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Dealing with the violent past in the diaspora

perspective of the second-generation youth from ex-Yugoslav and Turkish-Kurdish communities in Switzerland

At a glance


The project explores the way young people of ex-Yugoslav and Turkish-Kurdish origin in Switzerland deal with the history of their origin countries’ violent past and war/conflict-related migratory experiences of their parents and what repercussions these have for various facets of their (post-)migrant lives. It looks into the ways young people engage with the memories and the narratives of violent past (and present) as communicated and practiced within family and the diasporic spaces. At the center of the project are life-story (narrative-biographic) interviews conducted with young people belonging to the so-called second generation (born and/or raised in Switzerland) from former Yugoslavia (Bosnia) and Turkey. These interviews are complemented by ethnographic fieldwork in diasporic spaces and in the context of young peoples’ engagement in diaspora-related activities thus disclosing the second-generation perspective on migrant organized live. Biographic analysis reveals how homeland’s conflictual past and family migration experience is integrated into own biographic narration, interpreted and made meaningful in the context of socio-cultural positioning, life strategies and personal choices. By bringing together biographic and ethnographic approaches, this research project reveals what role political past (and present) of the homeland country plays in the way young people of the second-generation:

  • imagine and construct the concept of “home”, “homeland” and negotiate one’s relation to it
  • construct and negotiate of the feeling of belonging at the backdrop of public/political discourses surrounding migrant population in Switzerland
  • deal with ethnic, religious and ethno-political divisions and tensions in the diaspora context (migrant organizations/spaces and narratives circulating there) and in interpersonal relations
  • participate in and position themselves towards commemorative practices, discursive framings and reiterations of the homeland conflict/past in the diaspora
  • articulate civic and political stances and future visions; participate in civic activities related to homelandThis project thus contributes to the question about the long-term and transnational impact of political conflicts and gives insights into the (multiple) positioning of the second-generation youth within various narrative frameworks.

Workshop «Dealing with the Violent Past: Transnational Dimensions and Diasporic Experiences», 23 - 24 September 2021.  This international workshop addresses the question what repercussions experiences of violence and conflict have for members of migrant communities.

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