The Politics of Togetherness: Beyond the integration infrastructure of State and institutional apparatus
In A. Alemanji, et. al. (Eds.), Rethinking and undoing integration. Volume 15, Nordic Journal of Migration Research
What does migration-oriented mobility mean? Is it a capacity, privilege, right, or need? Implicit in mobility as a concept is the conceptualisation of home and, by extension, the homeland. Does mobility mean an ability to travel towards or away from home? An ability to return to it? An ability to seek out something beyond the confines of home; to seek the unknown? Contemporary mobility is inseparable from passports, legal permits, papers and the inherently normalised bias within infrastructures created by them; inseparable from politics of sanctions, regulatory policies and policing; inseparable from its economies, literally of currencies and value, extending into issues of what affordances such value provides. This way, issues of mobility and integration are inextricably linked to bordered thinking, nation-building, and nationalism.
This paper questions nation-building strategies as being inherently segregationist, articulating how today, the governance of human mobility is transformed into policing and management of risk. It unpacks how state-led art and cultural institutions support and work to maintain the propaganda generation to normalise ‘otherness’, not only of asylum seekers, immigrants and international BIPOC students but also of its own citizens. It does this by problematising the ‘integration infrastructure’, within both intra- and trans- national domains, by separately investigating integration policies for non-citizens and the strategies to integrate citizen minority groups into so-called ‘mainstream’ societies. It explores how the governance of human mobility might be one of the most important political problems to confront us in the 21st century and the role of art and cultural institutions that exacerbate it. To support this thesis, the paper offers multiple case studies: (1) ‘Migrant, Evacuee, Human’ (2016), a problematic pop-up exhibition installed in the Finnish History Museum that oversimplified and whitewashed the idea of the ‘refugee crisis’ by propagating comfortable examples of integration and usefulness of refugees within Finnish social frameworks; (2) The Kaikuu Project at Ateneum National Museum (2020-2021), “designed for Finnish language students with different backgrounds” [emphasis added] as a key instance of public-programming that promotes a one-way integration within a closed cultural system, rather than recognising the capacity of cultures to organically evolve as inherently diverse, plurally-voiced, and multifaceted; and (3) Close Watch, an exhibition by Pilvi Takala, exhibited in the Finnish National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2022. These examples of institutional mismanagement provide ways to further delve into the systemic issues in the articulation of integration by the state, examining (1) iBorderCtrl, an EU-funded automated virtual avatar-based border security system that violates fundamental Human Rights.
The paper investigates the state’s political desire for financial stability, cultural homogeneity, and the enforcement of borders through the lens of historical struggles, distribution of power and privilege. Lastly, Through critical theory writings of Achille Mbembe and Chantal Mouffe, it offers an alternative by expanding on what a ‘Politics of Togetherness’ may look like: a way for us to be cognizant of our differences, our diversity, our plurality; but also to highlight our affinities, our intersections, our togetherness; and to counter alienation by providing spaces for familiarisation.