Imagining community through sport at Edge Hill University

Dr Jack Sugden

In 1983 Benedict Anderson wrote ‘Imagined Communities’, a book that pointed out, among other things, that the communities, towns, cities and especially nations in which we live are not actually real. Although they might feel real to us, part of our lives, our identities, have you ever actually seen an England? Touched a Manchester? The point I make here, in an admittedly abstract way, is that we dwell in a world in which we are divided by many categories and identity hooks that are essentially made up.

The United Kingdom only exists because we all agree it does, just as we agree to follow, uphold and even celebrate its laws and culture. If we were to wake tomorrow having forgotten the UK, it might be a nightmare in terms of law and order, but we may also feel free, albeit isolated and alone. As though these categories and labels dive us they also unite us, giving us commonalities that we share, and which make us feel safe, like we belong. It is this exact feeling of collective national consciousness that captivates the nation during a royal wedding, at times of national crisis, or during the football world cup, the last two being much the same.

Football for Peace in Jerusalem, Jewish and Arab kids pre-game

 In terms of sport, from growing up in Belfast during the “troubles” I was witness to bitter and divisive nature of sport, but also, fleetingly, its capacity to cross the sectarian divide through a football team made up of both Protestants and Catholics called ‘Belfast United F.C.’ Continue reading

Put away your British accents: Farsi Taster session @FoE

Twenty students and staff from the Faculty of Education volunteered for a Farsi taster session this week. Our teachers were two refugee volunteers from Iran, supported by West Lancs CVS. As new learners we were told to ‘Put away your British accents’. Working in small groups, the trainees and staff enjoyed the opportunity to hear about living in Iran first hand, from cuisine to education options.

In the session students discovered borrowed words from French, different ways of speaking about gender, discovered ‘Finglish’ (Farsi in roman script) and even tried their hand at writing their names in Persian.

Learning some language basics including greetings, introductions and numbers may seem a small thing, but even this kind of simple preparation can make a world of difference in welcoming new students to the classroom, as well as fulfilling one requirement of the Teaching Standards  (to meet the needs of EAL students).

Farsi may be new to many of the group, but it is spoken by over 100 million people in Iran and beyond. According to Home Office statistics, refugees from Iran are currently the largest group applying for asylum in the UK (2016 figures).

Faculty staff are working to ensure that in addition to support for EAL delivery, students leave EHU with an understanding of the needs of refugee students.

Action for Refugees is keen to develop this opportunity for more trainees, and plan to hold a session to put together classroom resources in a range of languages to support EAL next month.

For more information about these sessions contact Action for Refugees.

For more information on some of the myths around refugees in the UK: British Red Cross

To volunteer to support refugees in the area, check out our volunteering page.

From our inbox (March 15th)

There’s a lot of events, calls for papers, new research and other information related to work with refugees that we think needs to be shared as widely as possible.

At Edge Hill, a new Migration Working Group has been set up, led  by Dr Zana Vathi.

Gramnet (the network for community members and scholars working in the field of migration and refugee studies at Glasgow University) is currently promoting their film series. Maybe this kind of film event is something we should look at hosting in EHU?

Natakallam is a new online social venture, aiming to link refugees with communities globally through language teaching. You can make a connection with a refugee in camps in Syria, and hear about the refugee crisis first hand.

Care4Calais’ latest news reports the French government’s provision of food for refugees (and the problems with it).

Action for Refugees is very interested in how refugees access university – we’re keen to find out more about that experience. We’re not the only ones: a new researcher in access to HE is looking for refugee participants to talk about their experiences of accessing university. STAR, the university based student network for refugees are currently advertising for an Access to University coordinator.

For those looking for support now, the Refugee Support Network can offer advice to young people (18-25) looking to apply to university, by phone and email. Closer to home, find out about applying for EHU’s Sanctuary Scholarship scheme here.