Downsizing: experiences of loss, downward mobility and new beginnings after a forced migration
Marta Vilar Rosales (Instituto de Ciências Sociais)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores the experiences of a group of migrant families who were forced out of Mozambique leaving most of their things behind. It addresses the impacts of loss and downward mobility in the relationships with materially and how it intervenes in the stabilization of their new routines in Portugal.
Paper long abstract:
The Carnations Revolution, in 1974, has profoundly altered the Portuguese society. The end of the right-wing dictatorship and the massive return of people from the former colonies caused a reconfiguration of the social structure that, subsequently, affected the composition and the particular features of all social classes. Based in three years of ethnographic work, the paper examines how a group of high-middle class returnee families experienced strong impoverishment, due to a forced migration from Mozambique to Portugal. In particular, it discusses the processes of sorting out what things to retain and to let go before travelling, the new functions and significations things 'from the past' acquired, and how they co-existed with the materially of a new and significantly different setting. According to the subjects, 'having to live with much less' profoundly altered their relationship with materiality. Many things underwent physical transformations in order to fit their new homes, their values were revaluated and their visibilities altered. Also, material culture played a central part in helping families reorganising their routines and adjusting to new objective life conditions resulting from impoverishment. The capacity of things to participate in this new stage of the families' lives positively contributed to depict and highlight central aspects of this still understudied manifestation of social mobility and helped understand the interconnections between materiality and the subjective and objective dimensions of social stratification.