TRAMS Seminar on Migrations

Please note that this programme replaces the TRAMS lectures by Vera Alexander and Peter Leese previously announced.

PhD panel discussion

Ph.D. Students are invited to participate in the panel discussion. Please sign up by email to Inge Birgitte Siegumfeldt,

ECTS points

  • seminar participation = 0,5 ECTS
  • points seminar participation + panel discussion = 0,8 ECTS


10.15 - 10.30 Welcome

10.30 - 11.15 Robert Jensen-Rix, "Barbarian Myths of Migration"

11.15 - 11.30 Break

11.30 - 12.15 Peter Leese, "Reading Migrant Life Stories"

12.15 - 13.15 Lunch

13.15 - 14.00 Boris Wiseman, "Lévi-Strauss, Caduveo Body Painting and the Readymade: Thinking Borderlines"

14.00 - 14.45 Vera Alexander, "Back to the Roots: Reading Plants in Migration"

14.45 - 15.00 Break

15.00 - 16.00 Panel Discussion: Leigh Anne Duck (Chair), PhD students


Robert Jensen-Rix, "Barbarian Myths of Migration"
The paper will deal with discourses of migration connected with the consolidation of European nations in the Middle Ages. I will discuss legends that represented ethnicity as a product of exile and/or movement, but my particular focus will be on tales that located an original homeland in Scandinavia (found among the Goths, the Lombards, the Saxons, the English and others). I will suggest that a standardised "geopolitical grammar" informed this particular migration topos. The paper is an attempt to introduce a deep historical perspective into current debates in migration studies.

Peter Leese, "Reading Migrant Life Stories"
Migrant life stories can be read as textual constructions of the self, as an indication of the changing ways in which spoken, written or recorded lives are figured, and as ethically compelling evidence from an historical witness. Here we consider the status and uses of the migrant life story. Questions of method, for example the limits of the life story account, or the ways in which it might be used to illuminate migration history. Also of typology, so that it becomes possible to create an historical and generic map of accounts. Finally we turn to an interpretation which takes account of recent debates on authenticity, mediation and the historical emergence of self-identity.

Boris Wiseman "Lévi-Strauss, Caduveo Body Painting and the Readymade: Thinking Borderlines"
The aim of this paper is to explore some convergences between aesthetics and the anthropology of art, two disciplines often thought of as incompatible or mutually exclusive. Its impetus is the conviction that we have much to gain by a more systematic and concerted attempt at constituting an ethno-aesthetics, i.e. a decentred aesthetics enriched by the dynamic of cross-cultural comparison. I will take as my starting point Lévi-Strauss's classic studies of Caduveo body painting and try to show how, beyond the clichés often repeated about structuralism, they provide valuable insights for an understanding of various forms of avant-garde art, from Duchamp's readymades, to Anthony Caro's abstract sculptures and assemblages by the Nouveau Réaliste artist Arman. Although these forms of art would no doubt constitute, for Lévi-Strauss, instances of what he calls, pejoratively, an ‘academism of the signifier', I will argue that Lévi-Strauss's own theorisation of the relations between nature, culture and art enables us to see them, in at least one of their dimensions, as prime examples of the fulfilling of the mytho-poetic function. What I will place, here, at the core of mytho-poetic function, following a view that is implicit in Lévi-Strauss's works but not articulated as such, is a boundary marking process, one that is central to the way in which we create an order of the world around us.

Vera Alexander "Back to the Roots: Reading Plants in Migration"
This lecture will engage with literary reflections on some of the "more than human" (Val Plumwood) participants in colonial and postcolonial discourse. Beginning with the imperial plant trade and its radical restructuring of global fauna in the 18th century and moving towards recent ecocritical/postcolonial writings, I argue that plants are subalterns which can in fact speak, and moreover, tell stories. In the process of uncovering some of these, I plan to sketch in the origins of such withered horticultural metaphors as 'uprooting', 'diaspora', 'colony' and even 'culture', leading up to a discussion of how natural a phenomenon migration actually is.