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Identity and migration – SEXDEM Online Discussion

Identity and migration
SEXDEM Online Discussion – June 3, 2 pm

Join us for an online discussion on June 3, 2021 from 2 pm till 4 pm (CET) / 3 pm – 5 pm (EET) (pre-registration latest June 1 here)

Organised by SEXDEM in collaboration with LEGS research team

With this second SEXDEM workshop, we wish to explore voices and experiences that struggle to be heard and included in Western democracies’ public discourse. Identity and migration will be explored specifically in relation to sexual rights and norms and nationalist as well as antiracist narratives and movements. What happens to identities in migration and to stories of migration seen through the lenses and experiences of women and LGBTIQ migrants? How are identities formed in the pressure of societal regulation of sexual and gender norms and (anti)racist campaigns? For this workshop we’ve invited researchers-activists who work with women and LGBTIQ migrants in France, Germany and Finland.

We hope to address and discuss some of these questions with everyone present, after short presentations from our guest speakers.


Ali Ali (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Bahar Azadi (Université Paris 1 Sorbonne & Université Paris 7)

Firoozeh Farvardin (Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research, Germany)

Mahdis Sadeghipouya (Université Paris 8, France)


Heta Rundgren (SEXDEM) https://sexdem.org/

Mahdis Sadeghipouya (LEGS, Paris 8) https://legs.cnrs.fr/

with help from Katja Kahlina and Riikka Taavetti (SEXDEM)

Please don’t forget to register for the event by filling out this short form. We will share the zoom link the day before the workshop with those who register latest on June 1, 2021.

Summaries of individual presentations

Ali Ali: Working Through Hegemonic Narratives of Community in Queer Exile

How is the self imagined within the plea/negotiation for a desired life? And what political potential does that entail? If selfhood presupposes communal coordinates (belonging), visions of the self involve and inform questions of community, and what makes this community and belonging possible and sensible. This text is based on a year-long ethnographic fieldwork in gender-political communities in Helsinki. It narrates lived experiences of people whose state-authorized residence in Finland is recognized (or sought to be recognized) based on the need for protection due to sexuality-based othering and discrimination in communities of origin. I begin with discussing narratives that are evoked by the subject to make sense of belonging to a given community or collective (queer, multicutural, Finnish/European) and non-belonging to another (e.g. community of origin). Then, I look into possibilities of affinity and alliance that break with normative/restrictive structures of identification and othering/exclusion. I argue that the precarity of exiled queerhood might entail strategic, but possibly complacent, investment in norms of racalized othering (to communities of origin and to fellow-exiles) in a way that precludes consideration to unjust structures of vulnerability in the desired society of settlement. However, the realm of precarity (and in this particular regard: queer precarity) opens up to (re)consideration and contestation of the norms of the idealized desired (Finnish/European/mutlicultural) community, and brings into significance new forms of alliance that value precarious experiences as informative and reformative to understandings of community and what makes a community desired and worth belonging in the first place.

Ali Ali is a Ph.D student in the Program “Gender Culture and Society” doing research at EuroStorie (Centre of Excellence) in Law, Identity and European Narratives et the University of Helsinki. Ali’s current research is an ethnographic fieldwork among queer exiles in Metropolitan Helsinki Area and the research centers on matters of queer/LGBT+ issues, community and belonging.

Bahar Azadi: HIV prevention and care of transgender women in an HIV and STI clinic in the Paris metropolitan area. A qualitative assessment: from medical care to social integration.

HIV infection burden is globally high among transgender women (TGW) and particularly in TGW sex workers and TGW subpopulations with structural inequalities like racism and classism. In addition to stigma related to transphobia, migrant TGW face multiple forms of discrimination because of intersection with other experiences of stigma related to migration and working as sex workers in the host society. In this talk I’ll explore the experiences of TGW seeking care in an HIV and STI clinic in Paris, to evaluate medical adherence and trans individuals’ social inclusion in the health institution and I’ll examine the different forms of HIV-associated stigma among TGW. I conducted a qualitative study using semi-structural in-depth interviews with TGW receiving HIV care and HIV preventive measures. I’ll describe how a community-based participation policy and practice in this clinic integrate an intersectional approach among TGW. I’ll suggest that a high rate of medical adherence in TGW migrants could lead to social integration.

Bahar Azadi is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Paris 1- Sorbonne and part-time researcher in unit U1037 Inserm at the Faculty of Medicine Bichat, University of Paris 7, studying female genital mutilation in France. She received her doctorate in philosophy from University of Paris Descartes-Sorbonne. Her main area of interest is the subject of trans-identity, subjectivation, resistance and migration. She dedicated her thesis to the subjectivation of trans-identity in Iranian society after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran.

Firoozeh Farvardin: Transnational and Intersectional Perspectives on Inter-migrant Dynamics

Not only people and commodities but also ideas, values, and identities cross the borders. It also holds for (anti)racist discourses and practices, which have manifested among migrants. By presenting part of the results of the first phase of a research project, i.e., “Transnational Racism and Its (trans)Formations in Germany,” I will discuss how intersectionality in a transnational scale, grounded on feminist intersectional theories and critiques of “methodological nationalism,” can shed light on inter-migrant dynamics and contribute to the theoretical and empirical efforts to decolonize migration studies.

The mentioned research focuses on the main Middle Eastern newcomers to Germany (Syrians, Afghans, Iranians) by conducting in-depth semi-structured interviews with civil society experts and activists who closely work with and/or are themselves of those immigrant groups. The results stress the importance of migration itinerary and past experiences of Middle Eastern migrants in origin and transit countries along with the dominant (racist/anti-racist) discourses and practices on immigration in the destination country, i.e., Germany, in framing migrant dynamics and possibly triggering inter-migrant racism.

Firoozeh Farvardin was born and grew up in Iran and is currently a research affiliate to the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) and a founding member of MERGE, a collaborative research network about “Migration and the Middle East,” at the Humboldt University of Berlin. She recently defended her doctoral thesis at the department of social sciences of Humboldt university on the state and family politics in Iran.

Mahdis Sadeghipouya: Lesbians of Muslim descent: between Islamist regression and nationalist abuse

In an era of a powerful connection between politics and social movements in LGBTIQ academic and activist lives, and thanks to theories such as intersectionality that encourage us to look at specific contexts as closely as possible and get rid of the classical one-dimensional perspectives on the left, as well as on the right, we can say that today we are more and more aware of the complexity of the social conditions in which we live. It also gives us more analytical power in our research, and on the other hand, makes it clear that achieving a more efficient activism is not an easy task.

At the same time, the more complex an identity is, the more difficult it is to analyze it and find effective solutions to improve its conditions in different historical and political contexts. In this presentation, with a focus on two important recently coined socio-political terms, homonationalism and femonationalism, I will explore how the identity of lesbian migrant women has been instrumentalized by nationalist attitudes and right-wing parties.

Mahdis Sadeghipouya, born and grown up in Iran, is a doctoral researcher in Gender and sexuality studies in Paris 8 University affiliated to Laboratoire d’Études de genre et de sexualité (LEGS). She works in her PhD thesis “with” activist lesbians of colour and practicing Muslim lesbians or lesbians of Muslim origin. She has been a women’s and LGBTIQ activist in Iran since 2012, and today she works on subjects like femonationalism in the context of Iranian politics and Iranian feminist movement, Western Asian lesbian community, and lesbian immigration. Her translation in Farsi of Sara R. Farris’ In the name of women’s rights: the rise of Femonationalism, the book in which Farris has theorized the term femonationalism, will be published shortly in Iran.