Garbi Schmidt: “I find it striking how little, historical experience matters at present"
Where do you feel you have made the biggest difference with your research?
- In 2015, I published a book on the immigration history of Nørrebro based on my doctoral thesis, and I feel it has actually made a big difference. It is still referred to in research circles, and it has led me to give lectures and guided tours of Nørrebro. I take people around and show them the area, tell them about the history of immigration from Nørrebro’s perspective, and give them an experience of what it has meant. And it works – you really get a good dialogue about what history can teach us.
- I sometimes find it striking how little, historical experience matters at present. At the moment, for example, there is a lot of talk about the many Ukrainian refugees who may come to Denmark, but this is not the first time we have had large flows of refugees into our country. After World War II, we took in about 250,000 German war refugees more or less at once. But there is an extreme knowledge gap about how refugee groups have been managed throughout history and how immigration has affected the country we are all part of, culturally, architecturally, socially and in all sorts of other ways. In that way, I think what I do has great public relevance, because it's important to know the background of the society we have today.
- My research has given me a broader perspective on the transition between immigration and religion, and on some of the debates that are currently going on. So it makes good sense for me to move in that field.
Why did you choose to do research at Roskilde University?
- Sometimes you're just lucky that the right position comes along at the right time, and it did for me when I joined RUC in 2011. I think I fit in really well with the subject called 'Kultur- og Sprogmødestudier' (Cultural Encounters). Everything I do is framed in that discipline, and it's also important to me that we have a global outlook. We work with transnational perspectives and different types of inequality and power, because cultural encounters are not always nice and cosy, but can also be conflictual.
- And I really like my students and the project work approach! I think it's great that we have this mentoring opportunity, where I can work with a group of students on a question and use my knowledge to guide them in writing an academic text. It's fun work, because the students bring different perspectives and understandings of the world that are hugely exciting and can also inspire my own work.
"I think it's great that we have this mentoring opportunity, where I can work with a group of students on a question and use my knowledge to guide them in writing an academic text.”
About Garbi Schmidt:
- She researches immigration, often with an historical perspective. She has written a doctoral thesis at Roskilde University on the immigration history of Nørrebro, and has just published the book “Den første ghetto” [The first ghetto].
- She wrote a PhD in Islamology at Lund University in Sweden on Muslim immigrant groups in Chicago, and it laid the trail. Later, she worked for many years at SFI, where she focused on immigration.