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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P125)

Living in the borderlands: displacement experiences

Location Tower A, Piso 3, Room 311
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 14:30

Convenors

Cristina Santinho (ISCTE) email
Sónia Ramalho (CRIA) email
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Short Abstract

This panel aims to examine and discuss the experiences of migrants, exiled and displaced populations "living in the borderlands", through three different and yet complementary approaches presented in the following sequence: Belonging and meanings of home, exile and memories, invisibility and public discourses on migrant families.

Long Abstract

Migration processes, in particular those that result from displacement experiences and involuntary population movements - such as those originated by wars and conflicts or by radical political and ideological changes - often suggest a rupture with people's contexts of origin. There are dramatic changes in adapting to new social contexts.

Nonetheless, the politics of visibility and invisibility adopted by governments to deal with certain historic constructions and with contemporary social problems emerge in ideological discourses that need to be deconstructed.

In this sense, different ethnographic and methodological approaches have contributed to the uprise of personal narratives related to memories of loss and suffering, of the ways these transform family dynamics and affect, particularly, the younger generations. Perceptions of being "in-between" or of being seen as an "outsider" are challenged by processes of reconstructing identities, by personal identification of new meanings of home and by feelings of belonging in the host country.

Chair: Maria Cristina Cristina Ferraz Saraiva Santinho
Discussant: Sónia Ramalho

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Narrating journey, home and absence: the case of migrant Karelians

Author: Ulla Savolainen (University of Helsinki)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper investigates the diverse ways of narrating and experiencing home, belonging, identity and absence in the case of migrant Karelians' evacuation journey narratives written by former child evacuees.

Long Abstract

Finland and the Soviet Union fought two wars during World War II which resulted in the cession of a part of the Finnish Karelia to the Soviet Union. As a result the Finnish population living in the territory was evacuated behind the new Finnish border and the group of people called the Karelian evacuees was born. In this paper I discuss how the loss of home and feeling of home and homelessness are expressed in evacuation journey narratives written by former child evacuees. I suggest that the conception of physically shared place as a basis of the group and belonging does not apply in this case. Instead a more central bond for the migrant Karelians' seem to be the experiences of the evacuation and the loss of home.

Evacuation journey narratives are written decades after the war. The diachronical time perspective reveals that the narrative process is a negotiation between individual and collective pasts and between alternative identities and stories. I address how the memories of the evacuation journey and the losing of home resonate with cultural storypatterns and multiple identities and emphasize the multiplicity of potential positions of one individual evacuee and also the variance of evacuee positions inside the group. My aim is to elaborate perspectives toward the self-definition processes of migrant communities and individual migrants which become topical when the existence of the community and the past legitimizing it become questionable along with the loss of a historically shared place of dwelling. The paper is part of my ongoing PhD research.

Lithuanian Immigrants in Norway, England and Ireland: belonging and pathways of incorporation

Author: Jolanta Kuznecoviene (University of Vytautas Magnus)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper is focused on the analyses of both social, economic and emotional linkages which Lithuanian immigrants accumulate in the new societies as well as on explanations they used to give for feeling or not feeling themselves as a part of the new community.

Long Abstract

The paper is based on findings of the research project on migration, started in 2007 at VMU. Aiming to reveal the main pathways on immigrants incorporation into the new societies, the paper is focused on the analyses of both social, economic and emotional linkages which Lithuanian immigrants accumulate in the new societies as well as on explanations they used to give for feeling or not feeling themselves as part of the community. The case of Lithuanian immigrants suggests that for some of them incorporation may begin with crossing the border however it never ends. Those immigrants use to claim that they are never going to accumulate enough linkages of incorporation to allow them to become full member of the society in large. On the other hand, the majority of immigrants feel themselves as part of the new society. Their feeling of belonging is related to how well they overcome feelings of alienation, develop network of friends in the local community, acquire local cultural knowledge and in general how they learn to navigate in the society. However, even individuals who have accumulated a greater number of such linkages may find their full incorporation into the new society blocked because of their immigration status and the larger society's view of them as "outsiders". The paper suggests, that majority of Lithuanian immigrants, by choosing particular linkages to the new society draw on certain pathways of incorporation to it and use diverse motivations of considering themselves as part of it.

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Place attachment, perception of home and adaptation as a result of internal displacement: the case of North Cyprus

Author: Makbule Oktay (Oxford Brookes University)  email
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Short Abstract

The study aims to explore how Internally Displaced Persons adopted their new houses and environments in order to feel attached and what are their perceptions of home. Do they perceive these houses as their ‘homes’ and/or as ‘their’ homes?

Long Abstract

Either consciously or unconsciously people who move from one place to another try to adapt themselves into this unfamiliar environment. They make changes where they settle in a way to convert it from a strange environment into somehow familiar setting, from space into place. This behaviour might be different in the ones who involuntarily left their homes and had to move to a new place.

