Interzonality as a mode of being Erasmus + alumni testimonials

The main outcomes of the Erasmus+ mobility experience were discussed by Natalia Bichurina and Lucia Campanella at the Universidade Federal Fluminense (Niterói, Rio de Janeiro) on October 2-6 2017.
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The central event was a panel entitled “Other ways of thinking” in the framework of the international conference “Modes of Being South: Territorialities, Affects and Powers” (October 3-6), which attracted some 500 participants. At the panel, Natalia and Lucia gave a presentation “Interzonality as a mode of being: the case of Erasmus Mundus “global academics” based on a series of filmed in-depth interviews of nine Erasmus+ doctoral fellows from five continents and eight countries, each of whom has lived and worked in three to four other countries during the last three years (2013-2016). The interviews were filmed over 3 years, starting from the first semester of the PhD course, thus attesting the changes brought about by the Erasmus+ experience. These interviews were completed by 14 interviews with other Erasmus + alumni, 8 out of which were taken by Natalia on the occasion of EMA’s 10th birthday at EMA’s GA in Lugano in December 2016 (the short documentary is available at: youtube.com), as well as by an extensive participant observation.

Three main aspects emerged from the analysis and were discussed at the panel: “interzonality as a mode of being” including (1) multiterritorialities, multilingualism and multicultural identities, and (2) mobility and agency; and “interzonality as a mode of thinking,” i.e. (3) epistological outcomes, or new ways of doing academic research. On personal level, with a particular intercultural exposure brought about by the fact of both living in different countries and being constantly immersed into a multicultural and multilingual environment, as fellow Erasmus+ students come from all over the world, eventually, being mobile defines Erasmus+ fellows better than being from one place: living in-between, in the interzones. The contexts of such intense mobility also largely contribute to achieving or developing agency, and are later translated not only into having social networks around the world, but also in flexibility, adaptability and sometimes in high level of civic participation, which may have been absent before the start of the programme. On academic level, this type of de-territorialisation and exposure to a variety of academic traditions – these of host universities, and as an outcome of horizontal informal learning from Erasmus+ colleagues that should not be underestimated – contributes to developing new approaches.

The audience included representatives of universities taking part in Erasmus+ programmes: Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil, Karls Eberhard Universität Tübingen, Germany, and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico. There were also current PhD students from a variety of geographical background who participate(d) in various types of Erasmus+ mobility in the course of their studies. This made the discussion particularly dynamic and thought provoking.

Additionally, prior to the conference, on October 2-3, Natalia and Lucia, joint by Lucia Romani (Italy), were invited to take part in a two-days seminar in the framework of an international workshop Esthetics of everyday life in the Global South, namely providing their insights to the panel Esthetics and Politics of the Global South, while another Erasmus Mundus PhD fellow, Amina El Halawani (Egypt), presented her paper at the panel Memories, displacement and territories.

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