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By conversing with the main bodies of relevant literature from Migration Studies and Memory Studies, this overview highlights how analysing memories can contribute to a better understanding of the complexities of migrant incorporation. The chapters consider international case studies from Europe, North America, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.





1. The Memory and Migration Nexus: An Overview

For the 4th of July 2010, the online edition of the New York Times asked selected writers and historians to describe how immigrants today cele-brate Independence Day in the United States, and to discuss whether this had changed over different generations.1 The answers, mostly in the form of personal family memoirs, varied across a wide range: one recounted the enthusiastic patriotism of his immigrant parents; another expressed minority migrants’ ambivalence about what the day was actually commemorating; and another concluded that some immigrants’ indifference was the best indicator of their actual assimilation. The newspaper elaborated: ‘How immigrants define themselves and how the laws determine who is welcome and who is not have played out in various ways throughout American history.'2 That a day of commemoration, whatever the role of the memories associated with it, could be indicative of immigrants’ incorporation is not an exceptional characteristic of a society as aware of its immigration history as the United States.3 The nexus between memories and migrant incorporation is a typical, widespread and significant feature of any country with immigration. Newcomers have to negotiate their place in their new countries as much as receiving societies must continually discuss and remould their policies, not least in relation to those who have arrived most recently.
Irial Glynn, J. Olaf Kleist

Migrant Memories


2. Cultures of History: The New Left, South Asians, and Historical Memory in Post-War England

A good deal of contemporary public history is concerned with the exploration, and often the promotion, of cultural diversity. Whether the subject is cities, classes or peoples, cultural diversity appears as a key theme, its recognition important not just for reasons of historical accuracy, but also as a method of promoting positive social identities and community cohesion in Britain. As David Lammy, the former Minister for Culture put it when arguing for the importance of a more pluralist version of national history, ‘Whether or not our country can learn to thrive amidst its diversity will depend in no small measure on how we turn the heritage of our past to our greatest comparative advantage for the future’.1
Kevin Myers

3. ‘I am also a Foreigner, but with Me it’s Different’: Polish Displaced Persons, War Memory and Ethnification in Belgium

It is estimated that during Second World War up to twenty million people left their homes. Many did not want to go back after their liberation since their homelands were within the Soviet sphere of influence and they feared that they would encounter repression. Following the unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Forces to repatriate all these people, a special body, the International Refugee Organisation (IRO), granted them the status of Displaced Persons and coordinated their settlement in the Atlantic World. The Displaced Persons described in this chapter belonged to the First Polish Armoured Division. It was established in Poland in the 1930s and numbered, at its peak, about 16,000 soldiers. After the invasion by the Soviet Union in September 1939, the Division fled the country and marched through Southern Europe and France. It stayed in Great Britain for four years, and then helped to liberate Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In sixteen days it passed through Flanders.1 During their stay, many soldiers fell in love with young Flemish women. After the Division had passed through the Netherlands, it hoped to march on and liberate Poland, but in February 1945 the Yalta Conference consolidated the Soviet Union’s influence over Poland. After the war, the Division was deployed as an occupying force in Germany for two years. When it was dissolved, all the soldiers who did not return to the Polish People’s Republic lost their Polish citizenship and received Displaced Persons’ status.2 About three hundred of them married Flemish women and settled in the Flemish cities they had helped to liberate.3
Machteld Venken

4. Using History to Relate: How Teenagers in Germany Use History to Orient between Nationalities

As in many cities in the former West Germany during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, West Berlin attracted a large number of temporary and permanent immigrants from southern and south-eastern Europe and from Turkey. What makes Berlin special is the unusually high concentration of immigrants in particular parts of the city, and the fact that immigrants from Turkey comprise such a large proportion of the immigrant population. While cities such as Frankfurt am Main and Munich have become multicultural, parts of Berlin have become bicultural.
Josefine Raasch

