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

Scots in 18th Century Rome: Graduate Workshop 29th November 2016

 

Our next workshop will now take place on Tuesday 29th November at 1 pm in G16 of the William Robertson Wing of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (Doorway 4 of Teviot) when Dr Lucinda Lax, Senior Curator of 18th Century Collections at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, will speak on:

Franciszek Smuglewicz’s James Byres of Tonley and His Family: A Scottish Antiquarian Network in Eighteenth-Century Rome. 

Smuglewicz’s portrait of James Byres of Tonley  provides the focal point for a consideration of  why Scots in general, and Byres in particular, became so prominent as Ciceroni for grand tourists    In what ways did Scottish families operate as “corporations” in 18th Century Rome?

All are most welcome to attend.

“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

‘Toil and Care under the Scorching Sun’: Scots in Jamaica, 1776-1838.

On Monday 17 October, the Graduate Workshop was delighted to welcome Dr Stephen Mullen, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow.  His paper considered Scottish emigration to the Caribbean in the late 18th and early 19th century within its social and economic context. He adopted a transatlantic approach.

Stephen argued that levels of emigration from Scotland to the West Indies increased in the first third of the 19th century.  In the absence of Scottish port statistics during this period, precise quantification is problematic but contemporary advertisements from the Glasgow Herald suggest that between 1806 and 1834, 1742 ships made the transatlantic journey from the Clyde to the Caribbean, of which approximately 600 were bound for Jamaica.  An approach based on earlier work by Allan Karras and Douglas Hamilton (in relation to the second half of the 18th century), points to between 3000 and 5500 Scottish sojourners travelling to Jamaica alone during this period. Kingston was the most popular port of arrival. In 1774, the planter historian, Edward Long, had estimated that one third of the 18,000 (white) inhabitants of the island were either Scots or descended from Scots, a view endorsed by Lady Nugent a generation later. In 1801, she wrote, “Almost all the agents, attornies [sic], merchants and shopkeepers, are of that country [Scotland] and really do deserve to thrive in this, they are so industrious.”

A Scottish presence on the island was re-in forced by Scottish institutions, notably the Kingston Masonic Lodge of St Andrews, the Presbyterian Kirk (also St Andrews), and, arguably, the use of Scots law in order to secure the repatriation of wealth to the home country.  Attempts to establish a Scots Kirk were initially resisted in the Jamaican assembly but evidence of rapid and successful fundraising suggests a broadly based and relatively affluent Scots community within Kingston and other parts of the island. St. Andrews Kirk was opened in 1819. The first three ministers of the Kirk, were educated at Old College in Edinburgh; the third minister, James Wordie, established a st-andrews-scots-kirk-1local Sunday school.

As Stephen observed, the Scottish emigrant was typically a”sojourner in the sun”: the single young man who had travelled to the West Indies “less  in quest of fame than of fortunes” (pace Long) but whose principal motivation was to return to his native land in affluent middle age to enjoy and – when the time was right – transmit his new found wealth.  The motive of the sojourner raises the mechanism of repatriation of capital as much inter vivos as post mortem.  The example of Andrew Taylor, an upwardly mobile overseer on the York estate in Trelawney, is a case in point.   In the 1820s, Taylor’s correspondence provides evidence suggesting that he was making provision for family members in his native land in the event of his not returning to Scotland.  Stephen argued that Scottish merchants played a pivotal role in the transmission of wealth.  They were able to convey bills of exchange to Scotland and, on the death of a Scots testator, were well placed to act as executors.

How wealthy were these sojourners in the sun?  How much wealth did they repatriate?  And what was its impact on the Scottish economy?  Stephen’s recent work has comprised an analysis of the wills and inventories in Scottish archives.  They provide first hand evidence of the nature of repatriation of wealth and the extent of  individual fortunes.  Of the “super rich” William Rae had a fortune approaching that of William Beckford. Scots law, Stephen argued, provided a means of channelling Scots wealth.

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Our next Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop will take place on Tuesday 1 November at 1 pm in G 16 in the William Robertson Wing of the School of History Classics and Archaeology (Doorway 4)

Sean Murphy of the University of St Andrews investigates the apparent enthusiasm for Scottish literature and Lowland Scots language within the United States.  His paper highlights the manner in which Scots forms were seen to set an example for the development of an American English.

Sean’s paper is entitled :

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

All are most welcome to attend.

Alastair Learmont

Business, Farming and Jolly Good Times: 4 October 2016

On Tuesday 4 October, the Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop welcomed Shane Smith, a third year PhD student from the University of Northumbria.  Shane’s paper, entitled “Business, Farming and Jolly Good Times”, charted the migration of the British and Irish soldiers to the Perth settlement in Upper Canada between 1815 and 1850.

