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Migrants in Translation

Migrants in Translation: Caring and the Logics of Difference in Contemporary Italy

Cristiana Giordano
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Migrants in Translation
    Book Description:

    Migrants in Translationis an ethnographic reflection on foreign migration, mental health, and cultural translation in Italy. Its larger context is Europe and the rapid shifts in cultural and political identities that are negotiated between cultural affinity and a multicultural, multiracial Europe. The issue of migration and cultural difference figures as central in the process of forming diverse yet unified European identities. In this context, legal and illegal foreigners-mostly from Eastern Europe and Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa-are often portrayed as a threat to national and supranational identities, security, cultural foundations, and religious values.This book addresses the legal, therapeutic, and moral techniques of recognition and cultural translation that emerge in response to these social uncertainties. In particular,Migrants in Translationfocuses on Italian ethno-psychiatry as an emerging technique that provides culturally appropriate therapeutic services exclusively to migrants, political refugees, and victims of torture and trafficking. Cristiana Giordano argues that ethno-psychiatry's focus on cultural identifications as therapeutic-inasmuch as it complies with current political desires for diversity and multiculturalism-also provides a radical critique of psychiatric, legal, and moral categories of inclusion, and allows for a rethinking of the politics of recognition.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95886-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    In 2002 I went to the region of Piedmont, northern Italy, to conduct an ethnography of Italian ethno-psychiatry. This emerging therapeutic approach to foreign patients creates a space—both therapeutic and political—to incorporate cultural and experiential difference into its work. While in this book I analyze the specific therapeutic practices of clinical ethno-psychiatry in Italy, I also document its political impact on other Italian institutions (the Catholic Church, the police, and social services) involved in aid and recovery programs for, as the state calls them, “victims of human trafficking.” At the time of my research, these institutions were increasingly...


    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 27-32)

      “I think these walls need to be repainted soon,” said one of the young psychologists the day the Centro Fanon moved to a different location in Turin. “These images of exotic people are not very appropriate in an ethno-psychiatric center for immigrants, are they?” he added. And indeed, the walls made me consider how uncanny this institutional space was as the new location for the Centro. “I agree,” I responded. “They make me feel a bit uncomfortable, and I wonder how patients would feel about them.” It was a few months into my fieldwork when the Centro Fanon’s old lease...

    • CHAPTER 1 On the Tightrope of Culture
      (pp. 33-70)

      Mary was in her early thirties when social services referred her to the Centro Fanon. She wore an open expression on her face, often smiling and always willing to talk about her experiences and concerns, but she also looked sad. I met her on a late November afternoon at the Centro. She had migrated from Nigeria approximately three years before we met, and she was still undocumented. Over this period, she had gone back to Nigeria once. When she returned to Italy, she was pregnant and had just lost her husband in a car accident in Nigeria. She went to...

    • CHAPTER 2 Decolonizing Treatment in Psychiatry
      (pp. 71-100)

      The Centro Fanon was located at the intersection of two secondary roads in a residential part of the city, in the basement of the local mental health department. The corridors were lit by long rectangular neon lights, and the rooms had small windows high up on the walls. During therapy sessions one could see the feet of the people walking by. The head of the mental health department was a psychiatrist trained in the Italian school of democratic psychiatry, a background he shared with most of the ethno-psychiatrists downstairs. The Centro’s therapists, though, had a diverse background that informed their...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 101-104)

      It was one of those foggy and humid autumn days typical of the Padana Flat. On my way to a meeting at the Immigration Office, I ventured into a neighborhood of the city that I didn’t know well but later became important for my field research. The office was not far from Piazza della Repubblica, the large rectangular plaza that hosts the market of Porta Palazzo. Once a meeting point for southern Italians who had migrated north to work in the Fiat factories, the market is now home to the African, Middle Eastern, and Chinese stands that cover the entire...

