Mapping Migrant Cultures in Manchester 1880-2000

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Current Research: Laurence Brown

This project provides a new vision of the construction of diasporic cultures in modern Britain through enabling migrants to digitally map their own life experiences. It explores the changing cultural landscapes through which Jewish and Caribbean immigrants to Manchester constructed distinctive collective identities between 1880 and 2000. Digital mapping provides new methods for analyzing and representing the internal heterogeneity of these diasporas, how they interacted with native and other immigrant groups, and how diasporic cultures have been remade by subsequent generations.

Connecting oral interviewing and the visualization capabilities of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will generate a new micro-history of the spaces and movements through which migrants constructed their own identities. Funded by the Diasporas, Migrations and Identities programme of the AHRC has provided for a public exhibition and multi-media web-site that will integrate interviews, images and text to represent the fluid networks and boundaries that defined these diasporic communities.

Digital mapping enables us to bring Manchester’s exceptional oral history collections together to explore new research questions about how these immigrant groups, and the city they inhabited, have changed over the twentieth century. The flexibility of digital mapping means that these existing sources can be connected to new archival research and ongoing interviewing with Jewish and Caribbean families, and can be used to provide a framework for future oral history projects with the Irish, South Asian and Chinese communities of Manchester.

Contemporary migration studies have focused on mapping immigrant settlement, whereas this project uses migrant testimony to construct a new representation of their cultural landscapes. The visualization and analytical tools of GIS will provide new understandings of generational shifts within migrant communities, and of how migrant identities were affected by the changing socio-economic environments. The empirical findings generated by this research therefore make a major contribution to international debates on the changing nature of migrant identities in industrial and post-industrial societies.

Editors Note: This is an archived blog post from 15-11-2009

 

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