Can the subaltern feel? An ethnography of migration, subalternity, and emotion

Zani, Beatrice and Momesso, Lara orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4042-9384 (2021) Can the subaltern feel? An ethnography of migration, subalternity, and emotion. Emotion Space and Society, 39 (100786). ISSN 1755-4586

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Drawing on biographical and migratory experiences gathered from Chinese marriage-migrants in Taiwan, this
paper investigates the link between migration, subalternity and emotion. We examine how emotions are socially,
temporarily and situationally constructed by migrant women, positioned in a condition of vulnerability during
migration. Conceptually, we advance that emotions can be turned into resources, practices and competences that
sustain migrants’ social, economic and cultural positioning in the society of arrival. Through the identification of
three empirically-rooted states of emotions – imaginative, implosive and mutual – we claim that, in a context of
social contempt, familial exclusion and economic marginalisation, migrants’ individual and collective performance
of emotions contributes to ‘undo’ a condition of subalternity. Such states are purposely experimental and
incomplete. Whilst they are as temporary and mutable as migrant women’s emotional experiences and practices,
this paper proposes that they could serve as a methodological and analytical tool for future research on migration
and emotion.

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