Graduate Workshop 2017/2018: Call for Papers

19th Century Swedish Immigration to the US

We have now come to the end of our 2016/2017 programmme of Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshops. Many  thanks to all our speakers who have made such a valuable contribution to this year’s series.

The Graduate Workshop will recommence in October 2017.  If you would like to contribute a paper on a diaspora related topic to the 2017/2018 programme, please contact Alastair Learmont or Devin Grier ( see Contact)  by 14 August 2017.  You can find further details at Call for Papers

Crisis, Migration and Precariousness: The New Galician Diaspora as a Case Study

unnamed (1)On 28 February 2017, we were delighted to welcome Dr Maria Alonso Alonso to the Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop.  Maria obtained her PhD from the University of Vigo in 2014 and is currently based at the University of St Andrews where she holds a a Xunta de Galicia International Postdoctoral Fellowship.  Her work focusses on the Galician diaspora. She has published widely in academic journals; her output also includes short stories, poetry and a novel in the Galician Language.  Her most recent book entitled Transmigrantes Fillas de Precareidade (“Transmigrants , Daughters of Precariousness”), published by Axourere in 2017, challenges an over positive image of migration in order to highlight  the feelings of vulnerability experienced by her own, younger generation.  In a stimulating paper Maria, explored the interconnected themes of crisis, migration and precariousness.

Traditionally, Galicia has been a migrant community.  As Maria observed, it is difficult to find a family unaffected by migration.  In the 19th century, Castile was a popular destination for migrants; at the time of the Spanish Civil War, Latin America, notably Argentina and Uruguay, provided a popular draw.  More recently, it has been Europe.  Factors have included poverty, political instability and unemployment.  Statistics, eloquent of a social crisis, reveal how Spanish unemployment has soared since the beginning of the millennium, rising from 8% in 2006 to 26% in 2012. The trend is most pronounced in the younger generation.  In 2015, youth unemployment (representing the  under 25s) stood at 51%; in the same year graduate unemployment stood at 30%; in Germany the comparative figure was 3%. Over the past five years, over one million Spanish citizens have emigrated; a significant number have come to the UK.  In 2015, on the basis of Spanish Government figures, 45,000 Spanish nationals were formally registered as living in the UK; most were between the ages of 25 and 35, and approximately 20% Galician.

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Maria’s family like many others were affected by migration.  This photograph includes a number of family members including her mother, aunts and uncles, and grandparents

However, as Maria argued, it is important to recognise the presence of a push and pull factor. In the late 1990s, Galicia became a host country.  Spain, which was undergoing a period of political transition, became part of the Euro zone.  It opened its borders to foreign labourers including Africans, Europeans (particularly the Swiss and Germans) and first and second generation emigrants to Latin America (the so called retornados).  Many of the new immigrants were employed in the construction and service industries; at the same time many professional Galicians emigrated to north Europe and the USA.   In many respects, the boom proved transient as images of Castellon airport and Santiago de Compostela City of Culture testify.  As much as nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition, nobody ever expected the Spanish Crisis.

The New Galician Diaspora is characterised by a sense of precariousness as the title of Maria’s recent book suggests.  The Galician Government has promoted an official narrative based on a sense of Sentimentality for the home country from abroad.  Thus Galicians, in the words of Helena Miguélez-Carballeira, “are a nostalgic people…. (who) live in harmonious communion with their landscape…yearning for its beauty”.  According to this received view, emigration is not as traumatic as it might seem.  In fact, emigration is the equivalent of success.  However, this rigid agenda blots out stories of precariousness.  New narratives have developed to challenge the official line. The  stereopytoes and metaphors commonly associated with Sentimentality have been analysed and challenged in the work of Carballeira.    Since 2015, a flurry of publications have provided a critique of Sentimentality. Eloy Domínguez Serén, although comparatively unknown within Galicia, has demonstrated on the basis of his own experiences, how feelings of alienation become important in the context of migration.  The concept of Saudade, almost untranslatable into English, captures the vital angst of living abroad. Manuel Forcadela goes further.  For Forcadela, Saudade is like a form of castration.

Somewhat surprisingly there is nobody currently working on Galician Studies at the University of Edinburgh.  Maria concluded by suggested that important comparisons might be drawn between her native Galicia and Scotland, i.e. as communities existing within hegemonic powers.

This well attended paper provoked interest and debate.  Maria’s scholarly approach was enhanced by the authority of personal experience.  We look forward to welcoming Maria at future graduate workshops and research seminars.

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Emigration:  Scotland to Australia 1840-1870.  Was the Effort Really Worthwhile?

liverpoolOn 12th January 2017, the Graduate Workshop welcomed Jennifer McCoy of Federation University, Australia.  Jennifer is a part time first-year PhD student who currently combines research with teaching.  Her doctoral research considers the contribution made by immigrant Scots in the development of Eastern High Country Victoria in the mid to late 19th century. Family history has provided the stimulus for Jennifer’s formal academic research and, in her own words, has led to her asking “so many questions that (have gone) beyond the usual genealogical study of births, marriages, deaths and people connections”.   Her presentation considered the “loose ends” which have inspired her project and the lines of enquiry which they suggest.

