Geographies of return

Last week, I participated in an exciting study day organised in one of the research units of Paris Diderot University: URMIS. The programme is available here.

The day offered a somewhat “state-of-the-art”, and key personalities of the field were invited. The organisers briefly stated the funding works of Michel Oriol and Albano Cordeiro, and then, we heard lectures of Victor Pereira, Sonia Ferreira, Dominique Vidal, Inês Espiritu Santo, Guillaume Etienne, Filomena Silvano, Jean-Luc Primon, José Mapril and Irène de Santos.

Needless to say that it became a great literature review for me, where we span various issues related to French-Portuguese mobilities, from labour integration to media production.

Each paper was discussed by a researcher who does not work on Portugal. And one of the most frequent theme, was the one of the specificities of this national group. In essence, is it still relevant to study “the Portuguese”? They are, since 1986, EU citizens, free of their movement, and in a scientific context that has called to go beyond methodological nationalism, does it still make sense?

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Research and moving images

In the last post, I spoke of a documentary film shot by a filmmaker. Nonetheless, many visual productions are actually academic works. When it comes to Portuguese mobilities, scholars have actually been quite fond of documentary filmmaking, and other moving images.

As a matter of fact, among the works I started collecting, sociologist Filomena Silvano started to reflect on this flow of migrations through documentary filmmaking as early as 1997. She participated in shooting two movies: Este é a minha casa, and Viagem à Expo, both staging Portuguese emigrants between their French home and Portugal.

Manuel Antunes da Cunha published a book (2009) based on his dissertation on the representations of Portuguese migrants in TV shows. He highlights the “success narrative” at work in those programmes.

The same year, João Sousa Cardoso defends his thesis on the imaginary of the Portuguese community in France through moving images. His census shows that there were 32 films between 1967 and 2007 on the topic.

In her thesis, and I would like to briefly present here the third section, Inês Espirito Santo (2013) looks at two films in particular: O Salto, filmed by Christian de Chalonge in 1967, and La Photo Déchirée of Jose Vieira, filmed in 2001; before she presents her own production J’ai toujours voulu voir plus loin que ce que je voyais.

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And from the slums they rise

I might have to alterate this dramatic title…

In any case, the quest continues: What are the stories behind the great number of 750,000 Portuguese residing in France in the 1970s? How those stories, the collective ones, the individual ones, the ones promoted by the government(s), the ones by activists and artists, all participate in producing the “emigrant character”, that might eventually return to their homeland?

Last week, I finished watching the documentary film Les gens des baraques (1996), by filmmaker Robert Bozzi. Once again, the slums surrounding Paris make for the decor of Bozzi’s film. 25 years after having filmed in the slums for the Communist Party, he comes back with a quest: finding the baby of one of the moving images he shot.

The baby Bozzo looks for (extracted from the movie)

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