Academic journal article Trames

Representations about Discrimination Practices in the Education System Built by Russian and Ukrainian Immigrants' Children in Lisbon Metropolitan Area

Academic journal article Trames

Representations about Discrimination Practices in the Education System Built by Russian and Ukrainian Immigrants' Children in Lisbon Metropolitan Area

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In this paper we will present some results of a wider and deeper research started in 2002, in which we tried to analyse the representations and the emotions concerning the discrimination against Russian and Ukrainian immigrants living in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area and in the Setubal Peninsula.

We think that it is within the interaction framework that the representations concerning discrimination must be captured and conceptualized. It is important to realise how events, motivations and their effects occur, as well as the contexts of occurrence. From our point of view, a more dynamic, interactionist and relational perspective is, thus, defensible. The ethnic and national identity is built in a way and in a dialectic relation between the I (Us) and the Others (Them), in which the individuals mobilize references, symbols and identitarian markers. Following Simmel's thought (1986) [1908], we took into account the perceptions of the differentiations between subjects as something inherent in interaction. The relational character between the Us and the Others is portrayed not only in approximations and similarities, but also in oppositions and partings. Closely following Poutignat and Streiff-Fernart's (1995) contribution means that ethnic identity is the result of a set of representations that the interacting groups build whenever they are brought face to face.

The reason why we chose this particular subject is, to a great extent, its topicality in the context of the present-day Portuguese society, and also to show that we have filled considerable gaps in the national scientific production as far as this field and these ethnical groups are concerned. There are two main reasons to choose Russian and Ukrainian immigrants specifically: they are foreign non-communitarian citizens with an immigration background in the national context, supposedly similar to the host society, at least visually (in terms of appearance) and in some cultural aspects as well. They seem to be fairly accepted by the majority of Portuguese society. We have chosen to study Russians and Ukrainians as a group, in spite of being heterogeneous groups in their core and among themselves, because they have some historical, cultural and geographic affinities. Until the 1990s they were both part of the former USSR. They view themselves as being the closest, namely among the biggest four Eastern European immigrant groups. Russians have not been subject of research at all in Portugal, probably due to their lack of visibility and their dimension, which is smaller than other Eastern European immigrant groups.

Analysing even further the reasons of our choice, focusing on each of the groups for analysis, it is undeniable that the immigration phenomenon from Eastern European countries is fairly recent in our society and it has not been properly studied until now. Until late 2004 the number of immigrants, with Permanence Permit, included 64730 Ukrainians (+1360 with Residence Permit), 7053 Russians (+1124 with Residence Permit), 12647 Moldavians and 10944 Romanians (1). We suspect that these numbers might be bigger, if we add those that have not yet legalized their situation.

Regarding the empirical research itinerary and following a perspective of being closer to the 'real object' (2), we use the following methodologies: documental analysis, statistical analysis and in-depth interviews. This approach will be led by two of the main mediations through which the transmission of social representations happens--language and discourse. As analysis material, we therefore prefer the testimonies gathered from 34 in-depth interviews with Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.

2. The representations about the 'lived' and 'felt' discrimination: what is being discussed?

The analysis presented in this article is centred on the social representation built by immigrants and apprehended through their oral speeches. …

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