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The political potential of multi-accentuality in the exhibition title 'gastarbajteri'

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This article explores the multi-accentuality of the sign 'gastarbajteri', used as title word in an exhibition on labour migration that took place in Vienna, Austria, in 2004. Based on an ethnographic study of the exhibition, it addresses a variety of readings of this word, both at the level of production and reception. The analysis of texts shows, firstly, the divergent rationales of the two agents who cooperated as exhibition producers, the minority NGO who wished to signal self-empowerment of migrants on the hand and the city museum who aimed at selling the exhibition to a mainstream audience on the other hand. Secondly, it juxtaposes them with the plurality of readings by its recipients, which range from the recognition of an appeal to migrants via the mis-reading as 'guestworker' and its upvaluation through to an insider-perspective based on the knowledge of the word's connotations in the former Yugoslavia.
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Keywords: EXHIBITION TITLE; GUESTWORKER; LABOUR MIGRATION; MULTI-ACCENTUALITY; STYLISTIC DEVICE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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