Cultural Theory and Concepts

Stories Beyond Borders

Why is it crucial that migration stories are listened to? What can these stories reveal on a humanistic level? How do people respond to the current migration crisis happening all around the world? What is the role of cultural institutions in creating a more impartial image of migration? These questions and many more are sought to be answered in Stories Beyond Borders, a podcast project by master students of Cultural Studies: Elise Coenen, Emma Van Geet, Mahroo Mehdipour and Fateme Naghshvarian.

Stories Beyond Borders opts to fulfill the promise of its title by retelling the stories of residents at the LOI (Lokaal Opvang Initiatief) in Kruibeke. In three episodes the podcast functions as a neutral space where people from different countries, such as Lebanon, Syria, Suriname, Afghanistan, Palestine and Libya, can share their stories. They talk about the journeys that brought them to Belgium. These journeys, although unimaginably challenging, resonate with hope and love for life. This podcast tries to blur the line that has been constructed between “us” and “them” by creating a mutual understanding and focusing on the similarities of all of us as human beings. On a greater scale, this reflects how dependent we are on one another and how our lives, although very diverse, are interconnected on many levels.

Another important aspect of this podcast is its subversive narration. Stories Beyond Borders tries to portray a humane image of the experience of migration by focusing on the narratives told by the migrants themselves, instead of clinging to existing accounts of the media which can be victimizing, mystifying or in some occasions even demonizing. Because of the residual trauma, it wasn’t always easy for the interviewees to share their personal stories. However, many of them saw the podcast as a suitable, open platform to get their messages across.

In the bonus episode (episode four), we focused on the role of a cultural institution in helping to create a more inclusive society. The Migration Museum in Brussels stands out as an example that captures, demonstrates and circulates the lived experiences of the migrants who chose Brussels as their final destination. Using Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence in Istanbul as an influence, the Migration Museum presents migrants’ mnemonic objects and words to echo their life experiences.

Have a listen via this link and feel free to share the stories!