents, or as travellers to other locations (temporary migrants!).

Some points for discussion:

  • Is there any truth in the Trevor Phillips quote at the beginning of the chapter p.121 that, ‘Multicultural communities tend to be less trusting and less happy…’?
  • How valid do you think Ahmed’s overriding argument is – that the 1st generation migrant suffers loss (of the old way of life) but that the obligation is to integrate?
  • Ahmed’s conception of the migrant seems to be of a particular type. Do you think that differences in migratory experiences are sufficiently taken into account in her argument?
  • What do you think of the readings of films and books chosen to illustrate Ahmed’s argument? Do you think it matters whether the reader has seen them in terms of making sense of the argument?

Next meeting: Thursday 10 November, 6.30-8.00: Les Back. ‘Listening with the eye’ in The art of listening. (Oxford; New York: Berg Press, 2007) pp.97-115.
A copy of the text is available in the Stuart Hall Library.

If you are having any problems obtaining a copy, please contact us and we will make this available to you.
Email the library for further information or to book your place: library@iniva.org