Travelling Spirits, Localizing Roots: Transnationalisms, Home and Generation among Portuguese-Canadians in British Columbia

The objective of this article is to address the relation between transnationalism and intergenerational transformations of the notions of home and belonging. While doing an ethnographic research in Vancouver, British Columbia, it was possible to pinpoint the existence of two discourses about Portuguese-Canadian ethnicity. The first one, centered on the Holy Ghost festivals, (re)produces an idea of ‘azoreanness’, albeit fragmented along the islands of origin, and is linked to specific social networks that go from Vancouver to the Azores. It is essentially fostered by the migrants that arrived in the region after the 1950s and to whom the festas are a constant reminder of the emotional, symbolic and social ties with these Atlantic Islands. The second discourse is fostered by the children of these migrants, which moved away from the Holy Ghost festas and the Portuguese Catholic Parish, and is centered on a notion of portugueseness. This enactment of a national identity has to be interpreted in the context of Canadian multicultural politics and specific diasporic politics developed by the Portuguese authorities in the region. Simultaneously, this second discourse is also part and parcel of an intergenerational social mobility process. Based on this ethnographic case study, this article has two main arguments: on one hand, I want to show how home and homeland are fields of struggle for hegemonic representation in the public domain and and on the other hand how such debates have to be interpreted in relation to local and transnational political contexts and subjectivities.

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