That Pilgrim Nation: the Making of Portuguese Diaspora in Postwar North America (working title), Toronto: University of Toronto Press – expected publication, Winter 2017
After the Portuguese revolution of 1974 and the disintegration of its centuries-old empire, the new democratic regime redefined its national discourse, replacing imperial with diasporic mythologies. In an age of accelerating globalization, Portugal reasserted itself as a nation without borders, where language replaced territory as the crux of national identity. As part of this process, the romantic notion of the explorer as an adventurous, entrepreneurial, cultural broker was recycled, no longer identifying the civilizing colonizer but the industrious emigrant. While largely ignored within Portuguese society, this characterization of emigration is constantly reinforced across the diasporic communities through the various cultural, economic, and political resources provided by the “homeland”. Though largely considered as progressive, this postcolonial global citizenship stems from the previous imperialist project of António Salazar’s conservative dictatorship, and carries with it old nationalist views.
My research focuses on the process of making diasporic identities in the Portuguese communities of Toronto, Montreal, Newark, New York City, and various cities across New England, between the 1950s and ’70s. This period covers the arrival of postwar migrants to North America; the encroachment of Portuguese diplomats in the process of ethnic community formation; the interplay between Salazar’s transnational propaganda and the “identity politics” of Canadian multiculturalism and the American civil rights movement; the political actions of anti-Salazar exiles; and the shift to transnational democratic citizenship. I examine the social, cultural and political dynamics involved in this process, considering its ethnic, racial, class, gender, and generational permutations from both transnational and comparative perspectives.
CHAPTERS IN BOOKS
Raphael Costa, Emanuel da Silva, Gilberto Fernandes, Susana Miranda and Anna St. Onge, “Archiving from Below: Preserving, Problematizing and Democratizing the Collective Memory of Portuguese Canadians – The Portuguese Canadian History Project,” in Identity Palimpsests: Ethnic Archiving in the United States and Canada, ed. Amalia S. Levi and Dominique Daniel (Sacramento: Litwin Press, 2014)
Abstract: “This chapter explores the innovative ways in which a small group of young researchers of Portuguese descent and a university archive have developed an effective partnership to bridge the gap between immigrant and academic communities. Immigrant communities in Canada and the United States are frequently imagined as homogenous ethnic groups rooted in an essentialized “old-world” heritage reinforced by policies of multiculturalism. Arguably, this multicultural model over-emphasizes ethnicity as the basis of representation and dislodges other identities and sources of solidarity. Until recently, the few Canadian public archival records “representing” Portuguese immigrants were those produced by governments and reflected a “top-down”, uniform perception of the Portuguese-Canadian experience. In 2008, the Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) emerged in an effort to address this limitation in the record. The PCHP’s goal is to promote and facilitate the donation of community records to a public archive; and to democratize the access to, and production of, historical knowledge “from below”. Both in its patron-driven records acquisitions and its public history initiatives, the PCHP strives to problematize the narrative of Portuguese immigration by including diverse experiences, soliciting public commentary, and contextualizing it within the histories of Canada and Portugal.”
PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL ARTICLES
Abstract: This article examines the transnational and international politics and motivations
behind the Eurocentric campaigns of Portuguese American heritage advocates
to memorialize the sixteenth-century navigators Miguel Corte-Real and Juan
Rodriguez Cabrillo as the ‘‘discoverers’’ of the United States’ Atlantic and Pacific
coasts, and how those campaigns were framed by the advocates’ ‘‘ancestral’’ homeland’s
imperialist propaganda. It argues that the study of public memory and heritage
politics can offer valuable insights into the processes of diaspora building and helps
reveal the asymmetrical power relations often missing in discussions about cultural
hybridity. The article can be downloaded here.
Abstract: The sovereignty of migration policy makers is never absolute. This has been true for both receiving and sending states. One important check on the receiving nation’s immigration policy implementation was the sending nation’s own sovereignty over its expatriated citizens. These colliding sovereignties sometimes created liminal spaces where migrants and their facilitators were able to subvert regulations by playing them against each other, while other times they were grinded between gatekeepers bent on enforcing their policies. This bilateral dimension is often missing from Canadian immigration history, as is the role of homeland government officials, who brokered and supervised these migrant movements while conciliating the roles of gatekeepers and facilitators. This is especially significant when it involved authoritarian governments, like Portugal’s Estado Novo dictatorship (1933-74). How did Ottawa’s relatively liberal immigration policies correspond with the Estado Novo‘s authoritarian stance on emigration? How did Portuguese officials influence the movement of its emigrants in Canada? How did the migrants react to the concerted top-down arrangements of two imposing governments? This article examines these and other questions in reference to the Portuguese “bulk order” and family sponsorship movements to Canada, between 1953 and 1974.
Abstract: The following article examines the changing political attitudes of Portuguese immigrants in Canada from the arrival of the first cohort in the 1950s to the emergence of the second and third generations in Canadian mainstream society in the 1990s. It explores historical factors that have influenced the political profile of Portuguese Canadians, including its predominantly working-class makeup; its lack of formal education and democratic culture resulting from Portugal’s authoritarian legacy; and its internal factionalism along regional, ideological, generational, and class lines. Fernandes offers a historical critique of sociological models— “socio-economic status” and “socialization”—commonly used for measuring and explaining immigrant political participation, and stresses the importance of diachronic studies in dispelling essentialist assumptions regarding immigrant communities. The author argues that generalist notions of “political participation” and “political constituency” miss important distinctions between representative and direct forms of political action, collective mobilization and individual activism, as well as state level and grassroots politics. He claims that each of these political processes operates according to its own distinct internal dynamics, at times responsive, at other times alienated from one another, which must be analyzed using appropriate scales of observation (macro and micro).
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES AND BLOG POSTS
Since coming into power in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken various steps to redefine Canadian citizenship and reassert its “value” under a territorial, militaristic, loyalist, conformist and Anglocentric interpretation. As numerous commentators have noted, these reforms have unfolded within Harper’s broader campaign to (re)define the meaning of being Canadian along conservative ideals and British traditions. Conservative officials deny the existence of such underlying “agenda,” arguing their reforms simply addressed specific problems in the system, such as massive fraud and application backlogs. Recent citizenship debates in English Canada have dwelt mostly on the question of whether it is a right or a privilege; on issues of legality and process; and on measures of loyalty, attachment or worthiness. But there is more to it. In this three-part series, I will explore the historical narratives and political myths supporting the Conservative government’s parochial views on Canadian citizenship, and how they affect Canada’s and its expats’ place in the world. Part one will focus on the policies; part two on the historians; and part three on Canada’s diasporas.
Excerpt: “It is often said that Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods, each with its own socioeconomic characteristics, ethnic communities, life cycles and histories. While that may be true, Toronto is also a cluster of “invisible cities”, to use the words of Italo Calvino. Their diverse citizens have developed their own mental maps of the city, which are often juxtaposed yet distant from each other or unable to communicate. In these alternative geographies, Toronto is not just the largest city in Canada, or simply the capital of Ontario, but also a transnational ‘suburb’ of the places where its vast immigrant population comes from.
(…) Toronto is host, and home, to a great many immigrant communities, whose family, cultural, economic, and political realities traverse local and global contexts. Toronto’s streets and squares merge with those of their home towns and cities – alternative geographies ‘invisible’ to those who ignore them. We all live in someone else’s land. To know the citizens of these juxtaposed cities and their transnational realities is to grow our common ground, which is where democracy ultimately happens and Toronto increasingly lives.”