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The Studies of Women Migrants

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     The issue of migration and the whole set
of consequences that it engenders have been the focus of many academic
investigations in recent years. Migration provokes questions about
cross-cultural communication, multiculturalism and multilingualism as parts of
personal and group identities, and also the troubles and discrimination that
especially woman migrants face in receiving countries.

     Women migrants and their socio-cultural
position is an important aspect of the studies with most recent publications
pertaining to the situation of women using multiple languages in their private
lives and employment. Extensive European research projects on migrant women
show that for most of them language is the main source of problems in
employment and integration. (ENMW, p. 38) Even multilingual women face
discrimination and are forced to be employed in low-paid positions and feel
that their language abilities are ignored. (EC, p. 9) Those findings are
confirmed by a study conducted in the US where it was discovered that
multilingual migrant women relate to two types of language experiences: language conflicts and language difficulties. (De Fina, King,
p. 183)

     However, there are also publications that
arrive at more positive conclusions. Kronenberg (2016) analysed Polish migrant
women autobiographical texts from a period between 2004 and 2014 and discovered
that living in a multicultural society and becoming multilingual allowed those
women to find their own voices in the public sphere, construct alternative
forms of identity, become aware of discriminatory ideologies, and express their
individual experiences. Also, a study conducted at the University in Oslo
showed optimistic perspectives for integration of children of migrants into
Norwegian society and a potential for creating a new diverse middle class.

(UiO, 2015)

     Therefore, it would be desirable to
conduct a similarly oriented study among migrant women in Taiwan. It can
provide new feminist insights into the language and gender ideologies
pertaining to the use of English, Mandarin Chinese and other languages by
migrant women. It can also show new language strategies of forming personal identities,
which in consequence generate group identities in the emerging multicultural
and multilingual society of Taiwan, and broadly in the globalising world.


2.2 Key Theoretical Concepts

     Analysing and deconstruction
language ideologies and studying identities that are build through language and
language practices in a multilingual surrounding demand clarification of the
key concepts (language, ideology, identity) and showing how they converge.

Thus, ideology is understood here in
the traditional Marxist way as fake consciousness. Through language it
functions mainly by the process of interpellation
(Althusser, p. 181), which means that the
subjects are hailed to take up
imaginary identities and treat them
as obvious and natural. Language, in the light of pragmatism, can be viewed as
a tool of dealing with events (Grosz, p. 27) and making sense of our
experiences. (Rorty, p. 41) Migration is a special type of event that generates
breaches in cultural and linguistic boundaries and in consequence engenders
language problems but also openings for change and improvement. This shows that
language is not only an ossified symbolic and ideological order but also a
sphere of agency and freedom.


2.3 Narrative Analysis Model


     All these issues are perfectly linked in
Labov’s theory of oral narrative analysis. In Narrative
Analysis: Oral Versions of Personal Experience, Labov and Waletzky
take a sociolinguistic approach to researching how language functions. This is
significant as it contextualizes the study of structures and forms, combining aims
to methods. It is
crucial for this research that Labov describes narrative as having two functions: referential and evaluative, with its referential functions
orienting and grounding a story in its contextual world by referencing events
in sequential order as they originally occurred (Labov, p. 32), and
its evaluative functions
describing the storyteller’s aims in telling the story. (p. 41) Formally
analysing data from orally-generated texts collected during 600 interviews, Labov
divides narrative into six sections: abstract (overview of the story), orientation (information
about the person, place, time, and situation), complication (the
main story, during which the narrative unfolds), evaluation (explicit or implicit purpose to the story), resolution
(a sense of completion), coda (return to the present out of the world of
the story into the world of the storytelling event). (Labov, pp. 32-39)

     While not every narrative
includes all of these sections, the purpose of this subdivision is to show that
narratives have inherent structural order. Labov claimed that narrative units
must retell events in the order that they were experienced because narrative
is temporally sequenced. In other words, events do not occur at
random, but are connected to one another and thus the original semantic
interpretation depends on their original order. (p. 21) To demonstrate this
sequence, he breaks a story down into its basic parts. He defines narrative
clause as the basic unit of narrative around
which everything else is built. Clauses can be distinguished from one another
by temporal junctures, which indicate a shift in time and
which separate narrative clauses. (p. 25) Temporal junctures mark temporal sequencing
because clauses cannot be rearranged without disrupting their meaning.