Memories in Diverse Societies


5. Caught between Two Worlds: The Europeans of Algeria in France after 1962

Renée1 was born in Algiers in 1907. She says little about her mother’s family, from Lyon, except that they settled in Algeria after going bank-rupt in France. About her father, who died when she was only five years old, she only knows that he was born in Algeria to a father who was a soldier and a mother who was an orphan. When I met her in France, she told me the history of her family, describing how, over the space of a few years, her family found itself caught up in the contradictions and paradoxes of a story that ended with their departure from Algeria in 1962. This departure, which she refers to as exile, is the focal point for her feeling of being suddenly deprived of the numerous ties of belonging that had linked her, like the other Algerian Europeans, to both France and Algeria, and relegated her, on both sides of the Mediterranean, to the status of foreigner.
Michèle Baussant

6. Remembering Egypt: Evangelicals, Conservatism and Immigration in America

In his well-known lecture at the Sorbonne in 1882, Ernest Renan remarked that ‘the essence of a nation is that all its individuals have many things in common, and that all have forgotten many things as well’.1 For nations like the United States with historically high rates of immigration and cultural diversity, it is both harder for its individuals to have many things in common and harder to forget what they do have in common. When national commonalities cannot be assumed, they are typically imagined.2 One of the most powerful national ‘myths’ for post-War America is the proposition that the United States is a ‘nation of immigrants’.3 Through this narrative of migration, the nation affirms that the uniqueness and strength of American society lies in its ability to welcome and incorporate the contributions of millions of immigrants generation upon generation. The power of this narrative is manifest in school textbooks and in a multitude of historical monuments and museums dedicated to migrant history in America’s ‘gateway’ cities and prairie settlements.4 Most pervasively, it is manifest in contemporary political discourse, even - and sometimes most obviously - in the discourse of conservative politics.
Hans Leaman

7. Past Migrations, Contemporary Representations and Complex Multicultures in London

This chapter is based on data produced in a UK-wide study of immigration and social cohesion undertaken between 2005 and 2008.1 Our intention was to explore the actual lived lives and practices of both new immigrants and the long-term settled population and through this lens consider contemporary social cohesion policies in the UK. One of the key strands of the research was predicated on understanding how previous immigrations are perceived or experienced and how this informs contemporary immigration. We are particularly interested in layered histories of migration, and historically constituted diaspora spaces, that is the spaces of multiculture encounter.2 For many people migration is a key indicator, and often the scapegoat, of social change. In Britain it is associated with periods of uncertainty involving economic expansion, reconstruction or re-structuring, and with political transformations, such as independence for former British colonies and the ‘end of empire’. We emphasise the importance of understanding social cohesion and the nation through the formation, formulation and reformulation of prevailing narratives of belonging, obligation and identity. These narratives inform the way social heterogeneity, resulting from social and geographical mobilities and the porousness of multiculture spaces of encounter, is managed in different places and at different levels, encompassing the global, the national and the local dimensions.
Mary J. Hickman

8. African Asylum Seekers and the Changing Politics of Memory in Israel

On 18 December 2010, an Israeli Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called, Anu Plittim, (‘We are refugees’) that provides pro bono legal support to asylum seekers1 arriving in Israel from Sudan, the Ivory Coast and Eritrea organised a charity concert. This concert was promoted by stickers that paraphrased a well-known Hebrew slang saying: ‘You can call your grandfather an infiltrator’. This title, as well as the name of the NGO, was not chosen accidently. Rather, it was meant to publically demonstrate that African refugees can easily be associated with many Israelis’ personal histories as well as with Israeli collective memory. Similarly, Itamar Mann, Annu Plitim’s chairman, claimed that ‘the Israeli government is insisting not to decide on any immigration policy. Imprisonment [of asylum seekers] is against Israel’s humanitarian obligation’. The NGO’s director, Shira Penn, further claimed that:
The reference to refugees as infiltrators is a racist demagogic meaning employed by the establishment in order to incite the public against them. You can’t frame a whole group of luck-struck individuals who are only seeking refuge just because the specific way they are forced to enter Israel makes it easier to portray them as such. Many of our grandfathers and grandmothers entered Israel in a way that today is termed as infiltration … We ourselves were refugees only three generations ago; have we already forgotten this lesson?2
Moriel Ram, Haim Yacobi

