The ambition is to disconnect this word from the negative political discourse: Migrant Journal takes on the world’s preconceptions
Migrant Journal is a six-issue printed publication which seeks to challenge the way we talk and think about migration and confront the prejudice often imbibed within the term. With the entire editorial and design team considering themselves migrants, the project is close to their hearts, as editor Justinien Tribillon tells Aerostorie.
“Migrant Journal started as an idea in 2015,” Editor Justinien Tribillon tells Aerostorie.
“It was the height, or at least we thought it was, of the so-called ‘migrant crisis’. And here, words have a strong meaning, both the use of ‘migrant’ and ‘crisis’ are political. We started as a team of four, two editors and two designers. We didn’t feel like activists, and we didn’t have have financial means to make any significant contribution. So we thought the best solution we could bring was an intellectual one — that’s how Migrant Journal got started.”
The publication explores everything from the movement of people, to goods, information and our natural environment, while thoughtfully considering the transformative impact this has on different spaces.
“The ambition was, and still is, to disconnect this word, ‘migrant’ from the negative political discourse currently so strong in Europe and pretty much anywhere in the world — to reclaim it, and explore it, free of prejudice, looking not only at human migration but also information, financial fluxes, seeds, birds, et cetera.”
The idea has resonated with many, both within the publishing community and beyond. One would be wrong to presume Migrant Journal is hefty with political content, instead, the team have invited artists, journalists, academics, designers, architects, philosophers and activists to ponder what it means to be a society, and world, which is full of movement and flux.
“We know how powerful words are, and we wanted to make a statement,” Tribillon says.
“People often mix up migrants and refugees, while on the other hand they don't make the connection between ‘expats’ and migrants for instance, but what we want to show is that this is exactly the same phenomenon. Our team is a team of migrants.”
“We have two designers and art directors, Isabel Seiffert and Christoph Miler, respectively German and Austrian living in Switzerland. The team of editors is composed of Dámaso Randulfe (Spanish, living in London, UK), Michaela Büsse (German, currently in Moscow, Russia), and Justinien Tribillon (French, living in London).
“We all are migrants, but most people would call us ‘expats’, simply because of the colour of our skins or because of all the university degrees we have. We think that xenophobia has its roots in issue such as the different people make between refugees, migrants, expatriates. We’re all migrants, and we’re all a single phenomenon.”
Tribillon says that it’s still hard to know how to avoid “preaching to the converted”, or talking to their own audience in terms of the subject matter covered by the publication, however, globally, there is plenty of evidence that this discussion remains highly relevant and important.
With the growing prominence of right-wing xenophobic discourse, such as those of Donald Trump and Geert Wilders, Tribillon tells Aerostorie that many are realising that these discourses are not marginal anymore, and are not only being had in the shadows.
While political barriers are damaging and highly restrictive for those seeking to move geographically, Tribillon says that when it comes to physical barriers, there is much which can be done to improve the designs of cities in order to help meet the needs of foreign-born residents and help make integration easier.
“Cities are great places for migrants, they offer national, ethnic or religious networks that can help recently-arrived migrants to settle down, find a job or start a business,” he says.
“Cities are, by definition, diverse, complex and resilient. They are very harsh environments, but they also offer so much. You can always do more of course, especially for those migrants who had to leave everything behind them — the lack of emergency shelters in cities across Europe is alarming. We are very wealthy countries, and we can do more.”
Expanding on this thought, Tribillon says that logistics, globalisation and human migration is all part of the same phenomenon, and it’s important to consider the ramifications of attempting to close country borders, or hamper movement between countries.
“You want to shut down borders to people because you think they are different, but you don’t want to give up your coffee from Ethiopia, your designers’ clothing from Japan, your bicycle made in Taiwan.
“Add to this the birds migrating across the world, the seeds bringing diversity in our landscape and in our plates — not even mentioning international travels and tourism.
“What we want to highlight with Migrant Journal, is that all these movements are encompassed in one single phenomenon: migration. And that you cannot shut down one of them, without threatening the others.”
A note from the publisher
While ‘immigrant’ and ‘expat’ are both heavily-loaded terms, the exact meaning of each continues to be debated. At Aerostorie, we use the word ‘expat’, a term which we use to describe anyone who has moved to a new country — whether for work, by choice or any other factor. We make exceptions to this style based on what our interviewees are most comfortable with. Our definition of the term ‘expat’ is not based on financial situation, transitory nature of stay, education or ethnicity.