     Therefore, it would be advisable to
utilise this concept to study the language experiences of migrant women
expressed through narratives, especially because Labov himself encouraged
scholars to analyse narratives from different cultures using his model. (Labov,
p. 42) Also, narratives are the perfect site for the study of the convergence
of migration, multilingualism and language ideologies as they are founded on
common presuppositions that can be shared or resisted. (Baynham and De Fina, p.

91) However, as the object of this study is women’s experience, it is necessary
to enrich Labov’s model with theories of feminine language derived from
sociolinguistics and feminist theory. Thus, for this study, the model of
analysis will be enriched with concepts of revisionist feminist criticism, gynocritics, arachnology,
and écriture


The Languages of Women


One of the most profound and influential fields of feminist theory is feminist literary studies. The feminist
literary research methodology was
developed in the 1970s and it can
be associated with the second-wave
feminism. At that time, the main objective of feminist
studies was analyzing culture and taking into account
women’s experience and the female way of
describing the world, tracing the
presence of women in literary texts and creating a new descriptive language of literature, which could express woman’s point
of view. Feminist criticism
uses theories borrowed from a variety of
academic orientations: structuralism, semiotics, deconstructionism, psychoanalysis and cultural studies. (Burzy?ska, p. 399)

Feminist literary studies is an incredibly rich and diverse field of academic research and
according to some researchers, each of
its prominent representatives
creates their own theoretical framework. However, some of the theories stand out as particularly
interesting and valuable and it would be advisable to describe them briefly.

Those theories are: revisionist feminist criticism, gynocritics, arachnology,
and écriture

     Revisionist feminist criticism is a typical example
of second-wave feminism critical trend. Its purpose was
to seek out patriarchal and misogynist ideologies and fixed stereotypes
in the literary texts and literature theory. The aim was the revision of the existing traditions
and the literary canon, established from the male point of view, as well as exposing hypocritical concealment of women’s
subordinate role in literature.

This field is represented by Judith Fetterley and Mary Ellmann.

Nowadays, this trend
is developing in relation to the
involvement of feminist criticism in the tracking of all
forms of discrimination.

     Gynocritics is the
second important trend in feminist literary criticism. It was also created
during the peak of popularity of second-wave feminism. Gynocritics
rejected the idea of revisionism and abstained from any dependence on the male
perspective, but instead focused on women’s studies with an affirmative
approach to female literary tradition. The main goal was to discover the
specificity of literature created by women – femininity of such texts. The researchers wanted to know if this femininity
is one of their intrinsic properties or if it is created during reception and
analysis of the text. Gynocritics is a term that was introduced by
Elaine Showalter in 1979. According to Showalter, gynocritics can
distinguish four groups of models of defining emininity, corresponding to the
criteria that determine the specificity of women’s writing. Firstly, she
describes the biological model, which is based on the assumption that
the specificity of women’s writing corresponds to women’s carnality and
sensuality. This gave the writers courage in talking about carnality and
sexuality. However, the danger of this model lies in assigning too much
importance to the body in the process of reading and writing. Secondly,
Showalter described the language and textual model that answers the
questions on the specificity of women’s use of language. This model also
repeatedly postulated the construction of women’s specific language (language of sisterhood). The biggest
shortcoming of this model, according to Showalter, is the tendency to isolation
from the influences of other languages ??and a rich variety of alternative
literary conventions and standards. Thirdly, we have the psychoanalytic
model, which focuses on the relationship between a woman’s psyche and
female writing. It is also trying to fill the gaps in traditional
psychoanalysis, the acute exclusion related to women’s experience, so typical
for Freaud or Lacan. Therefore, it seeks to expand the knowledge of the
psychological aspects of mother-daughter relationships and also female
friendships. The disadvantages of this model were ignoring or underestimation
of the impact of cultural factors on the specificity of women’s writing.

