"Birds of Passage" and "Sojourners": A Historical and Ethnographic Analysis of Chinese Migration to Prato, Italy

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2010-04-21

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Abstract

Today’s Europe is at a crossroads. Europe is currently facing a phenomenal reversal of its historical migration trajectory, becoming a primary destination for immigrants rather than just a sending source. This international migratory trend comes at a critical point in Europe’s history when the European Union (EU) is seeking to form a united European identity in part through the formulation of new migration policies. How have immigrants entering the EU affected intra-European integration and the concept of a singular European identity? To explore this question, I will examine the province of Prato in Italy, which currently hosts one of the densest Chinese populations in Europe. I hypothesize that the tensions between the Chinese and Italians in Prato are in part affected by the respective communities’ historical experience with migration; only by looking at their history can we begin to understand the present-day situation within Prato. The intersection of these two communities in Prato results from the overlap occurring between the new European migratory trends and the ongoing global movements of the Chinese diasporas. Prato’s residents must not only contend with the crossroad of historical experience, but they must also cope with sociopolitical and economic pressures laid upon them regionally, nationally, and supra-nationally. To supplant my secondary sources, I conducted field research in Prato from May to June of 2009. Utilizing Chinese, English, and Italian, I was able to interview a number of people and learn from their personal histories and opinions. Every person with whom I spoke had a different story to tell, influenced by his/her personal history. It is impossible to study migration without considering the big-picture trends. However, without revealing the people and their stories behind migration, the greater themes in history are rendered meaningless.

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Senior Honors Thesis. Earned Highest Distinction in International and Comparative Studies. Winner of the Award for Excellence in Comparative Analysis. Nominated for the Undergraduate Research Award at the Forum on Education Abroad.

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Citation

Chang, Angela (2010). "Birds of Passage" and "Sojourners": A Historical and Ethnographic Analysis of Chinese Migration to Prato, Italy. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/2530.


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