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Religion and Society

Immigrant Families: Another Story Completely

Author: Gozzoli C., Regalia C. Title: Migrazioni e famiglie. Percorsi, legami e interventi psicosociali Publisher: Il Mulino, Bologna, 2005

Migration, the complex dynamics that characterise it, the encounter between different cultures, and the difficulties and the opportunities that it involves are the subject of this work, which is the outcome of study, research and encounter with immigrant families carried out by the two authors over many years.

 

The approach adopted in this book in order to analyse the phenomenon of migration, that is to say the family approach, is interesting. This approach is still somewhat new in the field of studies on immigration, even though in some sectors family psychology has decades of research and investigation behind it.

 

The restitution of importance to social ties, and in particular to family ties, in the view of Gozzoli and Regalia, allows an expansion of the focus of analysis and an examination of the collective subject of the family which in reality, in most of the dynamics connected with migration, is in fact the director and the protagonist. The approach that is proposed allows us to look at immigration not only as an event that has repercussions at an individual level but also as a pluri-generational event that unfolds with the history of generations. Placing the family at the centre of attention means, in addition, 'going through time' without stopping only at the immediate, at the present. The idea of adaptation is replaced, therefore, by the management of transition, of generational shifts. The approach to migration is, therefore, essentially generational.

 

The event of migration is seen in this volume as a 'critical event' on a par with the others that affect family life. It is therefore understood as a crucial moment which requires of the whole family a modification of previous equilibriums and a reorganisation of its system so that it can continue to function. The critical character, which does not therefore mean the pathology, of this event lies in the fact that it brings with it risks and resources and requires the family to act in order to deal with them. This is a passage that involves fracture, separation, loss, strong detachment, uprooting but also the possibility and the opportunity of growth and development.

 

Naturally, families that come from a cultural context that is different from that of the West have to address these new realities and values, which, indeed, call into question consolidated family rules. There thus emerges the theme that runs through this volume looking after social ties: between those who leave, those who stay and those who are born and grow up far from their country of origin, between those who are hosts and those who are guests.

 

Both for the migrant family and for the mixed couple there clearly emerges the problem of the encounter/ clash between cultures.

 

In this encounter is affirmed the challenge of accepting the difference of the other, of identifying the limit of the other that cannot be crossed, so that homologation is not vainly pursued but, instead, the pathway is followed of mutual recognition. What in reality is at stake in the regulation of distances with the environment is the problem of the renegotiation of family distances at an intergenerational level.

 

Although at different times, the various generations of immigrants are called into play. The migrant can be at ease in two cultures; this 'in' does not necessarily preclude the possibility of continuing to be 'with', of continuing to feel a part of a family and community history. Lastly, this volume addresses the possible modalities of the relationship between the host society and the migrant families/mixed couples and also addresses the 'modalities and instruments' by which services are organised to help foreign families. This section brings out the expertise of these two authors in relation to these topics.

 

The originality and the appropriateness of the approach that is employed, together with the fluidity and the readability of the text, make this work a valid and stimulating theoretical-practical work of reference in the management of the relations between cultures, something that is increasingly necessary and relevant in contemporary society.

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