Migration, Language, and Space

My dissertation project focuses on the ways in which German-speaking Paraguayan Mennonite migrants to Canada construct spaces through language, and how these spaces in turn construct their identities. While research exists on German-speaking Mennonites who remain in Paraguay, very little exists about those Paraguayan Mennonites who have emigrated to and settled in Canada.
I am particularly interested in the 1.5 generation, or the generation of migrants who emigrated as children, and who did not necessarily have a conscious choice in the matter of migration. In order to examine issues of space and identity and how they relate to and are expressed by language, I will conduct oral interviews in two phases. The interviews, which will be to a large extent open-ended, will focus on participants? experiences of migration to Canada, including specific experiences relating to language.
In the initial phase, I will conduct one-on-one interviews with the participants. I plan to examine the data from a number of perspectives, including code-switching tendencies, use of deictics and place references, as well as narrative and conversation analysis. In a second phase, I will conduct focus group interviews with multiple participants at once, because I want to see how space and identity constructions change and may even become contradictory in a setting that calls for more co-construction.
This project is generously supported by an Ontario Graduate Studies Fellowship, a University of Waterloo President’s Scholarship, as well as the German-Canadian Studies Research Grant. I am extremely grateful to the Spletzer Foundation for helping me get this project off the ground.
Christine Kampen Robinson, PhD Candidate in German
University of Waterloo, ckampenr@uwaterloo.ca