Date of Award

8-2001

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Eric Peterson

Second Committee Member

Kristin Langellier

Third Committee Member

Nathan Stormer

Abstract

In our age of globalization, the vectors of recent East-West, South-North migrations reveal that despite the changes in the global systems of government, the legacies of the colonial and post-WWII periods are still with us and should not be ignored. Whether they are a side-effect, a symptom, or the pioneers of the new era, post-colonial migrants challenge the existing paradigms of communication, culture and identity. They uncover the power inequities which structure the international sphere; they push the limits of existing conceptions of cultural being and representation; and they expose the interests vested in preserving the status quo.

This phenomenological study of the migrant experience in the contemporary period explores the technologies of the self which allow migrants to move across national, cultural, and rhetorical spaces without losing the coherence of the ‘I.’ The project examines those modes of consciousness which arise from the asymmetrical relationship between migrant and host society and analyzes the points where new and old performances of self and identity are in conflict. The study also explores critical vocabularies to embrace the legitimacy and authority of the migrant condition as an ontological and epistemological position.

Forty themes emerged from the phenomenological analysis revealing a large range of meanings from the experience of discovering the body in difference to the experience of confronting the limits to language. Generally described as a process of doubling, the experience of cultural transformation is punctuated by regimes of speech and silence. It is found that the trans-cultural ‘I’ addresses and embodies and transforms personal, political, and ideological circumstances by adopting practices of the body and speech which restructure the position of subjectivity away from the ‘what is’ and closer to the ‘what can be’ principles of social engagement.

The study reveals that migrancy produces a specific type of consciousness which challenges the traditional belief in the necessary coherence of cultural essence. It also shows that, as a concept, identity is meaningful only within certain politics of representation. Thus, the study concludes that in order to move away from the cultural and political legacies of the colonial and imperial period, scholarship and public policy should critically examine the interests vested in such agendas as mainstream socialization and acculturation and explore the enunciative power and authority of the contemporary borderlands.

Share