University of Sussex
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Visiting friends and relatives (VFR): a multi-sited study of mobilities between Bangladesh and London

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posted on 2023-06-09, 20:37 authored by Md Farid Miah
The thesis examines the bilateral transnational visiting mobilities of British Bangladeshis and their non-migrant relatives and friends. Theoretically, it draws from the interdisciplinary research fields of Mobilities, Transnationalism and Diaspora Studies. Geographically, it focuses on the VFR practices, processes, experiences of ‘to and fro’ visits between Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi London diaspora, and the social, cultural and political implications of the mobilities and immobilities that unfold. The research is designed as a multi-sited study. Data was collected over a thirteenmonth period through participant observation and semi-structured interviews in London and Bangladesh. Analysis of the empirical evidence is divided into three key trajectories. In the first trajectory, I interpret and compare the context and experiences of VFR mobilities from Britain to Bangladesh, i.e. visits to the migrant and diasporic ‘homeland’. Deploying the notion of ‘memoryscape’, I analyse British-Bangladeshis’ often nostalgic and idealised recollections of places, landscapes and people remembered from the distant past of childhood and early adulthood, or from more recent experiences of visits, and with a particular focus on cross-generational and gendered comparisons. Secondly, I look into the VFR mobilities from a different perspective by reversing the transnational optic. I explore and analyse the diverse experiences and interactions of non-migrant Bangladeshis’ visits to London with the host community, and the significance of the events that unfold. Their VFR mobilities are in many ways quite different from the existing examples of ‘hosting practices’, particularly in the European context, that have been studied. Inherent power imbalances, lack of access to ‘network capital’, the generational gap and the hidden tensions of hosting relatives and friends from the home country in a diasporic space are the key contrasts. Finally, I look into the concomitants of VFR mobilities, including issues of identity, home-making and materialities that are embedded in the bilateral VFR trajectories, and associated tensions and perspectives for the future. The thesis contributes new theoretical and empirical insights into the phenomenon and epistemology of VFR mobilities. Such mobilities, and their correlate of immobilities, unfold in a highly unequal transnational geopolitical and economic context, and add a much-needed novel perspective to a field dominated by western-centric research among relatively free-moving tourists, lifestyle and professional migrants, and members of diasporas.


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University of Sussex

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