For the Good of the Family: Migratory Strategies and Affective Language in Portuguese Migrant Letters, 1870s-1920s

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Book Chapter

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Migrant Letters: Emotional Language, Mobile Identities, and Writing Practices in Historical Perspective


Labor migration was a common strategy for Portuguese families at the turn of the twentieth century. Correspondence provided a vehicle to keep families connected and a space to sustain and recreate their relationships and emotional bonds. This article analyzes the language of call letters, a particular type of family letter written by migrant men to call their wives and children to join them abroad. In particular, it examines the ways in which migrant husbands and their wives adapted to living in transnational households and to changing roles at home and abroad. It shows how family strategies of migration were discussed within narrative frameworks of family and marital love and duty, by making use of a variety of arguments that combined discourses of both material and emotional well-being. The discussion is based on the narrative patterns, recurrent themes, and of marital duty, loyalty, and reciprocity contributed to a language of affect built on narratives of responsibility and dependability that reinforced the idea of migration as a family project.


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