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Identities of Migration

A Narrative-based Approach to the Studies of Social Representation


Débora Amaral da Costa

This book reflects upon the main methodologies used in the studies of representation in the context of migration to suggest new alternatives in which narratives are regarded as part of the corpus. The book looks at social and linguistic representations shared by Haitian immigrants in Rio de Janeiro, through short narratives. The results are part of different identity projections. This book provides data that helps in the development of new methodologies in researches about representation and integrates them into identity studies. The analysis of the information shows that representations change during the migration process and that identities assumed by the subjects contribute to maintenance or changes in these representations.

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I started studying social representations during my masterʼs research. At the time, I wanted to understand which language representations the students used as support for choosing the foreign languages they would learn during high school. While I was writing the thesis, I felt particularly interested in the parameters of intentionality and acceptability in the surveys.

However, I lacked the criteria for examining whether the answers were true and whether the students were genuinely responding to these research surveys. The very idea of truth has become a matter for future work since truths are manifold and dependant on different factors, influenced by identity processes and reproductions of socially consolidated representations.

A year after completing my masterʼs degree, I came across a unique situation that prompted me to return to the university and start researching again: Haitians came daily to the school where I was teaching to enroll in different courses. Right at that moment, I associated the flaws in my first research experience with the concrete demands of that new social situation in my work environment. I lived with these immigrants for a few years, established bonds of friendship, and tried to understand their stories and their motivations for moving to Rio de Janeiro.

I present the socio-historical context of this immigration and transcribe narratives collected at different moments of this coexistence in this book. My goal is to understand the processes of change in social representations, from primary to secondary,...

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