Globally changing patterns of conflict and inequality, leading to increased refugee flows, have exacerbated existing tensions and polarization in refugee receiving communities, which leads to decreased civic and political participation on one hand and escalations of violence and hostility on the other. Arguably, resilient societies that are able to develop creative, sustainable and proactive strategies to survive, adapt, transform and grow in the face of stress and shocks, are less prone to polarization.
However, interventions to build resilience and to mitigate polarization struggle to find successful approaches, as cognitive discussions between people disagreeing tend to lead to further polarization (Wojcieszak 2011, Van Swol 2009), and social and arts based initiatives also risk to contribute to more rather than less polarization as they are often based on a normative agenda and reach biased audiences.
Based on the findings from a pilot of CONTAINED Project, an initiative that developed a trilogy of theatrical tools to connect experience, research and learning on migration, this explorative paper reflects a search for effective tools to provoke thoughts, inspire dialogue and enhance empathy between refugees, migrants and non-migrants, with the ultimate goal of developing proactive responses against polarization in receiving societies.
Marieke is a research fellow at the International Migration Institute (IMI) at the University of Oxford. Her research looks at the links between migration, conflict and change. She specializes in migration from (post-) conflict countries, return migration, transnational (political) engagement of migrants, and processes of structure and agency in mobility. Methdologically, she wants to contribute to improved and innovative qualitative and mixed research methodologies in migration studies. Marieke is also exploring ways to communicate research results to wider audiences, for example through (performative) arts. The insights and personal stories that she collected over the last decade form the research background of CONTAINED Project. Marieke is also a certified facilitator (joker) of participatory theatre and an actor of improvised theatre.