In this respect, the study focuses on North Cyprus rural settlements. Internally Displaced Turkish Cypriots had to leave their homes in the south Cyprus some thirty five years ago, some more than that and start to live in new houses, the houses which once inhabited by Greek Cypriots in the north. Although it has been a long time, the division and the situation as a consequence on the island is still ongoing and being negotiated under the name of 'Cyprus Problem'.

This study interrogates; how internal displacement affects the architecture of a particular place? How do internally displaced persons perceive their 'homes'? What do these people feel attached to; to their previous or current 'homes'? What does home mean to them? It might be said that the need of attachment is particularly important for displaced people in order to re-establish, rebuilt their previous lives and environment, since they have been forced to leave their homes. It is important to understand if it is possible for these people to construct an attachment to their new environments, to understand if they can establish a new 'home' for themselves.

Forced displacement in Colombia: the invisible migration

Author: Isabel González Enríquez (U.N.E.D.)  email
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Short Abstract

My work focuses, through interviews and life histories, on the pain of loss and the process of reconstructing identity of the 3 million people who have been forcefully displaced from their homes as a direct or indirect consequence of the armed conflict in Colombia.

Long Abstract

There are around 3 million people who have been forcefully displaced from their homes as a direct or indirect consequence of the armed conflict in Colombia.

The invisibility of such a massive and constant flow of migration is a three-branched phenomenon: international, national and indidivual . Overcoming this invisibility is by far one of the main challenges these community face day after day.

This article also focuses, through interviews and life histories, on the pain of loss and the process of reconstructing identity of the displaced families.

The ethnographic research in marginal neighborhoods around Bogotá on which this article is based on shows that "real" space and time vanish into an emotional succession of events, idealized lost paradises, unknown future paths and impossible dreams of return. The enterviewees are mainly peasants from the countryside alien to the dynamics and rhythm of a big city, with a very low level of education and in many cases with no family or social connections in Bogotá.

Displaced people talk about an irreparable break in their cultural and socio-economic way of life. Despite the deep loss suffered by these people, their migration is changing the shape of major cities, the role and participation level of women in the urban life, the rural-urban relation all over the country, and it could determine in a not so distant future the possibility of real change in Colombian society.

Of home and other figments: the passage of exile in the Tibetan diaspora

Author: Sean Akerman (Graduate Center, CUNY)  email
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Short Abstract

Prompted by research on Tibetans in New York City, I explore the long-term effects of exile and its permutations on those who were expelled from their home several decades ago, and how that prolonged loss has been passed down to their children and grandchildren abroad.

Long Abstract

This paper will use a study of lives approach to understand the experiences of exile described by those Tibetans who came to New York City following the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, and the stories told by their children who were raised in New York. Not unlike other diasporas in the world today, the transfer of events, stories, and in many cases, the wounds, of exile formatively shape the narrative hereafter of younger generations, though this phenomenon has been given little attention in the social sciences. This work will look to the Tibetan diaspora to understand how the prolonged experiences of exile have determined what stories are inherited from one generation to the next, and how that understanding informs their conceptions of home and return. I explore how that understanding changes across time and impacts possibilities for action, resistance, and forgiveness. I argue that the loss of home suffered by the older generation has left a psychological impress, an experiential remnant that bears greatly on the lives of younger Tibetans, resistant as it can be to language (though sometimes it may, in contrast, become quite rhetoricized). I am interested in the passage of such an impress to the next generation, how it is inherited, how it can provide a narrative lining and give shape to the arc one's life for both the one who was there and the one who was not.

Space for identity: parenting among immigrants

Author: Roberta Raffaetà (Università Milano-Bicocca)  email
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Short Abstract

My research analyse how migrant women make sense of their mothering role in the host country (north Italy). Results show that parenting is a propitious site of reconstruction of personal and familiar identity.

Long Abstract

With the movement to European Union of increasing numbers of migrants originating from outside Europe, 'migrant families' have become crucial for migration policies and public opinion. The notion of the family has become politicised as a trope, a site of expression of diverse moral orders, set of beliefs and values, ideas and practices by reference to which migrant groups are identified. In many Western societies, public discourse typically represents immigrant families as 'problematic,' their cultural practices reckoned unacceptable for pragmatic or ideological reasons. Beyond this external perspective exists the real practices enacted in diverse sectors of family life (parenting, in our specific case) which show a more complex and multi-faced situation, one of hybridation of knowledge and practices. The domestic sphere depicts migrant families at a crucial point of interface with host country services through pregnancy and early childhood needs. My research focuses on migrant families and their social inclusion in Trentino (a region of north Italy) through the analysis of parenting practices. Results illustrate that the family stage is a site both of reconstruction and of reinvention of identity of an identity especially projected onto the children.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.