20 SES 14, The Role of Families in Intercultural Learning Contexts
The potential of ICTs to maintain relations between countries has rapidly changed the transnational relations in migratory experiences. The issues of care across long distances, of maintaining close relationships although living in different countries as well as love and emotional lives assume a new meaning and need to be investigated. Indeed the opportunity of being continuously in touch, of sharing instant messages, photos, chatting and Skype, Whatsapp calls reshape not only the issue of loneliness due to distance and lack of contact, but also recall attention to the availability and (extensive and appropriate) use of these opportunities. Another issue emerges in this discussion, dealing with the intergenerational discourse and to what extent the new technologies hamper or reduce distances across generations within migratory experiences. Indeed, the availability of ICTs, the diffusion of smartphones and Wi-Fi connection, is just one side of the coin. The reverse side deals with parent-children interactions that – in the migratory context – are conditioned by the different levels of integration in the host society (from language proficiency to habits and values interiorized; from interactions with ethnic communities to detachment from all ethnic signals). The emotional rhetoric created by ICTs fits in these dynamics: a sense of overall closeness and proximity, a feeling of sharing deep experiences and feelings, reading posts on Facebook, seeing photos on Instagram, chatting through Messanger. The common use of ICTs, especially among young generations, matters in the discussion on identity. As several authors have already pointed out, identity is a complex and problematic concept, in which the conception of self interplays with that of group boundedness and homogeneity, especially in the case of immigrants. This is why the use of word “belonging” would appear more appropriate, in accordance with Larrucea who states: “The emotionally laden sense of belonging is intimately connected with collective identities. The experiences of descendants of migrants illustrate the blurred boundaries of group belonging with attachment to two or more groups”.
Children of immigrants belong to the millennial generation and breathe – at school, in their free time, with their peers – technologies all the time (using computers and Ipads at school; surfing internet and chatting; posting photos). Going beyond the question of if all these youth are highly skilled or not in using these technologies, the new technologies are reshaping emotional ties between parents/children and/or lovers. It happens transculturally and transnationally in all families in these current times, but – focussing on immigrant families – the opportunities of being closer and faster in touch than other migrants could both hamper cultural distances and define intercultural misunderstanding, especially in the field of emotions, personal feelings and expressions of intimacy.
The acculturation process which young people undergo may further distance them from their parents, including in how they experience and express emotions: indeed, the way in which they communicate, manage and experience feelings and affective relations is culturally constructed.
The interplay of language, migratory background and ICTs in the intra-family discourse on love and intimacy will be discussed using findings of current research on samples of both Moroccan and Latin American families in Italy.
Starting from more than 80 interviews with both adult and young Moroccan and Latin-American immigrants (belonging to 1st or 2nd generations, first immigrants and second generations), the paper explores a particular dimension, explaining how technology disrupts the continuity of the language of love/affection and emotion between generations, both in parent-children and parent-adults relationships. The lack of cultural capital and low investment in understanding the powerful uses of ICTs are two key issues explaining why, in the knowledge society - in immigrant as well as in Italian families - the interaction between adult and young generations is marked by a deep cultural distance. The analysis will be enriched by considering experiences and new practices developed by second-generations in Turin (Italy). Conversations with a number of interviewees also continued during associational activities, social events (dinners, parties and religious and ethnic-cultural celebrations, e.g. processions in honour of various home-country manifestations of the Virgin Mary, national holidays and the end of Ramadan). Respondents were reassured about the confidentiality of information and the ethical uses of the collected interviews. In the interview quotations, they are indicated in the following way: sex (F = Female; M = Male), age and citizenship. The sample was defined using a snowball method, starting from associations (both intercultural, religious and ethnic). In order to avoid the risk of contacting only young people involved in organized activities, I also contacted young people in several different contexts
The ICT opportunity to keep in touch from one country to another is just one side of the coin. The obverse deals with the increasing gap between a young generation (sometimes the second), which is able to jump from one social network to another, to strategically surf on internet, and an ageing generation (the first), which is illiterate in this field. The language gap is one of the key issues on which literature about immigrant families’ relations focusses, especially when children proceed more quickly to learn the host-society language than their parents or totally lose proficiency in their home-country language. This gap has increased with the development of ICTs and new social networks, where young immigrants interact with their peers mainly in the host-society language (and sometimes in English). The lack of a common language is of course a crucial topic when discussing intra-family relations in various domains (from sharing rules and values to discuss feelings and emotions; from discussing behavioural attitudes to intimate matters) because the digital divide is another distinguishing element between parents (and grandparents) and children (grandchildren). The former group, especially if it has a low educational profile, continues to use the mother tongue, benefits just from mobile phones and (if assisted by others) from Skype; the latter, on the other hand, is growing in the information era and is developing ICT skills at various levels because they are considered strategically important for integration both into society and into the peer group. In this context, relations among new technologies, generations and communications define a complex scenario dealing more with distance than closeness. Including discussion topics dealing with intimate life and digital skills can intervene in distancing children and parents involved in the migratory project.
Constanza Vera Larrucea, “Belonging, Language and Transnationalism”, p.80, in The Integration of Descendants of Migrants from Turkey in Stokholm, ed. Charles Westin (Amsterdam:Amsterda University Press),79-101. Olga G. Bailey, Myria Georgiou, and Ramaswami Harindranath, eds., Transnational lives and the media: re-imagining diasporas (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Lee, Komito. “Social Media and Migration: virtual community 2.0”. American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(6), (2011): 1075-1086; Maurice Crul, Jens Schneider, and Frans Lelie, The European second generation compared. Does the integration context matter? (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010).
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