Migration, like all social issues, is an ever-evolving phenomenon. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of extreme right-wing politics worldwide and the economic and ecological crises, among others, further add to those identified in our Identities article, 'Interwoven migration narratives: identity and social representations in the Lusophone world', published a few years ago.
Surely, the field of Migration Studies demands a constant examination of social changes and, among other things, how they intersect with and influence migration flows and migrants’ life experiences. However, it is important to stress that, alongside new representations of the world and its power dynamics, there are long-standing ones. From the perspective of the Humanities and Social Sciences, it is crucial to understand the ruptures, continuities and accommodations of social representations and the effects these have in shifting or maintaining the status quo.
To this end, the argument of our article provides a useful framework to situate the analysis of migration narratives. Specifically, we present three elements of enduring discursive constructions and social representations of commonality among the Portuguese-speaking countries: the ideas of a shared past; a common language; and a sense of community, marked by hybridity and deep cultural ties. Aiming to contribute to the understanding of how deep-seated these ideas are, we explored the intersections, reverberations and clashes of these dominant ideas of Lusophony in migrants’ life narratives, understood as tools to explain, organise and frame the world as well as to make sense of one's self-identity.
We first analysed the rhetoric of the common past as a discursive construct, which evoked the image of an alleged not-so-inhumane colonial past and, at the same time, created a misleading narrative frame that whitewashed racism and xenophobia in the present time. The use of this narrative frame appeared in the way some of the migrants we interviewed approached difficult questions of privilege regarding the social hierarchies in Lusophone countries (connected, for instance, with white privilege). Lately, critiques of the historically-constructed social identities have gained some traction in many Portuguese-speaking countries in face of the rise of decolonial and intersectional social movements, on the one hand, and of far-right discourses on the other, deserving ongoing academic scrutiny.
Our article also delved into the complexity of the ‘common language’, specifically in how using a variant of the Portuguese language could lead to prejudice and miscommunication among migrants and non-migrants. For instance, problems regarding the academic discrediting of language (Portuguese variants) were especially relevant to Cape Verdeans and Guinea-Bissauans in Brazil, and to Brazilians in Portugal. We are looking forward to reading more contributions that aim to answer to what extent did recent transformations of the social fabric lead to variants of the Portuguese language being more accepted and understood (or not) across Portuguese-speaking countries.
Finally, we examined how mobility resulted in conflicting feelings in terms of the creation of a sense of community. We saw recurrent ideas of 'intermittent’ life, one that is never completed either in the origin or the host country and, consequently, an ambiguous sense of belonging. This ambiguity can be a tacit strategy to overcome prejudice, but it can have deeper meanings. The comprehension of these meanings requires that we continue to listen to individual narratives and examine varied forms of social representations, such as art, historical narratives and political discourses, to name a few.
Much work has yet to be done, but we hope to have helped to build on a path for understanding Lusophony representations and to the broad field of migrant studies.
Blog post by Lilia Abadia, Postdoctoral National Program of CAPES and Catholic University of Brasília, Brazil; and Rosa Cabecinhas, Communication and Society Research Centre, University of Minho, Portugal
Read the full article: Abadia, Lilia; Cabecinhas, Rosa; Macedo, Isabel; & Cunha, Luís. Interwoven migration narratives: identity and social representations in the Lusophone world. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2016.1244062
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