Mediterranean migrations as experienced by migrants: Memories as a “lifeline”

Emiliana Mangone, Giovanna Russo


Research on migration mostly focuses on its quantitative aspect, often neglecting the foreigner’s point of view. This shift is, however, necessary, as reception and integration stem from two-way processes pivoting around the immigrants’ social representations of the host society and their intangible resources (cognitive and relational). This contribution analyses how the autobiographical material (“memories”) included in the application for refugee status can become a “lifeline”. The idea underpinning this exploratory study is that the experience of “suspended life” linked to such application has become an element of contemporary collective memory, due to its specifically performative and experiential character. This type of narrative constructs in-group belonging based on the shared memory of a founding past linked to trauma and violence. We focus on three key concepts: identity, social representation, and public memory. We analyse 53 statements of asylum-seekers transited in Italy through SPRARs and other reception projects between 2011 and 2014, collected in the Province of Bologna. Our aim is to bring out the narrative of the “trauma” linked to the experience of the asylum application as a symbol of a contemporary social drama. Our findings show that the migrants’ narratives followed a precise script sequence and become common heritage, enhancing solidarity and constructing collective memory.



Migration, Asylum-seekers, Public memory, Narratives, Identity, Social representation

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ISSN 2282-0043 - Registered at the Court of Rome on Nov. 8, 2012, no. 305/2012

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