Female migrants as ‘Mediators between Two Worlds’: Spatial-Temporal Articulations of Intersectional Positions

de Jong, Sara (2015). Female migrants as ‘Mediators between Two Worlds’: Spatial-Temporal Articulations of Intersectional Positions. Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies (DiGeSt), 2(1-2) pp. 111–126.

URL: http://www.digest.ugent.be/volume2issue12


This article takes as its point of departure the media attention for a Vienna-based project, which recruits migrant women to act as mediators between migrant communities and ‘Austrian’ society. Drawing on historical literature on gendered and racialised cultural brokers, it understands the appeal of this project as arising from its correspondence with dominant intersectional gender and ethnic stereotypes. In this article, I offer a critical analysis of the media sources and argue that the contemporary media narratives present a reconfigured version of the historic colonial tropes of “panoptical time” and “anachronistic space” (McClintock, 1995); two tropes that express hierarchical narratives of progress, placing gendered, racial, and classed ‘others’ outside modernity. I suggest that the gendered and ethnicised intersectional positions of the female migrant mediators are mapped onto a modernising narrative, which is articulated through spatio-temporal images. By contrasting the three main figures of the project – the project founders, the target group, and the female migrant mediators – I illustrate how gender and ethnicity get imbued with distinct hierarchical and relational meanings at different intersectional junctions. Particular spatial and temporal locations come to stand in for specific intersectional positions, and communicate a hierarchy between gendered Austrianness and gendered othered migrant-status. This article makes a contribution beyond the particular case of the Austrian project analysed here, by demonstrating that intersectional analysis can gain from attending to continuities with colonial discourse and to spatial-temporal metaphors.

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