Migration Memories and the State


9. Famine Commemorations and Asylum Debates in Ireland Conflated

From the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 to the early 1990s, Ireland consistently dealt with all kinds of immigrants in an exclusionary manner. The state’s indifferent reaction to attempts to shelter Jews fleeing genocide on the European continent in the 1930s and 1940s symbolised this stance most starkly.2 Those who did manage to enter Ireland later, be they Hungarian, Chilean or Vietnamese refugees, were time and again treated nonsensically by an ill-informed and ill-equipped state.3 The incoherent and inexperienced manner in which Irish authorities dealt with the less than one hundred annual asylum applications received in the 1980s and early 1990s suggested a continuation of past malpractices, with some asylum seekers spending time in prison while awaiting the outcome of their applications.4 Despite Ireland’s history of unsympathetic treatment of outsiders seeking to enter the country, the first Irish asylum debate in 1995, which followed a notable rise in asylum figures, saw politicians adapt a remarkably progressive stance, with every political party represented in parliament voicing its support for the formation of an expansive asylum policy.5 Later asylum debates never replicated the magnanimity of what occurred in 1995, as Ireland attempted to put in place harsher asylum policies commensurate with its European neighbours.
Irial Glynn

10. Migrant Incorporation and Political Memories: Transformations of Civic and Communal Belonging in Australia since 1949

Throughout Australia’s modern history, memories have been highly political. The modes of belonging that memories epitomised have represented controversial political interests as well as historically evolving conceptions of the organisation of society. In particular, because Australia was founded as a settler society, notions of belonging that have been expressed through memories have always been controversial in regard to the original inhabitants of the continent as well as in relation to new arrivals. The polarising potential of memories was especially apparent during the 1980s and 1990s when Australian society was engaged in the so-called History Wars. What appeared to be an academic controversy about the interpretation of Aboriginal and colonial history on the surface was a very public and much analysed debate that challenged conventional imaginings of Australian belonging. It fuelled social, political and legal conflicts about indigenous/non-indig- enous relations, historical justice and traditional land rights.1 Despite obvious intersections, memories of Australia’s ambivalent migration past, from settler colonialism through racist exclusions to mass immigration, were regarded as peripheral concerns in the History Wars. Yet, notions of Australian belonging have been constructed vis a vis immigrants and with references to the migration past from since the early nineteenth century.
J. Olaf Kleist

11. Songs for the Nation: Migrant Pasts and Global Futures in Singapore

Singapore’s inaugural ‘Migrant Workers Talent Quest’ was organised on 19 December 2010 by Migrant Workers Centre (MWC), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).2 The contest coincided with International Migrants Day (18 December), which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000.3 According to the manager of MWC, the event was organised to ‘recognise the contributions of migrant workers’.4 Moreover, the choice of location for the competi-tion, Marina Bay platform - a floating stage that sits along the bank of the Singapore River, acting as a temporary stadium - was significant given that important events such as the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and Singapore’s National Day Parade have been hosted there.5 Such a commemorative event may be read as an attempt to remember and to appreciate ‘what they (migrant workers) have done and what they have contributed to Singapore’s economy and society’, as underscored by the guest of honour, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Health, Hawazi Daipi.6
Kelvin E. Y. Low



12. History, Memory and Migration: Comparisons, Challenges and Outlooks

The case studies presented in this book are empirical studies and theoretical explorations of the nexus between history, memory and migration. They all have ‘stand alone’ qualities that speak for themselves about the people and countries that they focus upon. With their different perspectives on migrant incorporation and the role of memories therein, the authors tell us about the various difficulties immigrants and receiving societies face in their attempts to formulate memories and evoke notions of belonging that suit their changing social settings. Beyond the individual approaches taken in the chapters, they all discuss issues that relate to contemporary social and political challenges that diverse societies today constantly have to confront - issues that are also emerging at the forefront of the nexus of Migration Studies and Memory Studies.
Irial Glynn, J. Olaf Kleist


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