- Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration ed. by Mirjana Lozanovska
Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration
London: Routledge, 2016.
xviii + 241 pages, 68 black-and-white illustrations.
ISBN: 978-113-882871-1, $145.00 HB
ISBN: 978-131-573813-0, $54.95 EB
Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration, edited by Mirjana Lozanovska, is a welcome addition to a growing literature on informal urbanism, cultural difference, and embodied placemaking.1 The collection of essays draws attention to the impact of migration on the making and remaking of places, whether at the scale of the home, street, neighborhood, city, or beyond. While the topic of global migration has been discussed and debated in other fields for some time, it is only within the past ten years that migration has fully entered into architectural discourse, as evidenced by several recent articles in this journal. This delay may be due to the fact that the politics of migration confronts the boundaries between the global and the local, memory, and the imagination, which problematizes historical understandings of architecture. As a collection of "counter-narratives of twenty-first-century vernacular" (226), the essays in the book challenge not only the way we think about the ordinary and the everyday in architecture and the built environment but also how identity and belonging are negotiated in space and time.
The essays offer a range of case studies from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America and are divided into three sections. The first section, "Ethno-Landscapes of Migration," frames a series of chapters that alternately analyze how different notions of belonging manifest in the public landscapes of cities in Europe and the United States. In the first chapter, Ayona Datta uses visual narratives of young Polish migrants in London to illustrate differences between embodied and imagined cityscapes. Datta employs a novel methodology where participants use photography as a self-reflexive prop to communicate their experiences of migration and settlement. Despite the initially perceived differences between sending and receiving cities, research participants were able to navigate London through a constructed sense of belonging made possible by the visual similarity of both cities.
Several other chapters in this section, such as those by David Beynon and John W. Frazier, use case studies to document how architecture becomes a space of physical and social negotiation between different parts of the world, religions, and peoples. Through such processes tensions emerge between migrants and longer-term residents that often reveal racist and xenophobic tendencies. In Beynon's chapter this includes a refusal to grant a local planning permit for a mosque expansion in Melbourne. Similarly, Frazier provides evidence from Queens, New York, where a sizable Indian American community that quadrupled in the span of thirty years drew the ire of Irish, Italian, and German residents who blamed Indian Americans for the changing landscape of shops and homes instead of the larger declining economy of first-ring suburbs. The last chapter in this section, by Mark Gillem and Lyndsey Pruitt, provides a brief historical survey of three immigrant communities, one each in California, Michigan, and Georgia, to illustrate changing settlement patterns that are increasingly dispersed throughout the United States. They then draw from secondary data to show where mosques have been attacked as well as how surveillance technologies have been used to monitor Muslims in Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11.
"Materialities of Home," the second section of the book, provides a more intimate account of belonging and the ways in which [End Page 109] migrants attempt to transform their dwellings and hometowns, often in transnational terms. Two of the four chapters focus on the material impact of remittances sent from the United States to hometowns throughout Mexico and South America. These "remittance landscapes" are characterized as "a built environment in which the flow of dollars becomes the driving force behind both visible change and social and economic processes" (81). Sarah Lopez documents the physical changes to a Mexican village in the state of Jalisco and how migrant boosters who send money from abroad serve as a de facto "speculator, developer, and contractor" (86). Despite their best efforts, these individuals...