9:30-10:45 – Migration and Categories of Selfhood

Kate Averis (Université Paris X)

Exiles, migrants, expats? A new generation of Latin American writers

If Amy K. Kaminsky once claimed that exile ‘is always coerced’ and ‘voluntary exile’ is ‘an oxymoron that masks the cruelly limited choices imposed on the subject’, can this still be said to hold true today? In these times of increasing, and increasingly complex, patterns of transnational mobility, in what way  has our understanding of exile shifted? Given that the categories of exile, migrant, and expatriate – far from being discrete and distinct – necessarily overlap, are they still valid or useful categories for understanding the complexities of transnational mobility and the identities produced therein? The terminology we use in reference to transnational displacement proves to have a profound impact on perceptions of cultural otherness, and the need to revisit and question such categories is not only timely, but pressing.

This paper seeks to explore these questions by examining representations of transnational mobility in a new generation of Latin American writers. Transcultural, frequently multilingual, and invariably highly mobile, expatriate Latin American writers today can rarely be neatly described as exiles or migrants, and pose a different set of questions from their literary predecessors. If Latin American writers who fled the violence and repression of military dictatorships had to grapple with questions of guilt, responsibility, and how to represent the personal and pyschological, as well as the political and historical ramifications of exile, this paper asks what challenges are faced by Latin American writers today who leave the birth country behind, and how is this represented discursively ?


Sophie Stevens (King’s College London)

‘El maquillaje y el exilio hacen milagros’: exploring the representation of double exile in Ligeros de Equipaje by Jorge Díaz

This paper presents a close reading of Ligeros de Equipaje (1982) to explore the dramatic representation of the experience of double exile through the character of Mara.   Mara, an actress, is forced to flee Catalonia with her family at the start of the Civil War and settle in Chile, only to be forced to leave Chile during the military dictatorship.  Mara tells her story from her dressing room which becomes a kind of child’s playroom in which she depicts the people that she has encountered and seeks to find explanations for ‘el desarraigo como forma de vida.’  This paper will address the concept of perpetual exile as a chosen way of life for political migrants in contrast to Mara who searches for; ‘una pequeña cueva que huela a tierra conocida, con un fuego donde acurrucarme.’  It will examine the ways in which Mara seeks to claim her identity as an actress in the theatre, identifying the stage as, ‘una pizca de realidad’ and how Diaz draws parallels between acting and migration.  This paper will highlight how Díaz’s own experience as a migrant is reflected in this work.  It will also discuss the concept of a cultural inheritance and body as fundamental to individual identity; in order to do this I will draw upon my research on the theme of translating cultures.

Elvira Fente (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Migrant Spanish women in France: integration, disagreements and solidarity

The Spanish colony in France changed during the twentieth century. Each successive wave of Spanish men and women presented new characteristics: sometimes this made life together difficult, but there were also many similarities, which were made stronger by daily interactions. Political militancy, social class and cultural activities were categories which crossed over and created a variety of situations. Another such category was gender: if we ignore women’s experiences, we then fail to appreciate many aspects of the rivalry between migrants and exiles, or of the forms of integration into the host country. Migrant and exiled women found meeting-spaces, and created networks of solidarity among themselves: these were more frequent and stronger than those created by men, although one must not forget that tension and conflicts still existed within these groups which, has been discussed elsewhere, shared geographic locations and modest socioeconomic positions. These links developed most strongly in the areas in which significant numbers of Spaniards lived, such as the south-west of France, the Parisian region and Algeria.