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Articulation, imagined space and virtual mobility in literary narratives of migration

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date11/2008
JournalMobilities
Journal number3
Volume3
Number of pages15
Pages455-469
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

As the blurred boundaries between documentary, memory and ‘re‐imaginings’ of personal experience have become more intensively theorised, creative writing is re‐emerging as an important resource in social science, following the extensive debates surrounding the sociology of literature in the 1960s and 1970s. This is especially true with regard to the type of mobility entailed by migration. This essay advances a methodology for incorporating creative fiction into mobilities research. It argues that certain types of literary text offer fresh perspectives on the overlapping layers of experience which characterise the mental condition resulting from cultural displacement, bringing together the historical, the global and the local within a single, multiply constituted, ‘imagined space’. Literary accounts of this kind can be characterised as a data source in their own right, complementing social science research methodologies grounded in ‘real‐life’ observation and offering hypotheses for subsequent ethnographic verification. Through the narrative processes of metaphorical transfer and space‐time compression, Joe Pemberton's autobiographical novel Forever and Ever Amen (2000) demonstrates the potential of narratives informed by the experience of migration to present ‘alternative cartographies of social space’ (Rouse, 1991). The social relevance of such narrative representations is further demonstrated by their ‘envelopment’ within mainstream discourses, thereby illustrating how they ‘articulate’ with existing social norms.