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Rubber and Immigration

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Rubber and Immigration
Interdisciplinary Talk
6 March, 6.30-8pm

These interdisciplinary talks by historian Dr Reuben Loffman and sociologist Dr Nando Signoa will expand on the material and some of the themes of the current show at Eastside, M6 by Mike Nelson. Covering a very particular history of the material rubber and some current issues arising from immigration these talks have been programmed not to describe the exhibition but to offer a more oblique look at some of the issues it raises.

Dr Reuben Loffman will introduce the rubber regime under the Congo Free State (1885-1908) governed by King Leopold II of Belgium (1865-1909), which has generated acrimonious debate over the years. After John Dunlop patented the pneumatic tyre in 1888, global demand for rubber increased and meant that Leopold’s emergent state could avoid bankruptcy. While rubber was being produced in relatively large quantities in the Congo Free State it was procured at great cost to the African societies. If Africans failed to produce adequate quantities of rubber they were often subject to draconian punishments, most famously amputations. The main questions that historians have asked of these atrocities are how they happened in the first place, how many Africans were killed, their effect on African societies, how they should be remembered, and their main legacies. In giving an overview of the rubber regime in Congo, this talk will discuss how historians have grappled with the abovementioned questions and some of the answers they have come up with so far.

In his talk Dr Nando Sigona will discuss the need for opening up the debate on immigration beyond its current limits to include the impacts of immigration policy on ordinary citizens and the very meaning of citizenship. The talk will drawing on two examples: the impact of the recently introduced immigration family rules which are surreptitiously redefining the meaning of citizenship and the boundaries between the state and its subjects; and the impact of immigration enforcement on the everyday lives of migrant children without legal status. Through these case studies, Dr Sigona will illustrate the ways a narrow focus on security fails to provide medium and long term answers to the needs both of migrants and citizens.

Dr. Reuben Loffman graduated from Lancaster University with a BA (Hons) in History in 2005 having spent his second year abroad in Boston College (US). Following this, he did two MA degrees, one at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and one at the University of Durham. He completed a PhD in African History on the construction of indirect rule from the Congo Free State to the Belgian Congo in 2011 and is now a Teaching Fellow in History at the University of Bristol. He is due to take up a permanent lectureship in African History at Queen Mary, University of London, this summer.

Nando Sigona is a sociologist with over ten years research and teaching experience in migration, refugee and ethnic studies. Before joining the University of Birmingham as a Birmingham Fellow in February 2013, Nando was Senior Researcher at the Refugee Studies Centre and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. Nando is one of the founding editors of Migration Studies, a new refereed journal by Oxford University Press. His work has appeared in a range of peer reviewed journals, including Sociology, Social Anthropology, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies and Ethnic and Racial Studies.