Migration and Identity

Migration and Identity

Migration and Identity

Migration and Identity

Synopsis

Edited by an international group of leading scholars in oral history, and featuring contributions from the world's preeminent oral historians, the International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories aims to increase our understanding of the recent past and the changing present through autobiographical testimony, in the form of written biography, oral history, and life story interviews. Each volume focuses on a single theme: Volume III, Migration and Identity, concerns the shaping of identity, and reveals how migration acts as a crucible for individual social development and wider social change.

Excerpt

The theme of this third volume of the Yearbook, migration and identity, integrates, as few other themes can, the present in the past, and localism in internationality. the experiences of migration recounted here criss-cross the globe, linking the histories of the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Appropriately, the volume itself has been constructed on a transatlantic basis between our editorial board in Europe and with our two North American special editors, Rina Benmayor and Andor Skotnes. As they point out in their introductory essay, again and again these histories echo those which today almost daily stain our television screens and newspaper pages.

Hours ago, just as 'I was poised to write this preface, I was confronted by a story in the Guardian Weekend (23 October 1993), entitled 'Real Lives:
The Death Ship'
. the subtitle announces a tale of a 'high-seas' journey from Africa 'to find the Promised Land of Europe'. It recounts how Kingsley Ofusu, a 20-year-old unemployed docker from Takoradi in Ghana, had attempted with his brother Albert and six other dockers to reach Europe as stowaways on a cocoabean ship. When the sailors discovered them, they were first robbed, and then imprisoned for days without food or water, and finally murdered and thrown overboard into the ocean, one by one: except Kingsley. He alone succeeded in escaping, hiding again, and jumping ship when they reached Europe at Le Havre, to tell the tale. the sailors said their pay would have been docked if they allowed the stowaways to survive, because the owners were liable to fines for arriving with illegal immigrants. 'They seem to think there was nothing unusual in what they did to the black men.' and Kingsley has found no work for himself in Europe: he is allowed to stay on in France only as a potential trial witness.

One of the crucial messages of this volume is that while such stories have rightly become matters of intense contemporary concern, migration has been a crucial, but too often neglected, dimension of history and social change for centuries. Kingsley's dream of 'the Promised Land of Europe' has innumerable antecedents: in the vision of the 'New World' which peopled the Americas, in the strange image of the 'Motherland' which drew West Indians to Britain, or of the 'land . . .

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