The migrant letter, whether written by family members, lovers, friends, or others, is a document that continues to attract the attention of scholars and general readers alike. What is it about migrant letters that fascinates us? Is it nostalgia for a distant, yet desired past? Is it the consequence of the eclipse of letter-writing in an age of digital communication technologies? Or is it about the parallels between transnational experiences in previous mass migrations and in the current globalized world, and the centrality of interpersonal relations, mobility, and communication, then and now?
Influenced by methodologies from diverse disciplines, the study of migrant letters has developed in myriad directions. Scholars have examined migrant letters through such lenses as identity and self-making, family relations, gender, and emotions. This volume contributes to this discussion by exploring the connection between the practice of letter writing and the emotional, economic, familial, and gendered experiences of men and women separated by migration. It combines theoretical and empirical discussions which illuminate a variety of historical experiences of migrants who built transnational lives as they moved across Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the United States. This volume was originally published as a special issue of The History of Family.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Reconsidering the migrant letter: from the experience of migrants to the language of migrants Marcelo J. Borges and Sonia Cancian
1. Moving backward and moving on: nostalgia, significant others, and social reintegration in nineteenth-century British immigrant personal correspondence David A. Gerber
2 ‘I never could forget my darling mother’: the language of recollection in a corpus of female Irish emigrant correspondence Emma Moreton
3. Adjusting and fulfilling masculine roles: the epistolary persona in Dutch transatlantic letters Babs Boter and Suzanne M. Sinke
4. ‘If it is not too expensive, then you can send me sugar’: money matters among migrants and their families Sonia Cancian and Simone A. Wegge
5. For the good of the family: migratory strategies and affective language in Portuguese migrant letters, 1870s–1920s Marcelo J. Borges
6. Settler colonialism and migrant letters: the Forbes family and letter-writing in South Africa 1850–1922 Liz Stanley
7. Shared letters: writing and reading practices in the correspondence of migrant families in northern Spain Laura Martínez Martín
8. The transnational life and letters of the Venegas family, 1920s to 1950s Romeo Guzmán
Marcelo J. Borges is Professor of History at Dickinson College, PA, USA, where he teaches Latin American history and migration history. He has published on migration, labor, and migrant letters. He is the author of Chains of Gold: Portuguese migration to Argentina in transatlantic perspective.
Sonia Cancian is Assistant Professor of Global Studies at University College, Zayed University, Dubai, UAE. She is the author of numerous publications on migration, gender, emotions, and migrant correspondence, including Families, lovers and their letters: Italian postwar migration to Canada (2010).