When a North-African male migrates from the warm sandbanks of Morocco to the cold mountains of Sweden, he becomes the stranger. Not only has he travelled far to reach the snowy lands of Stockholm, but he will also be challenged in the Swedish people’s assumptions and prejudices about him. His skin is dark like chestnuts, his hair black and frizzy, his eyes dark brown and his language will not be understood by the Nordic population. By all means, he becomes a stranger, who is different from the others.
But this man is only different in terms of the boxes that we have created.
By measuring him from other scales, he might not be as different from the Swedish population, as we first suggested. Maybe this man is just as crazy about the Oscar’s as a Swedish man could be? Maybe he loves his two children, that had to stay in Morocco, as much as a Swedish man loves his? Maybe he is just as bad at football as his new neighbor in Stockholm is?
This man came to Sweden as a migrant, and in his luggage, he did not only carry clothes and a toothbrush. He carries his cultural luggage; his traditions, his experiences and his culture. And he is bringing all of this with him, when he enters the borders of the country that he is migrating to. This can be difficult to understand, and it certainly can cause cultural clashes that either him or the Swedish population had not foreseen.
In relation to this, migration has lead to tremendous discussions in the international arena and all over the world the problem of a ‘migration crisis’ is being intensely discussed. Although, the meaning of migration is pretty clear:
You move from your country of origin to another country in the search of a better life.
Anyhow, the definition has still been eagerly discussed on a worldwide basis, and especially in the last couple of years, it seems that it has become a buzzword to use both in honourable speeches about politics or economy, in documentaries, in news flashes and in the world of art and photography. For this, questions about belonging and nationality, have been the subject of many discussions in the last couple of years.
How we define ourselves and others have become significant to us and the need of identifying not only ourselves, but also others, based on their nationality, race, skincolor, beliefs, religion and gender has increased. People start looking inwarding at each other and categorizing acquaintances in boxes of ‘people like me’ and ‘different people.’ We start talking about the term otherness, as the sociologist Stuart Hall terms it, and suddenly there’s a difference on me and you.
Migration both challenges the idea of pre-categorized boxes and makes the idea of them seem more legit. On one hand, migration challenges the boxes that we so desperately want to attain, because our inception of who we are based on what we are definetly not, gets challenged, when we are confronted with what we would term as ‘different people.’ Maybe we get the chance to learn from these people and maybe we realize that we are not so different after all.
On the other hand, migration, by letting us face our differences, allows the prejudices to be confirmed and grow even stronger. It is definetly easier to see the differences, if you are looking for them. And when searching for what makes us different from each other becomes more important than looking for the things we have in common, migration can backfire and hatred towards other people can grow even bigger.
The question is, if we are ready to throw away our pre-categorized boxes that make our worlds much more simple.