How millions make a new home

imagining-coverThe circumstances that attend migration are myriad, but Flinders academics Associate Professor Diana Glenn and Dr Eric Bouvet, editors of a new book, say that all migrants, voluntary or otherwise, share a sense of dislocation that is far more than physical.

How migrants counter the “biographical trauma” of migration and deal with the consequences of displacement are among the themes of the peer-reviewed essays that make up Imagining Home: Migrants and the search for a new belonging.

The book, co-edited with Italian sociologist Dr Sonia Floriani and published by Wakefield Press, will be launched in the South Australian Migration Museum by Ms Grace Portolesi, State Minister for Multicultural Affairs, on October 6.

Associate Professor Glenn and Dr Bouvet say that the book approaches the experience of migration by coming at it from a variety of angles; in addition to the historical approach, there are sociologists and anthropologists as well as specialists in language, literature, cinema, media studies and political science among the contributors.

Dr Bouvet said the migrant experience demonstrates the need that people have to find continuity in their lives.

“People have to try to recreate their home, whether that’s physical or metaphorical, as much as possible, and we wanted to look at the strategies they use from different vantage points,” he said.

Associate Professor Glenn said that what is already a complex issue is further complicated for migrants who go back to visit their countries of origin.

“What you return to is never the home you imagined in your mind: it’s changed.”

For her own chapter, Associate Professor Glenn interviewed numerous first-generation Italian migrants to Australia in their native dialects. As many are now aged in their 80s and 90s, Associate Professor Glenn said it offered an important opportunity to capture vital social history.

In their chapter, Dr Bouvet and colleague Dr Colette Mrowa-Hopkins found that clues to the situation of French migrants of the 1960s could be found in their use of language itself, with nuances of speech characterising the migrants’ attitudes to their ‘new’ and ‘old’ homes.

The book’s reach extends well beyond Australia to include the experiences of Palestinian women whose new ‘homes’ were Lebanese refugee camps, and also examines the formation of a sense of identity among the descendants of displaced native American tribes.

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