Benarioua Amira is a PhD student at the Institute of English and American Studies, University of Szeged, Hungary. She is the recipient of a Stipendium Hungaricum grant of the Ministry of National Human Resources. In her doctoral research she focuses on the political, social and cultural status of women in third world countries and on how patriarchy and sexism influence women’s lives and future. Her research interests include postmodernism, feminism, cultural studies, gender studies, sociology, and psychology. She also investigates the theme of criminality and violence in minority women’s fiction by exploring different US minority cultures, including African, Caribbean, and Mexican. Email:
Gendered Journeys: Women, Migration and Feminist Psychology
Edited by Oliva M. Espín and Andrea L. Dottolo
London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan
The over-valorization of men’s immigrant experiences at the expense of immigrant women’s experiences has raised several concerns among feminist scholars and researchers, such as Oliva M. Espín and Andrea Dottolo, who encouraged the production of a collection of essays that prioritizes women’s issues and helps examine the conditions under which women have struggled and are still struggling to gain freedom and existence in male-governed societies.
Gendered Journeys: Women, Migration and Feminist Psychology is an extensive and interdisciplinary collection of essays, edited by Espín and Dottolo and published in 2015. The book addresses issues related to psychology and migration across cultures in a way that is accessible to a wide range of readers. It also provides a detailed account of other experiences of immigrant women, such as motherhood, domestic violence, and sexism. Adopting a feminist approach, the authors of the studies included in the volume shed light on why women’s experiences are generally overlooked and scarcely researched, as well as why gender inequality is almost always present in women’s lives. Even when it comes to the experience of migration, women find themselves oppressed and marginalized. As migration has several intersections with culture, ethnicity, and sexuality, Espín and Dottolo suggest an innovative way of studying migration, in which the focus would be on immigrant women’s journeys of self-discovery instead of gender complexities.
Throughout the four chapters entitled “Place, race, memory and migration,” “Work, social class and ‘traditional’ gender roles,” “Violence, resistance and resilience,” and “Intergenerational impact of migration,” the book surveys what the process of migration means to women and what differences are to be found within and between various cultures. The unique aspect of this body of scholarship is that it draws the reader’s attention to and familiarizes the reader with the nature of feminine psychology, identity, and sexuality.
For each chapter, Espín and Dottolo chose studies that attempt to move beyond the exclusion and marginalization of immigrant women in mainstream cultures by placing Black, Asian, Latino and Arab women’s struggles for liberation within the context of a larger movement. To do so, they organized the chapters into various sections written by different scholars to make the personal experiences more visible and valuable, as well as to create a link between the authors and migration as a subject of study. Beginning with the conception of the intertwined relationship between memory, place, and psychology by Olivia M. Espín, the first section demonstrates the central role that the concepts of memory and space play in female identity construction. Karen L. Suyemoto and Roxanne A. Donovan explain that waking up as a blank page in a country where everything is new, strange, and different is not the sole dilemma that migrant women are confronted with in their journeys of self-discovery. In fact, frustration and losing a sense of time as well as space are the biggest dangers that threaten their identity development and hinder women’s adaptation to a new life in the host country. Suyemoto and Donovan go on to expose the traumatic effects of migration on women’s identity construction and psychological wellbeing. To do so, they use numerous testimonies of Black and Asian women who experienced being a minority woman in Western society where women are often treated as inferior or lower class citizens due to their sex, color, ethnicity, etc.
The concepts of motherhood and parental patriarchal ideologies are the key terms of the second section. As motherhood has always been a controversial subject, Pei-Wen Winnie Ma and Munyi Shea, Sundari Balan and Ramaswami Mahalingam, and Huma Ahmed-Gosha are eager to discuss immigrant women’s experience of mothering in three distinct studies. To explain the complexity of being an immigrant mother, the writers provide the reader with transcripts of detailed accounts of Afghan Muslim women living in the United States. These mothers explain the cultural obstacles they have faced while trying to preserve their ethnic identity and performing the ideal image of the good mother according to their culture of origin. Constructing the cultural bridge for the upcoming generations is the hardest responsibility that rests on the shoulders of Afghan immigrant mothers because the process of cultural transmission cannot be easily achieved, especially with American-born children who favor the American lifestyle and consider Muslim traditions and norms to be a danger that threatens their integration into American society.
In the third section, Olivia M. Espín, Andrea L. Dottolo, Diya Kallivayalil, Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, Anmol Satiani, Neha Patel, Danielle Quintero, Alison Cerezo, Alejandro Morales, Stephanie Rothman, Josephine V. Serrata, R. Lillianne Macias, Alvina Rosales, Rebecca Rodriguez, and Julia L. Perilla address the different aspects of physical and emotional violence that immigrant women have been forced to endure, such as sexual harassment, abuse, and domestic violence. The primary aim of this chapter is to find possible solutions to the problem of sexual violence and to demonstrate how victimized women can challenge the sexist and racist stereotypes found in Western societies by breaking their silence and speaking the unspeakable. The role of resistance and resilience is strongly emphasized in this section through the experiences of Latina immigrant women who survived and overcame the different forms of violence by facing their fears and traumatic pasts, and thus breaking free from their passivity and make their voices heard. In addition, this section demonstrates how strong will, collective support, and commitment are essential in achieving a communal change in the positions of all women in society.
Finally, the fourth section explores the consequences of migration and its psychological effects on younger generations of women, such as the daughters and granddaughters of immigrants. Gabrielle Stutman, Peggy Brady-Amoon, Sandra Mattar, María Teresa Pestana, Karen Kisiel Dion, Andrea L. Dottolo, and Carol Dottolo explain that it is important to understand the meaning of migration across generations because there are several factors which can transform the bond between mothers and daughters from a source of support, love, and power into a source of hostility, pain, and frustration. The generational gap is one of the factors that hinders the stability of these relationships, as do cultural differences. In the majority of the case studies, the cultural clash between immigrant mothers and their culturally integrated daughters was one of the main obstacles that prevented the formation of a balanced cultural identity that both mothers and daughters could share without the fear of losing their origins or being rejected from the society of their new homes.
In a very accessible piece of writing, Espín and Dottolo communicate ideas that are crucial to the understanding of migration and its effects on women’s psychology. Gendered Journeys: Women, Migration and Feminist Psychology has successfully created a space where professional concerns could be shared and where many questions in relation to psychology and immigrant women have been explored. The book can be useful for scholars of different fields of study or interests and general readers alike because it invites readers to question their assumptions and become more aware of prejudice while also highlighting the need to consider the various needs and issues of different groups of women.