Visual narratives of London among East European migrants indicate disillusionment with the global city

‘Where is the global city?’ visual narratives of London among East European migrants

From Urban Studies

This paper considers visual narratives, referring to the simultaneous textual and pictorial narrating of migrant experiences of everyday life in London, narratives that construct a counter-discourse to a ‘global’ London. The study is based on research conducted with men arriving from Eastern Europe in London after the expansion of the EU in 2004. Looking at photographs the paper observes that participants’ emplacement in and observation of banal and ordinary places in the city and en route to their homeland, suggest an assemblage of a mobile migrant subject within everyday urban spaces. Participants express disillusionment with the global city. The iconic city remains largely irrelevant to their lives.

Abstract

Based on research conducted with men arriving from eastern Europe in London after the expansion of the EU in 2004, this article examines how migrants’ narratives of the city construct a counter-discourse to a ‘global’ London. It is argued that the use of ‘visual narratives’– a combination of participant-directed photography and semi-structured interviews as a methodology—allows for the exploration of embodied and material aspects of everyday lives in the city, which destabilise traditional urban pictorial approaches to the city. Such narratives of participants’ embodied movements through London relocate the observer as the everyday mobile-subject; they highlight the connections between urban and transnational mobilities; and they present participants’ constructions of different kinds of affective spaces in the city where they begin to negotiate home, belonging and return.

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Article details
Datta, A. (2011). ‘Where Is the Global City?’ Visual Narratives of London among East European Migrants Urban Studies, 49 (8), 1725-1740 DOI: 10.1177/0042098011417906

     
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