Myths and resources of mobility in Europe: A research on the cultural meaning of mobility in a group of Italian citizens residing abroad

Fiorella Bucci, Sonia Giuliano, Roberto Falanga, Antonella Giornetti

Abstract


Since 2008, migration flows from Italy to abroad increased significantly. While scientific literature on the topic has been abundant, little empirical research has been conducted in the field of psychosociolology. To fill in this gap, we address Italian citizens’ mobility as a complex phenomenon that is indicative of the search for new ways of organizing social experience and coexistence. This is relevant if we think of the ongoing disruption of some traditional pillars of social coexistence in Italy and of the policy-oriented endeavours of the European Union to foster transnational mobility among member states. We conducted 42 individual interviews with Italian nationals who moved to three capital cities in Europe – Brussels, London and Lisbon – in order to examine meanings emerging from their own experience. In the current debate on mobility two apparently opposing narratives prevail: on the one hand, mobility is presented as a choice of necessity that arises from uneven labour conditions; on the other, mobility is a natural predisposition of individuals. Our study revealed a more complex polysemy. We identified three main cultural dimensions that organise the data. In the first dimension, mobility is connected with conformist social expectations that characterise the interviewees’ relationship with their contexts of origin: namely the desire to fulfil such expectations, on the one hand, or to run away from them, on the other. The second dimension tells about the struggle to reorganise a sense of belonging within the new context of life. In this regard, two polar opposite experiences emerge: on the one hand, anomie leads individuals to the search for personal safety against the uncertainty of social life; on the other, the wish to give new meaning to social experience and acknowledge a new role to otherness takes centre stage, with cultural and linguistic diversity being fundamental resources in this process. Finally, the third cultural dimension tells about the relationship with social institutions and the meaning the latter acquire in the experience of Italian citizens abroad: threatening and reassuring at the same time, for the normative function that institutions play in determining social inclusion and exclusion, but also for the rituals they provide, which help to limit the unexpected.

Keywords


mobility; migration; Europe; anomie; social coexistence.

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