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2015 Visiting Research Fellow Lecture

Transforming Identities: The Process and Spaces of Intercultural Immigrant Engagements in Ireland

A public lecture by Dr Angèle Smith (University of Northern British Columbia) during her term as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub.


The challenge of the 21st c. in social sciences and humanities, politics and our everyday life, is in understanding the “Other” without forfeiting our own sense of identity and place. This research is interested in examining the ideas of integration and interculturalism in an increasingly ethnically diverse Ireland. There has been growing attention to immigration, integration, social cohesion and activism in the academic literature in Ireland, and dynamic response from the practice of many advocacy organizations.

However, what is less well examined is the temporal and psychological stages in the process of a newcomer arriving to, and settling in, to the receiving country. Dr Smith argues that this process can be studied as spatial scales of integration. Thus she examines a three-stage process, including (1) arrival and reception; (2) initial acclimatization in the first year; and (3) settling-in period of the first 3-5 years in Ireland. At each stage, newcomers move into different spaces where social, political and economic (amongst others) interactions take place between the migrant and the dominant society.

These spaces include: bureaucratic institutional spaces specifically mandated to regulate and control new immigrant arrivals; spaces of a broader range of public institutions; and open public spaces. In what ways do services and opportunities allow for multilingual and/ or intercultural interactions in these spaces along the integration process? And how might this help us to better understand the policy, practice, theory and experience of integration and interculturalism?

Anthropology contributes to these discussions by appreciating that questions of “who we are” and “where we are” are at the heart of theory and practice concerning the public policy of state institutions and community-based groups, as well as the experience and narratives of those most marginal (and mobile) in society.

Professor Smith’s research asks the essential question: In the midst of great cultural diversity, how are cultural identity, language, and a sense of belonging and place negotiated and transformed?

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