The Presentation of Self in Emigration: Eastern European Women in Italy

Publication Date: 
July 2012
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 642 no. 1 186-199


This article, based on five years of ethnographic fieldwork, describes the strategies for the presentation of the Self employed by Eastern European immigrant women in the Italian northeast. These middle-aged women migrated alone, are employed as live-in care workers, and often lack legal status. For them, migration is a deeply felt trauma, which they narrate as being forced upon them by the collapse of the USSR and the failures of the transition to a market economy. They perceive their life in Italy as degrading, their work is stressful and undignified, they miss their children, and they are often seen as poor mothers with questionable morals. Consequently, they seek to dilute the social stigma, presenting positive images of their selves and claiming respect from a variety of audiences. The women continuously endeavor to define their current condition as accidental and temporary and to assert their right to a better future.