Anthropology and Sociology

Demanding comparisons: Interrogating migration and the “good life” in Spain, Ecuador, and Cuba

Valerio Simoni, Jérémie Voirol and Elise Hjalmarson - Graduate Institute
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Online Event

This event is part of the ANSO Seminar Series.


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Based on the collaborative research project ‘Returning to a better place: The (re)assessment of the “good life” in times of crisis’, this talk explores preliminary convergences from our ongoing fieldwork in Spain, Ecuador, and Cuba. Looking at the trajectories, experiences, and aspirations of Cuban and Ecuadorian migrants living in Spain, or who returned to their homeland following the 2008 economic crisis, we focus on the quandaries of comparison involved in the juxtaposition and appraisal of different places, values, and future horizons. Such dilemmas reveal the significant entanglement of our lines of inquiry and presence in the field with the concerns of our interlocutors. Arising to satisfy social or familial expectations, to lend meaning to one’s migration journey, or to negotiate competing values, comparison can result in the prestige associated with plural knowledge and a sense of enlightened cosmopolitanism. A heightened awareness of what has been lost or sacrificed vis-à-vis migration, and the challenge of carving out spaces of dwelling in the midst of competing and incommensurable demands, however, also engender frustration, discomfort, and suffering. Interrogating the parallels, analogies, and resonances between our interpretative frames and those of our interlocutors, we conclude by reflecting on the use and effects of comparison in both social life and anthropological research, and the methodological, epistemological, and ethical insights that may be gleaned from it.



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About the Speakers

Valerio Simoni joined the Institute in 2014, and is currently Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology and Sociology and the Global Migration Centre. His doctoral and postdoctoral investigations focused on the economic, social, and cultural flows generated by international tourism and migration, with theoretical interests spanning three main areas of concern: the economy and its margins, the transformations of intimacy, and the politics of mobility. 

Jérémie Voirol is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Global Migration Centre. Dr Voirol graduated in Social Anthropology at the University of Neuchâtel (2004) and holds a MA from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (2008) and a PhD from the University of Lausanne (2016). He has been an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology and at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester (2017-2018). 

Elise Hjalmarson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute, Geneva. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a Master of Arts with a dual focus in Political Science and Sociology from the University of British Columbia.