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“Intimacy, sexuality and family in the process of migration: European/Asian experiences compared” (18th & 19th December 2018) – Workshop report

“Intimacy, sexuality and family in the process of migration: European/Asian experiences compared” : Workshop report


An emerging literature investigating the “private” realm of individual lives illuminates the various intimate relationships within the context of migration. Building on this body of works, the workshop “Intimacy, sexuality and family in the process of migration…” held last 18-19 December 2018 at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) aimed to examine how different affective relations affect the migratory trajectories of individuals and vice versa, as well as to compare recent scholarly findings on this topic in Asia, Europe, and the social spaces connecting these regions.


Four themes guided the workshop: international unions and sexualities, transnational families and their challenges, intimate relationships and labour mobility, and sexual identities and hierarchies in migration. Each of these themes served as the central focus of one of the four panels of the workshop. During the first day of workshop, Prof. Nicole Constable, an internationally renowned anthropologist and author/editor of eight books, delivered a keynote lecture entitled “Intimate words and [im]possible futures: ethnography of temporary families”. She specifically drew from her fieldwork in Hong Kong among Indonesian migrant women to unveil these migrants’ subjectivity and agency. The second day of the workshop started with the keynote lecture of Prof. Eleonore Kofman, another internationally known scholar in the fields of migration, gender and citizenship. Her presentation “Global mobility and intimate and familial relationships” provided the workshop participants with the state of the art of these fields and suggested possible ways to develop them further.


Given its international dimension and its timely themes, the workshop attracted 35 participants including 17 invited speakers/discussants. These participants originated from Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom…), Asia (Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam…), and the United States of America (Pennsylvania), with disciplinary backgrounds spanning anthropology, sociology, history, and political science. Such diversity of geographical origins and disciplines made the workshop a site of dynamic intellectual exchanges.


Aside from two workshop dinners, another activity offered to participants was a campus tour led by young researchers of ULB. The workshop concluded with a discussion on a possible publication project to valorise the scholarly papers presented during the event. Overall, the workshop was a success, not only because it attained its objectives but also because it opened new possibilities for future collaborations. This success was made possible by the support of the workshop’s sponsors: the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS), the Maison des Sciences Humaines (MSH) of ULB, and the Waseda Brussels Office of ULB. The workshop also received support from the following partner institutes and centers: the East Asian Studies (EASt) research center of ULB, the Institute of Asian Migrations (AMI) of Waseda University (WU), the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Families and Sexualities (CIRFASE) at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), the Laboratory of Anthropology of Contemporary Worlds (LAMC) of ULB, and the Structure de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur le Genre (STRIGES) of ULB.

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