    • CHAPTER 3 Ambivalent Inclusion: Psychiatrists, Nuns, and Bureaucrats in Conversation
      (pp. 105-134)

      One day in early November 2002, I accompanied Dr. R to a meeting at the City Hall Immigration Office. Dr. R was an ethno-psychiatrist at the Centro Fanon where I had done fieldwork for a few months. He had invited me to come along to his meeting to learn about the work that the group of ethno-psychiatrists did with the state on the matter of victims of human trafficking. He had explained to me that the collaboration with the Immigration Office was important—though at times very challenging given the divergent positions he and state officials had in regard to...


    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 135-136)

      Inspector Preda’s office is located at the end of a long and busy corridor on the second floor of the Turin Police Department. The first time I went there I realized that there was something very familiar about it, even though I had never been in the police station of a big city. There was a frenetic coming and going of people in the corridor. Police officers in uniform transferred piles of documents from one office to another, while officers in civilian dress disguised as drug addicts escorted all sorts of “criminals” who could be distinguished only by their handcuffs....

    • CHAPTER 4 Denuncia: The Subject Verbalized
      (pp. 137-166)

      It was May 2003, and I had recently met the people who work for Emancipazione Oggi, a Catholic NGO founded in 2000 whose main mission is to fight foreign prostitution as a form of modern slavery. In their work to get foreign prostitutes off the streets and into a state-sponsored rehabilitation program, this group mostly helps women draft their denuncias, the first step of the program.¹ The denuncia is the victim’s written testimony, drafted in the style and format required by the police. Early one morning I went to the organization’s office to meet with Mara, the social worker in...


    • [PART FOUR Introduction]
      (pp. 167-170)

      Casa Effatà was on the first floor of a large building on a wide boulevard on the north side of the city. Unlike other shelters in Turin and elsewhere, which are located in convents, parishes, or private homes, Casa Effatà was a big, quite anonymous apartment. It had a spacious living room with a long rectangular table, some couches, and a TV set; a medium-sized kitchen; a long corridor that four bedrooms looked on to; two bathrooms; and a laundry room. The nuns had their own room and an office, which they shared with the volunteers. Although the building looked...

    • CHAPTER 5 Paradoxes of Redemption: Translating Selves and Experimenting with Conversion
      (pp. 171-202)

      Casa Effatà housed women who were going through the second stage of the state’s rehabilitation program for victims of human trafficking. Shelters like this provide an alternate living situation for women whose previous residences usually are linked to networks of prostitution. As a social worker explained to me, although Article 18 does not require participants to live in shelters, in the actual implementation of victim rehabilitation projects, these spaces are crucial to the “reintegration of women into social life.” Though usually funded by the Ministry of Equal Opportunities and the municipality, shelters are often run by Catholic associations, which tend...


    • [PART FIVE Introduction]
      (pp. 203-206)

      “I am here for an appointment with Doctor Fanon,” said the woman who entered the main office at the Centro Fanon on the first day of my work there. She must have been in her mid-forties, and was from Romania. The Immigration Office had referred her to the center for a consultation. She held a small piece of paper with the name and address of the center written on it, and she handed it over to Sara, the trainee at the desk. Sara smiled and told her that she probably had an appointment with another doctor; “Fanon” was the name...

    • CHAPTER 6 Tragic Translations: “I am afraid of falling. Speak well of me, speak well for me”
      (pp. 207-240)

      On the bench outside the consultation rooms, she sat and waited. Afërdita had gotten into the habit of arriving early, sometimes an hour before her appointment. In Albanian her name means something like “close to the light,” and almost as a respectful bow to it she would often dress in light blue, pink, and cream, which made her pale complexion appear even paler. Afërdita would sit and look down at the floor, a sad look, while frantically tearing at a Kleenex she held in her hands. Sometimes she had tears in her eyes, which she dried with what remained of...

  11. Epilogue: Other Scenes
    (pp. 241-246)

    Luigi Pirandello, Italian novelist and playwright, wrote a famous play titledSix Characters in Search of an Author.In it, a group of actors is preparing to rehearse for a Pirandello play when they are interrupted by the arrival of six characters from an unfinished play. One of the characters explains that the author who created them did not finish their story, and therefore they are unrealized and have not been fully brought to life. The theater director agrees to be their author and starts directing the unfinished story, where two of the characters meet for the first time. He...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 247-260)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-278)
  14. Index
    (pp. 279-288)