Again with the Thursdays!

September 18th, 2008

Last time I met with my advisor I got assigned the revision of my thesis, as in the revision of the major claim to be supported in the up-to-100-pages of the eventual paper thesis. For this I had to read two articles. The first, the Rouse article, takes my topic from a comparative perspective, since it focuses on Mexican immigrants in the US. Rouse wrote of a “bifocality” that guides these migrants’ decisions, effectively placing them between two worlds, Mexico and the US. [[Btw, Between Two Worlds is the anthology in which Rouse’s article is found. Go figure!]] In a similar fashion I have found that Haitians in Montreal are placed between two worlds, Haiti and Canada. Rouse argues that migration should not be considered as “principally … a circular process in which people remain oriented to the places from which they have come” (1991: 251) since this ignores their presence in, contribution to and integration into the place to which they have gone. In describing the Mexican workers, he also says that “their proximity has produced neither homogenization nor synthesis” but rather a “maintenance of two quite distinct ways of life” (1991: 254). The same can be said for Haitians in Montreal, with some modification.

The second article, a chapter in the latest Migration Theory edition by Brettell and Hollifield, outlines somewhat the historiography of immigration history for those who concentrate on the U.S. Hasia R. Diner points out something I hadn’t thought of before: for immigrants of the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, “back home” is a lot closer than for immigrants of China, Europe and Africa (2008: 39). Thus the circular route of Rouse is a lot smaller, and Mexican (or Haitian) immigrants are more able to co-exist between their two homes than are Chinese or Jewish immigrants. I think this has much more merit, in my study, for the Haitians living in Miami than for those living in Montreal, or even in New York City. Climatological differences, for one thing, emphasize the fact that Montreal’s Haitians are definitely not “home” anymore. The geographical barrier of the United States presents a second major challenge to ease of return, if not in real terms then in perceptions.

So what is my thesis, now? Same as before. Haitians in Montreal represent a new kind of Quebecker. The old models of transnationalism are not sufficient to describe their place in Quebec culture and society, since they imply that Haitians are more concerned with returning to Haiti than with settling and integrating into their new home.

After having read the article by Diner in Migration Theory, I realize that my ultimate goal is to do just what hasn’t been done in immigration history thus far: model it. Diner writes that “Concern for the particular has far outweighed the interest in creating typologies, categories or models” in immigration history, in spite of frequent reference to the benefits that such typification would provide for future study and teaching. What I want to do is examine a cross-cultural set of data on immigrants in nationalism to see if there are patterns of integration that help or harm the full acceptance of an immigrant group into their new society. I guess there’s a place for me after all.

This week’s goals: 1) Get through Georges Woke Up Laughing (Schiller and Fouron, 2001) to have at least one “comparative” thing to discuss in my thesis paper. 2) Compile data on the number of Haitians in each voting district for the early 1990s, 2001 and 2006, so I can be prepared to bring Prof. Hamilton the numbers I want to use for making a map – meeting on Tuesday afternoon. [[Done! I hope to find data from the 1991 census, but I have ’96,’01, and ’06 data.]] 3) Send Cindy a revised thesis statement and notes about supporting arguments for Wednesday’s meeting [[Done!]]. I guess this week is ambitious, but only because I know I’ll be sitting at work doing “football parking” outside Blow Hall for five hours, more or less alone. I can definitely bring a book for that.

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