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Academics from Coventry University are linking up with the city’s Refugee and Migrant Centre to conduct a research project with a difference. They will be asking people to think about where their granny grew up, about the feelings and emotions associated with a journey they made and about what three items they would choose to take with them if they had to leave Coventry in a hurry.
The project to mark the Refugee Week – entitled Common Past, Shared Future – doesn’t sound like conventional research, and Professor Heaven Crawley who is leading it admits that it isn’t. Taking part will be fun, but the aim is a serious one: To get people to realise that we all have more in common with each other – migrants included – than we think.
Professor Crawley, who leads migration research at the University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, explained: “The idea is to get people to become more aware of the similarities that exist between groups coming to Coventry, like Afghans and Syrians, and those who have grown up here.
“Coventry is a city that has gone through conflict. The awareness of conflict runs right through the city, but people forget that when they see others coming here, they forget the similarities between us.”
She added that the exercise was partly to counter the negative media and public debate surrounding migration, usually presented in terms of “the other” – the stranger to be wary of, or even feared.
“But by focusing on people’s stories and experiences, the journeys, the sense of loss – we have more in common than you might imagine.”
Professor Crawley said Coventry was known as the city of Peace and Reconciliation because of its history. But she added: “Having peace and reconciliation in our own neighbourhoods now, is just as important. We want to bring the history of Coventry into the present.”
She said that as people thought about the research topics, where their grannies grew up, or about the feelings of fear, loss, excitement and anticipations experienced on a journey, they would touch on emotions shared by everyone, even if circumstances were totally different.
“We will be asking people about their family history and their migration history, and asking them to think what they would do in a conflict. We will be trying to draw out the commonalities between us.”
The results of the exercise will be shared with community groups in the city and it is hoped it will lead to a much more detailed two-year research project.
Sabir Zazai, Director of the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre said: “Behind every refugee there is an extraordinary story of courage, resilience and hope. At CRMC we work with hundreds of newly arrived refugees, each one with more horrific experiences than others. This research will unravel some of the stories to address misconceptions but at the same time highlight the important contribution refugees make to the cultural, social and economic enrichment of our shared home, Coventry.
“As a preventative service we are often occupied by addressing the immediate needs of newly arrived people but this research initiative will allow us to reflect on some of the journeys people make from strangers into citizens, and identify common themes that will help in shaping our services for the future.”
Professor Crawley and her team of university researchers and CRMC volunteers will be at Fargo Village, Gosford Street, on Sunday June 14; outside the city centre library on Monday June 15, and at the Village Square, Hillfields on the Tuesday (16th) from noon to 4pm on each day.
They are hoping to engage a range of different people passing by in the research. For more information on the project email Professor Crawley at firstname.lastname@example.org