At the heart of Jennifer’s research lie the big questions: Where had the Scots come from?  Where did they settle?  Moreover, was their effort worthwhile?  Existing research has tended to focus on the more well known, yet many early Scottish settlers remain strangely “invisible”.  Memorialisation,  gravestones in particular, have provided a useful starting point.  By way of case study, Jennifer considered her own McCoy ancestors. As the 1841 census records reveal, James McCoid (sic) and his wife Charlotte Dowie hailed from Girvan in Ayrshire.  In 1855, they made the perilous five month sea voyage from Liverpool to Hobart before travelling to South East Victoria.  The McCoy family clearly flourished.  In 1932, Mary, the daughter of Charlotte and James, left the considerable sum of £ 45,000 to her local Presbyterian Church.  Her sister Elizabeth ran a successful hotel.  What role then did women play in the settler society?  How did the Presbyterian  Church impact upon their lives?  How was such wealth generated in a comparatively short time?  In the long term, Jennifer anticipates broadening the scope of her research and considering the experiences of other Scottish families in the development of South East Victoria.

A lively discussion followed. The presentation provided a perfect opportunity for Jennifer to meet and exchange ideas with members of our own post graduate community.  We all wish her well with her continuing research.

Alastair Learmont

“Imprest on vellum”: Lowland language and the early American republic, c. 1800-1830.

Sean Murphy from the University of St Andrews spoke to the Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop on Tuesday 1 November.  Sean has a particular interest in the relationship between the Scots language and British imperialism. He is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow and Oxford, and will shortly submit his PhD thesis at the University of St Andrews.  We were delighted to welcome back Sean.

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The new circumstances under which we are placed, call for new words, new phrases, and for the transfer of old words to new objects. An American dialect will therefore be formed.

Thomas Jefferson 16 August 1813

In the early decades of the 19th century, Thomas Jefferson argued that the growing United States of America, a nation of considerable size and cultural diversity, required a language to express all ideas.  Would new words and new phrases “adulterate” the English language?  Had the language of Burns “disfigured” the English language?  Did the Athenians consider the Doric, the Ionian, the Aeolic, and other dialects, as disfiguring or as beautifying their language?”  Jefferson thought the latter. Developing an analogy based on the richness of the Greek language, he argued that a variety of dialects enriched a language. The learned writers of the contemporary Edinburgh Review, who eschewed new words were, in his view, mistaken.

        Sean Murphy used the words of Jefferson as both the introduction and cornerstone of his presentation. Jefferson had expressed the desire to “enlargen our thomas-jeffersonemployment of the English language”.  Moreover, a dignified American dialect was comparable to the Scots of Robert Burns whose writing had been readily available in the young United States of American from the 1790s.  The poetry of Burns, Sean argued, fostered a sense of nostalgia, in emigrant Scots.

          The work of two Scots/Irish poets provide an important insight into the social and diasporic world of Scots/Irish.  David Bruce from Pennsylvania was a first generation emigrant who may have had roots in the north-east of Scotland, possibly in Caithness.  A contemporary of Burns, his poetry expressed the post-colonial political concerns of a Scots/Irish diaspora.  Bruce defended the Scottish Irish community which had been blamed for the so called Pennsylvania “whiskey rebellion of 1794”. Fiercely anti Jacobin, his work reflected an earlier age and showed a Scottish pride in rationality.

    Robert Dinsmore of New Hampshire, was a third generation emigrant Scots/Ulsterman.  If Bruce was a Scottish American, then it might be argued that Dinsmore was an American Scot.  Sean’s readings of Dinsmore’s poetry tended to suggest that the vowel sounds of a third generation Scot might have developed, or, in any event, have been different from the Scots American of Bruce.  Dinsmore looked to the past and made a connection between his ancient Irish ancestors and the tribes of the native American Indians.  He was more of a rustic bard.  Both poets – Bruce in more pastoral vein – were influenced by the poetry of the elder Alan Ramsay, of Gentle Shepherd fame, who was known for his use of the Scottish vernacular two generations before Robert Burns. Nostalgia, perhaps even exoticism, were the hallmarks of these poets.  If the English had crafted Athenian, then the Scots excelled at the Doric.

         A wide-ranging discussion considered the publication and marketing of the poems and the extent to which other diasporic groups may have been represented in contemporary periodicals.

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Please note:

 The Graduate Workshop originally scheduled for Tuesday 15 November, has been cancelled.

Unfortunately, our speaker, Micheal Hopkirk of the University of Dundee, is indisposed.  Michael was due to speak on “Highland Adventurers to the Caribbean: Estimating the Scale of Highland-Caribbean Economic Migration, 1780-1830”

Our next Graduate Workshop will  now take place on Tuesday 29th November (further details below)

                                                                                             Alastair Learmont