Perth, south-west of Ottawa, formed the focal point of significant military re-settlement in the years immediately after the Napoleonic wars.  Between 1815 and 1831, 1425 soldiers, together with their wives and children, settled in Perth. From the early 1830s, the balance shifted significantly to civilian emigration.

land-grants

Examples of Land Grants: Libraries and Archives Canada, Upper Canada Land Petitions, Volume 421, Microfilm 2739, Folio 48 e (Shane Smith)

The central contention of Shane’s paper was that a small group within the military elite was well placed to dominate the administration, agriculture and business of an evolving community.  Its members also played a pivotal role within the social life of the settlement.   Seniority within the military enabled former officers to benefit from sizable grants of land of as much as 1000 acres.  Allocation was essentially based on a tariff system according to seniority.  In addition, all former military personnel could reasonably expect to receive one acre of land within the urban community of Perth.  Shane considered the involvement and advancement of notable individuals in the civic life of Perth including Roderick Matheson and Anthony Lesley. The military, he argued, formed part of an interconnected world where patronage played a vital role.

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Our next Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop takes place on Monday 17 October when Dr Stephen Mullen of the University of Glasgow will speak on the emigration of Scots to the Caribbean between 1776 and 1838.  His paper is entitled “Toil and Care under the Scorching Sun:  Scots in Jamaica, 1776-1838”.

Our Autumn 2016 Seminar Series

We’ve now posted our autumn 2016 seminar programme, which you can find on the programme page:

The seminars start on Tuesday, 4th of October in Room G16 in the William Robertson Wing, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Old Medical School, Teviot Place.

Shane Smith (Northumbria University) will speak on:

“Business, farming and ‘jolly good times’: The migration of British and Irish soldiers to the Perth military settlement in Upper Canada 1815-1850.

 

 

Sarah Arens on ‘Decolonising the Atomium: Diasporic Writing in Brussels’

Today we welcomed second year doctoral student Sarah Arens across from the French department of the University of Edinburgh. Sarah’s paper was fascinating and sparked a lot of discussion, as well as quite a few new strands of thought in this writer’s head. Focusing on the work of novelist Mina Oualdlhadj, this paper sought to explore how Brussels is portrayed and viewed by the Moroccan diaspora living there, and in turn how that ethnic group is viewed by others. Oualdlhadj’s 2008 book, Ti T’Appelles Aïcha, Pas Jouzifine (You’re Called Aisha, Not Josephine)was used to examine the key themes of ‘other’, space, and gender – this was primarily done through focusing on the Atomium and the hammam (a Moroccan bath-house).

The Atomium, Brussels

The Atomium, Brussels

The Atomium is an interesting focal point. It has a history of juxtapositioning the coloniser with the colonised, the modern with the not, or the dominant with the other (as seen by its creation for the 1958 World’s Fair, as a celebration of peaceful uses of nuclear energy – the same Fair which had a human zoo filled with colonial Congolese villagers), and therefore was a great image to have in mind when discussing the meeting (or clashing) of cultures.

The paper generated plenty of questions, which ranged in topic from the rupture and trauma caused by geographical displacement, to the Western idealisation of female-only spaces such as the Hammam, and the subversive elements of renaming spaces. Sarah’s responses to the comments and questions added a lot to a thoroughly fascinating talk, and I’m sure we all learnt a lot from it.

Thank you to Sarah, and to all the LLC staff and students who joined us in HCA.

Please join us again in a fortnight (17th March) when Kimberley Sherman will be joining us from St Andrews. Kimberley will be speaking on ‘A family affair: Kinship networks and Scottish emigration in colonial North Carolina’. All are welcome, 1pm in G16 of the William Robertson Wing, Tuesday 17th March.

Sophie Cooper on the Irish in Melbourne

Thank you to everyone who came along to our first seminar of this semester’s series. There was a great turnout for Sophie’s paper and some really interesting questions were asked.

In a fortnight’s time we have Sean Murphy from St Andrews speaking to us on Lowland language and the associational culture of the Scottish diaspora.

Everyone is welcome to join us in room G16 of the William Robertson Wing at 1pm.

Alison Garden on Colum McCann and the literature of diaspora

The last seminar speaker of this semester’s series was Alison Garden from the Literature, Languages and Cultures School at the University of Edinburgh. Alison’s paper was entitled ‘Migrating texts: Colum McCann and the literature of diaspora’ and was based on Alison’s recently handed in PhD thesis.

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Alison’s paper was fascinating for many reasons. As a doctoral student whose thesis focus has just altered, I found Alison’s explanation of the changing focus of her research, from a survey of McCann’s works to a wider interaction with themes of migration and Irishness in McCann’s works (due to publications on a similar topic), useful and reassuring. The paper explored a number of themes, but the main ones were the race (or racism) and the Irish; and McCann’s use of migration and movement in his works. The ‘Green and Black’ – comparing, contrasting, and connecting tropes of Irish American and African American literature and history, which appear in both diasporic historiography and McCann’s books, were particularly interesting, and a theme that was picked up on a lot in the Q&A session.

The turnout for this seminar was particularly good, and Alison’s paper struck an excellent compromise between literature and history – appealing to the very mixed audience. This mix was reflected in the questions which ranged in subject from the Draft Riots and interracial violence, to the privilege of “migrant writers”, and short-stories as social capital.

Thank you to Alison, and all our speakers this semester – it’s been an eye-opening and fascinating series (even if I do say so myself).

We shall be reconvening in January – please keep an eye on this page for our upcoming speakers, and if you would like to speak in next semester’s series, there is still time to get in touch!