Fourthly, Showalter described the cultural model that tries to collect
and combine all of the other perspectives and also place them in a broad
cultural context. Showalter considers it to be the most promising and fruitful
method of studying. (Burzy?ska, pp. 406-409)

Arachnology is a style of
feminist literary criticism, created by Nancy K. Miller. The name of the style bears great significance, because it is polemically
referring to the idea of hyphology
by Roland Barthes, which implies that the text is a kind of fabric and the author
dissolves in its texture. The name also invokes the myth
of Arachne (a woman turned into a spider), opposed to the myth of Ariadne
(a woman who helped Hercules).  According to Miller,
the specificity of women’s
writing is based on the assumption that
a woman writer, like Arachne, leaves in her
work clear traces of herself.

Therefore, women have a strong presence in the text with a clear creative subjectivity.

(Miller, p. 272) The idea of ??a woman
as the spider-creator also highlights the strong relationship
between a woman’s body and her works, and the fusion of the artistic sphere with the domestic/family
sphere (opposed to the typical
male idea of the ??separation
of the creative act from everyday
life issues and the eccentricity of artistic creation).

Écriture féminine
is a mainstream feminist
criticism style akin to gynocritics. It was formulated in France in the 1970s and bears strong traces of inspiration by the achievements of post-structuralism.

This trend persistently opposes the creation of an in-depth theory (considering this to be one of the
characteristics of men’s academic approach) and focuses on the practice of writing, which was dominated
by sexuality, physicality and ambiguity. Hélène Cixous,
Julia Kristeva and Lucy Irigaray are the most prominent representatives of this

     All of the above-mentioned styles of
feminist literary studies have a profound
contribution to the development of feminist theory. However, if we look closely into the issue of a
female subject that they are proposing, we can clearly see that most of them
are based on the assumption of existence of a universal, general female
subjectivity, transcending the boundaries of race, ethnicity, religion, social
class, and sexual orientation. This assumption has many negative effects, for
example it creates deceptive notions of universal female problems, patriarchy
and methods for the
emancipation of women. Not all theoreticians avoided touching the
interconnectedness of the issues of gender, race and class. It was Simone de
Beauvoir who first mentioned the problem of the lack of solidarity between
white women and women of color or rich women and working-class women. She wrote

If they
belong to the bourgeoisie, they feel solidarity with men of that class, not
with proletarian women; if they are white, their allegiance is to white man,
not to Negro women. (Beauvoir, p. 25)

     Opposing those convections gave the
impulse to the creation of the third-wave feminism. Third wave theoreticians actively involved themselves
into fighting for the rights of the excluded from the mainstream culture and
thus from the academic discourses. The theoreticians indicated that earlier
feminism was a movement of
middle-class, white women from
the West who spoke on behalf of women in
general and did not see the different positions and problem in the
diversity of different types of female experience. As a result, many new trends
in feminist theory emerged: black feminism, Latino feminism, Third-world feminism, lesbian feminism and eco-feminism. These movements have criticized former feminist convections, especially the belief that there is a common and immutable essence
of femininity. Meanwhile, the experiences of women are very diverse and therefore, white, straight, middle-class feminists can not impose their definition of femininity and speak on behalf of all women. For many activists, it
is also impossible to fight for equal
rights and women’s emancipation, if we isolate women
from other oppressed groups: people who are discriminated based on
race, ethnicity, religion or social class.

The most prominent and influential literature theorist, associated with
third-wave feminism is bell hooks1,
whose works are important examples of back feminism. She conducted deep
analyses of feminist discourses and feminist literary theory and redefined the
understanding of the goals of feminist critics. In her Feminist Theory we can find a passage, which perfectly encapsulates
hooks’ findings. She wrote that:

Feminism as a
movement to end sexist oppression directs our attention to systems of
domination and the interrelatedness of sex, race, and class oppression.

Therefore, it compels us to centralize the experiences and social predicaments
of women who bear the brunt of sexist oppression as a way to understand the
collective social status of women in the United States. Defining feminism as a
movement to end sexist oppression is crucial for the development of theory
because it is a starting point indicating the direction of exploration and
analysis. The foundation of future feminist struggle must be solidly based on a
recognition of the need to eradicate the underlying cultural basis and causes
of sexism and other forms of group oppression. Without challenging and changing
these philosophical structures, no feminist reform will have a long-range
impact. (hooks, p. 33)

1She insists her name be written using lowercase. 

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