Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On the Move Again

Susan Ossman, a professor at UC Riverside, has done some fascinating work on a migrant phenomenon that she calls serial migration.

A serial migrant is a category of migrant who immigrates once and not having suffered enough the first round, chooses to migrate again to a Third (or Fourth or Fifth) place. Think about that for a moment. The usual narrative is one where the migrant takes that great leap, casts him or herself on a distant shore, integrates insofar as she can in this new homeland, and then gratefully becomes a citizen of this new and wonderful place that she has learned to love as her own.

This idea and many others have been on my mind a lot lately.  When I last posted in this blog I was writing at a coffee table in front of my big blue chair on the 14th floor of a high-rise apartment building in Osaka, Japan where I had been living for about a year.

Today I am writing this post at a desk  in my room on the 4th floor of an apartment complex in the Schaerbeek neighborhood in Brussels, Belgium.

What happened?  Well, like most of my cross-border moves this was a happy accident.  I turned 50 this year and spent the entire year in Osaka thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up.  And the one thing that kept popping up in my mind was the idea of taking what I have been doing with this blog for several years now (thinking and writing about migration) and taking a year or two to do formal studies in that subject.  

Once I decided that I wanted to be a scholar of migration I looked around for programs in Asia, Europe and North America and I finally applied to a Masters program at a British university here in Brussels.   I chose this program for many reasons but probably the most important for me personally was the opportunity to study under someone whose work I greatly admire, Dr. Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, the author of Migrants or Expatriates?  Americans in Europe.

To my delight I was accepted.  I attended my first class as a graduate student yesterday morning and it was everything I was hoping to find.  I have a great deal of reading to do (no hardship there) and writing.  And here I have a lot to learn because writing for a blog is not at all the same as writing formal papers in academia.  I will spend a term here in Brussels and then I will return to Osaka for the summer to start on my dissertation.  Then it's back to Brussels in the fall for more classes.  If all goes well, I will graduate in 2017.

Now that I have a plan which essentially divides my life between three countries, Japan, Belgium and France,  I will return to posting regularly here at the Flophouse.  I hope to share with you some of the topics that come out of my studies, and I'm sure that my International Migration and Citizenship reading list will be greatly extended as I do my reading and add worthy titles to the list.

And speaking of serial migration, I noted the first day of school that many of my classmates fall into this category.  These are young people (about the same age as my Frenchlings) for whom Brussels is their second, third or even fourth country.  And my housemate too - a woman about my age who was born in Canada and whose parents returned to Ireland when she was a child.  Since that return migration she has lived in France and now Belgium.  Needless to say, we have a lot to talk about every night at the dinner table.

And all that is what I think will be the very best part of this experience - talking to other migrants, learning about their lives, how they ended up in country X or Y and why they stayed (or didn't).  For all the media attention focused on the cosmopolitan globe-trotting elite, the refugees fleeing conflict or the undocumented immigrant, there are many other categories of migrants who don't make headlines:  students, teachers, tech writers, IT workers, nurses, small business owners and so much more.

In the media frenzy over this or that migrant "problem" what is lost is how migration is fundamentally just about People Who Move Around.  And those people come from every country, every culture, and just about every socio-economic class.  Migration is an incredibly complex phenomenon which has in our time certainly been enhanced by globalization and technology, but has always been part of the human experience.

If there is a larger and loftier goal in my ambition to became a scholar and writer on this topic, it would be simply this:  to communicate and convince the homelanders that migrants are people, and that just about every human being on this planet today is potentially a migrant, too - their co-workers, their friends, their children, their grand-children, or even their precious selves.  If more people could see in themselves the potential for a life lived upon a distant shore, I would hope that there would be much more empathy, and a lot less fear, about migrants and migration. 

17 comments:

Janet said...

I was thrilled to find a new entry in your blog this morning and even more thrilled once I read it. Congratulations on following your dream.
I wish you happiness and success.

Anonymous said...

Well, you really don't let the grass grow under your feet, do you! VERY pleased to see you writing again. The program you are in sounds excellent.

Jacques said...

Looking forward to reading your future posts from Brussels. Good luck with your studies.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're pursuing your dreams. I hope it won't be too hard to be away from your spouse that long.

I don't think people are afraid of migrants. They're afraid migrants will change their way of life if too many of them come. It's all about integration and respect of the people who were there before you. It's also about the fear that they're taking the local's jobs or have a negative impact.

You might have seen this article:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/for-the-first-majority-muslim-us-city-residents-tense-about-its-future/2015/11/21/45d0ea96-8a24-11e5-be39-0034bb576eee_story.html

Why the need for the call for prayer, bothering all the non Muslim people, most of whom were there before them?
People might also be uncomfortable seeing women totally covered from head to toe.
When you make people uncomfortable, that's not good and that's where the problem begins.

You might have also read this more recent one:
http://nypost.com/2016/01/18/british-pm-says-muslim-women-must-learn-english-or-risk-being-deported/

I would argue that the issues related to migration often come from how much there is in common with the society the migrants come to. When there is not much in common, migrants are often more rejected. And religion is a big part of it.
When there is more in common, they are more accepted.
I've always wondered why all the refugees from Siria, Iraq etc choose to migrate to Europe instead of Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and other countries where they have more in common with the people. I still don't understand that part. They know they are not very much liked by Europeans, yet they choose that destination.

