The Project

The research project aims the study of a significant dimension of material culture and consumption practices – its ability to frame, organize, and therefore produce, social reality – through the analysis of present-day Atlantic crossing migratory movements between Portugal and Brazil. Though contemporary material culture and migration studies are two very dynamic fields of study in the social sciences, there is still a lack of empirical research on the matter of their mutual effects (Basu and Coleman 2008). In spite of this, displacements of people usually bring about replacements of objects since migrations necessarily entail, besides material continuities, the task of having to deal with a new material world and face new material norms and values (Burrell 2008). This will affect relationships between those who left and those who stayed, the production and expression of ‘sameness’ and ‘otherness’ and the ways migration ‘as process’ is daily experienced and objectified. Hence, this approach corresponds to a re-embedment of migration and movement in a more general understanding of collective life (Castles 2010) through a focus on materiality. It will address the traffic of people and things by observing and comparing its routes, temporalities and patterns in order to grasp how the movements and appropriations of objects work to (co)produce the multifaceted realm of migration. Hence, by ‘following the objects’ (Frykman 2009), the research aims to investigate new angles of the migrants’ daily lives, observe how belonging is managed and discuss the mutual influences exerted by ‘here’ and ‘there’ (Glick-Schiller 2008).
Fieldwork will be carried out in four separate though interrelated settings: the Portuguese and Brazilian family daily lives in Brazil and in Portugal, both at ‘home’ and ‘abroad’.
This leading line of inquiry sums up the following more restrict questionings:
a) how does materiality work to produce distinctive representations of migration and to evaluate the options taken in terms of the destinations chosen?
b) in what extent is materiality embedded in migration projects and expectations? in what degree are the ‘western Europe’ and the ‘Brazilian gold’ ideals made tangible through new consumer experiences?
c) what does materiality and its uses reveal about the multiple (economic, political, personal, social, cultural) “uprooting” activities carried out in the different migration locations?
d) in what extent and in what ways is materiality and its uses linked to origin (Brazil and Portugal) and to the people who did not leave?
e) how and by what means are sameness and difference expressed and objectified through things in these migration contexts? And how to characterize and evaluate its changing dynamics both ‘at home’ and ‘abroad’?

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Materiality, contemporary movements and policies of belonging