Migration, Language and Dialogue
by Gabriel Furmuzachi
Migration brings with it, no doubt about it, important changes in the lives of those who chose to leave. Identity is one these fundamental changes. One needs to find one’s place and one’s self in a new environment without the benefit of a tradition and without the support of one’s family, history and language. As an immigrant, one becomes another, one’s identity has to be reassessed, built up from scratch. We are not talking here about personal identity in the sense analytic philosophy considers it. Instead, our understanding of identity relies on narratives: we come to understand ourselves and our place in the world through stories we tell or are told about ourselves. The fabric of these stories gets torn once we decide or are forced to leave. We should strive to mend it and we think one can only do this dialogically. These are the issues we will try to discuss here.
We are going to quickly follow three accounts of immigrant lives. Then we will attempt to make sense of them by appealing to a couple of philosophical concepts, namely dialogue and cosmopolitanism, which we consider to be viable solutions to the difficulties brought about by migration.
The first account we’ll talk about is the one from Strangers to Ourselves by Julia Kristeva, the second, from Eva Hoffman’s autobiographical novel Lost in Translation and the third focusing on the immigrant stories documented by the Haitian/American writer Edwidge Danticat in her Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Writer at Work.