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"Return migration and refugee care in Slovakia": Paper by Eva-Maria Walther at the 18th IUAES World Congress


This week, Eva-Maria Walther, M.Sc. participates in the 18th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) in Florianópolis, Brazil. The doctoral candidate of the Graduate School in Regensburg recently presented her paper "New home, new me – old home, new me? Return migration and refugee care in Slovakia" in the panel "Migration as Emigration and Immigration: Imagined Nation, Nationality and Citizenship" on Tuesday, 17 July 2018.

Eva-Maria Walther has been a doctoral candidate of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies since November 2016. She is a member of their Study Group "Social Sorting". Walther received her Masters degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Stockolm (Sweden). Earlier she studied Empirical Cultural Studies and Slavonic Studies in Tübingen and Pécs. She received governmental funding to travel to Brazil through the University of Regensburg.The IUAES World Congress is the largest conferences of its kind, taking place every five years. This year's theme is "World (of) Encounters: The Past, Present and Future of Anthropological Knowledge".

Abstract of Eva-Maria's paper

Her paper examines the life trajectories of Slovak migrants returning to their homelad as well as the synergies and misunderstandings that occur when they interact with refugees there. Slovakia, like all Central Eastern European countries, is reluctant to receive migrants, displaced people in particular. The small group of Slovaks that, despite public resistance, aid refugee programs, whether professionally or voluntarily, is made up of young people who emigrated to countries further West in pursuit of better education and salaries, but decided to return home. Building on ethnographic fieldwork within refugee care in Slovakia, Walther looks closely at the individual stories of these migrants as well as the succession of ambitions and “moral breakdowns” that directed their movement across borders. She then explores how their acquired values appear in encounters with people who recently fled war and persecution in the global South. The shared experience of being “other“ provides a basis for empathy and personal commitment, whereas diverging conceptualizations of home, responsibility and national identity, derived from different courses of migratory projects, may lead to irritation or conflict. Comparing returnees and refugees as well as studying their interaction inspires discussion on the extent of the migrant experience as universal and when it diversifies the impact on individual consciousness and identity.