‘Neither here nor there’, ‘Both here and there’: The construction of transnational identities among Greek immigrants in Canada

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Third International Communication Styles Conference - Krosno
Date of reference: 
Sunday, 22 October, 2017 to Tuesday, 24 October, 2017
Rania Karachaliou, University of Patras
Argiris Archakis, University of Patras
Villy Tsakona, University of Patras
Angela Ralli, University of Patras

The aim of this presentation is to examine the multiple ways Greek immigrants position themselves in terms of cultural identity. Considering migration a transnational process, by which “immigrants forge and sustain simultaneous multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement” (Glick Schiller et al. 1995: 48), we focus on the discursive practices Greek immigrants in Canada employ to construct transnational identities.

Our data consist of 15 semi-structured interviews conducted as part of larger-scale research project exploring the immigrant experiences of Greeks who migrated to Canada from the mid 1940s until the late 1970s. Drawing on positioning theory (Davies & Harré 1990), we argue that our informants position themselves with (a) a unicultural Greek identity, (b) an implicit Canadian identity, (c) a Greek identity compromised through disclaimers with “but” that bring to the surface a Canadian identity and perspective, and (d) a hybrid identity which places them in third-spaces (Bhabha 1994), i.e. as both Greeks and Canadians, as neither Greeks nor Canadians, as feeling Greek but not when in Greece.

Our analysis intends to show that hybrid self-positionings, which concern the majority of our data, constitute an effective tool allowing immigrants to claim Greekness and simultaneously to distance themselves from Greeks living in Greece and the ensuing negative stereotypes.

Conference paper

Bhabha, H. 1994. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.

Davies, B. & R. Harré. 1990. Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 20(1): 43-46.

De Fina, A. 2016. Linguistic practices and transnational identities. In S. Preece (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity, 163–178. London: Routledge.

Glick Schiller, N., Basch, L. & C. S. Blanc. 1995. From immigrant to transmigrant: Theorizing transnational migration. Anthropological Quarterly 68(1): 48–63.

The ImmiGreC project is sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

McGill University: Modern Greek Studies

University of Patras: Laboratory of Modern Greek Dialects (LMGD)

York University: Modern Greek Studies

Simon Fraser University: Department of Linguistics