I think problems come from the mass effect. Take for example south American migrants in the US. Most of them are catholic and religion is not the issue.
I would argue that work is not so much an issue either, because they take low level jobs that the local population doesn't really want to do, such as landscaping and janitorial type jobs. What the local people don't like if that they think migrants are the reason why their heathcare costs are so high, most migrants being uninsured.
The rejection come from the perceived negative impact on the locals.
And the pathway to Naturalization is rejected by many in the southern US because they think migrants will vote democrats when some of the states are Republican, and people are afraid this might change things.
People just don't like change. They don't want migrants to introduce change they think they won't like.

And the main issue with the current mass migration in Europe is an economic one. Can Europe pay for the healthcare, education and provide jobs for this influx of people. Can we really be mad at Denmark for seizing some of the migrants saving to pay for their relocation:
http://www.inquisitr.com/2712948/denmark-proposes-to-seize-valuables-of-migrants-who-have-already-lost-a-lot/

All interesting topics. I am glad you will get a chance to study topics you love.

All the best in Belgium.

EmBee said...

Congratulations, Victoria. You are off on yet another wonderful adventure. I knew something was brewing (got a hint from Blaze) but I didn't know what exactly it might be. I figured it had something to do with writing but this is quite a surprise. It's another move AND writing. You'll do this brilliantly and in a year or so we'll be congratulating you on your Masters in Migration which you've already earned in an unofficial sense. Best wishes to you and it's so good to know you will be continuing your blog. I've been dropping by since you dropped out in October hoping to find something and luckily I was here today to be among the first to read your announcement.

Anonymous said...

Have fun. Above all, have no awe for any ivory tower. Not even your own. For out of such pretense slinks volumes of crap such as Encyclopedia of Diasporas. (No entry for U.S. diaspora is all you need to know.) Criticize everything. – usxcanada

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Victoria. I am sure you will do well. Last year, I heard one U.S. academic recommend your blog to another at a conference in the U.S. Just keep focused and you will go far.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

It's good to be back! Thank you all for the encouragement. It is a bit daunting to be doing this at my age. :-)

Anonymous: I took your very fine comment and used it as a jumping off point for today's post about integration.

usxcanada: Good advice. I should tape "Have no awe of the ivory tower" to the top of my laptop screen. I must say that I have been awed many times in the last few days as I attend classes. There are some very bright and knowledgable people teaching my classes and in my classes. It's humbling.

Anonymous (2) Are you serious? My blog was recommended by an academic? Oh that made my day. Thank you.

Pat Leullier said...

Hi Victoria,

I was very glad to see that I had your blog this morning. Welcome back to Internet and too Europe, even if only for a short time.

Good luck with your studies, I am sure it will be very interesting for you.

Cordialement,
Pat

Anonymous said...

You're welcome. Yes, of course I am serious. An established academic definitely did recommend your blog, although with the qualification that you were a very thoughtful and intelligent member of the public rather than a professional, so I think the degree will be helpful in giving you greater credibility.

Andrew said...

Congrats! Good move, and you will contribute even more. Andrew

Inaka Nezumi said...

Congratulations on starting class. Look forward to reading your thesis.

bubblebustin said...

Bravo! Looking forward!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Thank you!!

I must say I find the idea of writing a dissertation very daunting. 45,000 words. That's a lot of words and they have to be quality words and ideas. But there is a required class at the uni that guides us all along the process: from choosing a topic to the proper way to cite articles and so on. It's really well done and assuming that I attend the lectures and seminars and ask questions it should be fine.

Oddly enough, it's a bit like integrating into a different culture and learning the language and the conventions.

Rosy said...

Hi from the Viroflay-Versailles area Victoria. Haven't forgotten to read you here, or about that nice coffee we had at your place about two years ago. You sure do get around. Academic life is stimulating at all stages in one's existence. Here in France we're now obliged to retire even when we don't want to or are not ready to, and even when the minimal part-time work in the institutions of higher learning does not deprive "a younger person" of a job. Kind of like being put out to pasture before you're ready to eat the grass. So I've found happiness in another European country which welcomes me into its universities to give talks, generally about the U.S. and its strange aspects - that's called "political science", and we'll leave out the Trump phenomenon for now :-( Anyhow all this to say that it's never too late - and so much the better. So glad you're doing what you're doing. The best of luck to you ! Rosy

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Rosy!!!! How good to hear from you. Thanks for the encouragement.

Interesting what you say about France and forced retirement. This has become an issue for us. When our adventure in Japan is over, both my spouse and myself will be at an age where it will be much harder to find work in FRance. What will we do if that's the case? No idea.

Tell me more about your new life in your new country.

Allou said...

Just re-visited your blog after some months and nice to learn you are starting another adventure, one which I am certain will be just as interesting as for you and us blog-readers, as your previous ones. If you can use/want any contacts about the migrant/immigrant status in Denmark, you can contact me. I have been teaching immigrants/migrants/refugees for over 30 years and have plenty of info. Also can arrange visits at schools etc.
A comment about the retirement mentioned by Rosy - here in Denmark we have the opposite "problem" - several of my colleagues were retired but decided to return to teaching either full or part-time - they were welcomed with open arms. We also have many young professionals from other EU countries who came here to work - some of those I meet in our classes.