15. November 2020
“Migrant Journal is a six-issue time-limited publication looking at migration in all its forms. That means not only the migration of people, but also fauna and flora, ideas, goods, data. We really try to go back to the root of that concept, disconnect it from the negative political discourse and reclaim it. We started to work on Migrant Journal in the Spring of 2015, when what was described in Europe as 'migrant crisis' was at its peak. We wanted to start by challenging that term of 'migrant' and that’s why we named the publication in that way. Our aim was to provide an intellectual and artistic response to those issues, by inviting lots of contributors from many disciplines to approach this topic with a fresh perspective.”
“For obvious reasons, migration is a highly contested topic. Through developing Migrant Journal, we did not aim to downplay the tragedy that took and is still taking place but to provide an alternative voice, to reflect and broaden the existing discourse in an original, rich and interesting way. We didn’t pretend to be something we are not: we are no activists, we are not involved in politics, we didn’t have that kind of commitment. Yet, we identified as migrants, in the sense that we all lived in countries we were not born in, and for which we didn’t have citizenship. Obviously, it is a rather privileged position to have the choice to move somewhere else to study, work, be with our partners. It’s this privilege we wanted to leverage, to rediscover the richness of the topic of migration while not shying away from the painful reality of, for instance, people dying in the Mediterranean Sea. We have covered the topic widely and in different ways in issues 1, 'Across Country' and 3, 'Flowing Grounds'. But to not only talk about this allows for multiple facets to be addressed and reveals that the world we live in is a world of migration.”
“We didn’t want to be stuck with one discipline but to provide a platform for multiple voices to be heard, both emerging and rather established ones. In our point of view, it was crucial to have a more differentiated debate which includes a variety of points of views and of origins. Furthermore, including visual elements such as photography, illustration and infographic allows for multiple entry points into a topic that is otherwise perceived as rather heavy. When we started Migrant Journal, the team was split between two architects/urbanists in London and two graphic designers in Zurich. One of our concerns was to be mistaken as 'architecture' or 'design' publication. Naturally, because of our backgrounds we had and still have our major audience and many contributions coming from these disciplines. However, with every new issue, our reach widened and so did the spectrum of authors. The multivocal and multimodal approach makes the project unique and allows for an engagement across various readers. Today, when you look for Migrant Journal in a bookshop, sometimes you’ll find it in the design section, sometimes in architecture, sometimes in art, in politics, in current affairs. Bookshop managers and librarians are a bit confused, and that’s just great.”
“It’s difficult to make sure all voices are identified and heard: voices within the team, voices from the contributors, missing voices. There’s been arguments, some good ones and some nasty ones. We started with the ambition of having a very horizontal editorial and design process, and we’ve done our best to maintain this but we also realised as we progressed that it was not that easy. We also work with calls for proposals, that means for each issue we developed a theme and invited people to contribute. One of the challenges is to make sure you publish different voices, not only from a variety of disciplines, but also from a variety of backgrounds — ethnicity, gender, socio-economic — but also geographical locations. That last part especially has proven challenging, with the vast majority of our contributors living in the Global North.”
“That’s a tricky one. It really depends from project to project. Migrant Journal started as an independent, self-published project. We had no idea it would be so successful. We started with a print-run of 800 copies, and as of today we’ve sold more than 25,000 copies. We had no idea it would snowball in that way. A good rule is to make the newspaper or magazine you’d like to read. If it doesn’t exist, or if it doesn’t exist to the standards you’d expect, then make it happen. That’s how we started Migrant Journal, nobody seemed to engage with that topic in the way we wanted.
Another important aspect is to find and implement a framework which allows you to follow through with the project. To start a magazine is one thing, to keep it running is another one. Having a realistic time horizon for the project, the right input-output relation for its members, and a solid financial strategy ensures motivation lasts over the first issue.”