Placing Memories: Ageing labour migrants in Vienna

Austria’s so-called “guest workers” (Gastarbeiter), who immigrated from former Yugoslavia and Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s, are now reaching retirement age. In Vienna, where the majority of them have settled, one-third of the population 55 years and older will soon be first-generation migrants. Although these labour migrants have shaped Vienna for more than half a century, their histories and vital contribution to Austria’s post-WWII economic success are not collected and commemorated (e.g. in memorials, street names) and have not become a part of Austria’s national collective memory. By locating and analysing ageing labour migrants’ memory places, this study explores how these histories are remembered outside of national commemoration practices.

This study will probe into the nature of mnemonic practices in an ethnically diverse context and will explore the role of place as a mnemonic device in the context of migration, ageing and multi-locality. Thus, this study on ageing migrants facilitates a discussion of memory, migration, and place – three research fields that have not yet been systematically studied in their interrelation. This is achieved via a mix of innovative qualitative methods including memory-guided city walks, semi-structured narrative interviews and participant observation. The ageing labour migrants’ memory places are expected to inherit a transnational dimension reflecting the migrants’ mobility and their multi-locale past. In order to capture this transnational dimension in its full capacity, I will accompany a select number of informants to their country of origin. This approach penetrates the still-persistent concentration on memory and place within a tight national framework. This study will trigger novel empirical findings on ageing labour migrants and will provide ample opportunity for developing theoretical insights in the interdisciplinary fields of migration studies, memory studies, anthropology of ageing and the intersection of said fields.

Hard Facts

Project Duration: Juli 2015 - Juli 2018

Funding: Austrian Science Fund, FWF-T 702

Project Leader: Monika Palmberger


Integrationsverläufe Asylberechtigter und subsidiär Schutzberechtigter aus Afghanistan in Österreich

Das Forschungsvorhaben zielt darauf ab den Wertewandel und die Veränderungen der Erwartungshaltungen von Asylberechtigten aus Afghanistan im kontextuellen Verlauf ihrer sozialen und strukturellen Integration in die österreichische Gesellschaft und deren Systeme (Bildungssystem, Arbeitsmarkt, Wohnungsmarkt etc.) zu analysieren. Untersuchte Zielgruppe sind afghanische Asylberechtigte und subsidiär Schutzberechtigte in Wien, NÖ und OÖ; über-18-jährige ehemalige UMF inkludierend, mit divergierender Aufenthaltsdauer, unterschiedlichem ethnisch-konfessionellem Background sowie nach soziodemographischen Variablen (Alter, Bildungsniveau) breit aufgefächert.

Hard Facts

Projektdauer: März 2017 - Mai 2018

Finanzierung: BMEIA

Projektleitung: MMag.DDr. Josef Kohlbacher (Institut für Stadt- und Regionalforschung der ÖAW) und Mag. Dr. Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek (IKSA)

MitarbeiterInnen: Marie Lehner, BA (Institut für Stadt- und Regionalforschung der ÖAW) und Doris Friedrich, BA (IKSA)


‘Postdoc Track Pilotprogamme’ grant, project working title: ‘Imagining a “smart” future in Southeast Asia’

The aim of this grant is to enable scholars in the immediate post-doc phase to work on publications, develop project proposals and establish international contacts. The project that is being elaborated aims to explore imaginings and anticipations of the future in urban Southeast Asia. The project builds on previous work on social cognition in a work context in North Africa, where planning and imaginative perspective taking took centre stage in the work process.

Hard Facts

Project Duration: February 2017 - July 2017

Funding: Austrian Academy of Sciences (Postdoc Track Pilotprogramme)

Project Grantee: Barbara Götsch


Diversity and Coexistence in a Peaceful Balkan Border Region: The Shkodra/Skadar region in the forefront of EU-Accession

This project explores patterns and dynamics of socio-cultural heterogeneity and coexistence in the Shkodra/Skadar region along the Albanian/Montenegrin border against the background of contemporary European/EU models and policies of multiculturalism and diversity. The chosen region is a fruitful ground for comparison since it includes: two national-state contexts (Albania and Montenegro) with "inverse" minority groups (Serb/Montenegrins and Albanians); pronounced ethnic and religious diversity (including a similar religious "constellation" of the coexistence of Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism and Islam); common and yet different historical legacies (e.g. Ottoman Empire, Venice, Socialism); the present context of EU-accession; similar historical social structures and ideologies (tribes/clans, patriarchy). The first major concern of the project is exploring the contemporary "encounter" between this multiethnic and multi-confessional border region of South-Eastern Europe and European/EU models and policies of multiculturalism and diversity. The second major concern of the project is the inquiry into points of reference people from the region use – with a primary focus on minorities – in their life stories, family histories (and genealogies) and everyday lives to describe and locate their sense of belonging. The third major concern of the project is to illuminate how the Shkodra/Skadar region managed to stay peaceful in spite of violent conflicts in the direct neighbourhood, ethnic tensions and the influx of a large number of refugees. The theoretical reference points relevant for the project are: discourses on the "Balkans"; multiculturalism and diversity; Identity/Ethnicity/Nationalism; anthropology of the state; and anthropological contributions to the study of the region. A multidimensional and multilevel research design will allow for focussing on the dimensions of grammars/regimes, agents and everyday practices of diversity and the levels of the individual, the family and formations of civil society, yet will continuously take into account the national and transnational macro-levels of the state, the region and the EU. The methodology will consist of fieldwork/multi-sited ethnography, regional comparison and qualitative interviews. The project builds on my long-time research on civil society and transformations of value-systems in the context of post-socialism and the paradoxical/ambivalent construction of the "Balkans" and its impact on contemporary socio-political realities in the region. The envisaged outcome of the project is an ethnography which explanatory portrays the dynamics of diversity and coexistence in the Shkodra/Skadar border region against the prospective EU-membership. In the wider sense the proposed project will represent a substantial contribution to comparative studies of multiethnic and multi-confessional border regions in Europe and hence contribute both to anthropological and social science discussions of multiculturalism/diversity and European diversity and minority policies. 

Hard Facts

Project Duration: December 2014 - December 2017

Funding: Austrian Academy of Sciences 

Project Leader: Jelena Tošić