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Scrivere la voce dell’altra: migranti lavoratrici di cura narrate da autori residenti in Europa

Di Ciolla, Nicoletta and Guarracino, Serena (2019) Scrivere la voce dell’altra: migranti lavoratrici di cura narrate da autori residenti in Europa. In: Raccontare il viaggio. Crimini di migrazione e narrazioni di resistenza. Mimesis. ISBN 9788857551005

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Abstract

Placing the focus on the ‘foreign object’ – the spurious newcomer, the oddly unfamiliar member of the community, or the oddly familiar stranger – is one of the prerogatives of crime narratives, as well as of less clear-cut ‘genre’ narratives that focus on migrants as main characters. A border-crossing figure by definition, the migrant emerges in recent fiction as a victim as well as an invader, and often as a spokesperson for writers whose own lives somewhat reflect the nomad trajectory of their characters (Huddard 2008). Still, while migrant fiction in postcolonial writing has received wide critical attention, this contribution intends to follow a different path, investigating the use of migrant first-person narrators in works by resident European writers, exploring the many ways in which these characters’ ‘criminality’ – intended here in the wider sense of crossing socially and culturally defined borders as well as in the literal sense of breaking the law – functions as counterpart to the writer’s transgression of appropriating another’s voice for their own narrative ends. Our aim is to show the double-edged results of these works: on the one hand they can stretch our understanding of the values by which we abide as a community and call into question the claimed exclusivity of “our” culture vis-à-vis others; yet they can also reinforce the reader’s sense of entitlement to a position of cultural supremacy, firmly defining ‘the other’ as ‘the lesser one’, as the foreign body to be excised and expunged to safeguard cultural integrity (Anderson, Miranda, and Pezzotti 2012: 2). Through a comparative approach, the article will offer a critical reading of two novels that share this feature, Maggie Gee’s My Cleaner (2005) and Antonio Manzini’s Orfani bianchi (2016). Both novels feature first-person narrations by migrant women – the first from Uganda working in London, the second from Moldavia and resettled in Rome – who work as carers in affluent households in two main European metropolises. Care work introduces a foreign element in the affective economy of ‘home’, a transgression both novels tackle taking into account the sociological impact of migrant care work in Britain as well as in Italy, especially in the care of children and the elderly (see for example Gutierrez Rodriguez 2010 and Rogers and Weller 2013). These novels bring their mainly European readership to confront their own portrait traced in the voice of an/other, whose presence is often resented as well as precious to those who make use of it. By reading them against the grain of their own resident authoriality, this contribution intends to assess the potential of narrative fiction to dislodge preconceptions, and train the reader to a more nuanced and inclusive response to interactions with ‘the other’.

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