Throwbacklist Thursday

Migrations are in the news again. As happens when humanity goes through one of its giant spasms of violence, displacement follows. People tired of bombs, bullets, hunger, and the rest of a long list of horrors vote with their feet and go looking for a better way. The news from Europe and the Mideast makes it clear that, just as the milk of human kindness can flow like molasses, compassion and understanding also appear, offering refuge to the victimized and a sign of the hope to the fortunate rest of us.

Our own Studies in World Migrations series delves into human mobility not only over distance but across time. It takes a different tact than the usual looks at immigration to this nation or that. SWM books encourage a more global and long-term perspective on humanity in motion, a necessary field of study in an unstable world that faces not only continued ethnic and political violence, but a century of displacement related to climate change and diminishing natural resources.

ugarteAfricans in Europe: The Culture of Exile and Emigration from Equatorial Guinea to Spain, by Michael Ugarte

Tracing the shifts of Africans into and out of Equatorial Guinea, Africans in Europe explores a small former Spanish colony in central Africa. Michael Ugarte examines the writings of Equatorial Guinean exiles and migrants, considering the underlying causes of such moves and arguing that the example of Equatorial Guinea is emblematic of broader dynamics of cultural exchange in a postcolonial world.

Based on personal stories of people forced to leave and those who left of their own accord, Africans in Europe captures the nuanced realities and widespread impact of mobile populations. By focusing on the geographical, emotional, and intellectual dynamics of Equatorial Guinea’s human movements, readers gain an inroad to “the consciousness of an age” and an understanding of the global realities that will define the cultural, economic, and political currents of the twenty-first century.

salaff et. alHong Kong Movers and Stayers: Narratives of Family Migration, by Janet W. Salaff, Siu-lun Wong, and Arent Greve

Half a million Hong Kong residents fled their homeland during the thirteen years before Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, and nearly half of those returned within several years of leaving. Filled with detailed, first-hand stories of nine Hong Kong families over nearly two decades, Hong Kong Movers and Stayers is an intimate look at the forces behind Hong Kong families’ successful and failed efforts at migration and settlement.

This multi-faceted study was begun in 1991, when migration was attributed primarily to the political anxieties of the time and the notion that Hong Kong residents were seeking a better life in the West. Defining migration as a process, not a single act of leaving, Hong Kong Movers and Stayers provides an antidote to ethnocentric and simplistic theories by uncovering migration stories as they relate to social structures and social capital.

blewettThe Yankee Yorkshireman: Migration Lived and Imagined, by Mary H. Blewett

Mary H. Blewett’s study is a textual and contextual appraisal of the writings of Yorkshire-born Hedley Smith (1909-94), whose depiction of the fictional mill village of Briardale, Rhode Island, captures an early twentieth-century labor diaspora peopled with textile workers. Enraged and embittered at the transformatory experience of his own emigration, Smith used fiction to explore Yorkshire immigrants’ culture and stubborn refusal to assimilate, their vital sexuality, and their vivid social customs. As Smith’s writings reveal, emigration involves grief and anger, often universally concealed and problematic. Creating a rich panoply of characters meant to convey the superiority of Yorkshire life and culture, Smith came to take pride in his writings, his children and grandchildren, and to a degree, came to accept his new life in America. He never returned to Yorkshire.