Migrants on the Margins

Migrants on the Margins features the illustrated life histories of four people with whom PositiveNegatives worked in 2017 for the ESRC-funded project ‘The Unknown City: the (In)visibility of Urban Displacement’; a segment of the Royal Geographical Society’s (RGS) field research programme ‘Migrants on the Margins’. These thought-provoking comics illustrate the everyday life of those living on the margins in four of the world’s most pressured cities – Harare, Hargeisa, Colombo & Dhaka.

More details on ‘Migrants on the Margins’:

Over the next 30 years more than 1.5 billion people are expected to leave their rural homes and move to cities. That movement will be concentrated in Africa and Asia. Dhaka (Bangladesh), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Harare (Zimbabwe) and Hargeisa (Somaliland) are all experiencing a share of that movement.

This project features the life histories of four participants with whom PositiveNegatives worked in 2017 for  ‘The Unknown City: the (In)visibility of Urban Displacement”.

Fieldwork photo from Dhaka, Bangladesh by Elettra Pellanda.

We chose real-life stories that reflected, in their local variations, the project’s main research theme – how migration from rural to urban space impacts on individuals and their communities.

Our aim was to increase the visibility of these urban migrants, emphasising the experience of four individuals and their families in each of the cities where research took place. Sabina, Arunachalam, Tawanda and Halgan live, respectively, in low-income areas of Dhaka, Colombo, Harare and Hargeisa.

Fieldwork photo from Colombo, Sri Lanka by Elettra Pellanda.

As part of PositiveNegatives’ participatory methodology, we collaborated with these storytellers to ensure that their narratives were told from their own perspective. We also used alias names to protect their identities.

Fieldwork photo from Harare, Zimbabwe by Laurence Ivil.

Artist Lindsay Pollock commented, when illustrating these comics, that there’s an intrinsic difficulty in portraying our participants’ necessarily fragmented perspectives, because they are real life. Their stories are not made up for the project’s sake, nor fit perfectly in the research themes; they are a shapeless flow of events just like any other individual story, and therein lies their beauty. Migration is complex issue and we did not intend to give an encompassing account of it here.

However we have highlighted just some of the challenges Sabina, Arunachalam, Tawanda and Halgan face within these comics. Their stories reflect and amplify the experience of millions of people who move and live in underserved communities across Africa and Asia, and beyond.

Fieldwork photo from Hargeisa, Somaliland by Benjamin Dix.

Our gratitude goes to our participants and their families, and to the amazing local partners in Dhaka, Colombo, Harare and Hargeisa who connected us to them.

‘Migrants on the Margins’ is published under a Creative Commons license. This means it can be freely downloaded, printed and used for any not-for-profit purpose as long as PositiveNegatives and the artist are attributed, and the artwork is not edited or remixed.

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