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The Image Of Immigrants In Film And Literature Does Not Reflect Their Social Reality In Spain

July 28, 2010

The study, “Images of the Other: Discursive Construction of Immigration in Contemporary Spanish Literature and Cinema (1990-2005)”, shows the growing interest in the representation of immigrants in these artistic fields in Spain. The presence of this type of character in stories is common, although it is identified with poverty and alienation, making it very difficult not to witness immigrants in situations of exclusion, according to the researchers. “The most important conclusion of the research has been to see how the artistic representation does not coincide with the social reality of immigrants,” explains the study coordinator, Professor Montserrat Iglesias, who leads the UC3M Imageology research group.

According to the report, artistic representation of immigrants in Spain is “Africanized”; the majority of literary, theater and artistic texts are focused on the origin of the sub-Saharan immigrant. In fact, sub-Saharan immigrants account for less than 5% of the arriving immigrant population. “There are many factors that explain this Africanization of immigration: the greater racial difference, the situation of poverty or the discourse surrounding the crossing of the Strait (of Gibraltar), which is a much-discussed subject because it unites a series of significant artistic components, like its link to travel stories, the crossing to a future Eden, death, tragedy, the force of Nature”¦,” remarked Iglesias, who is Associate Professor of the Madrid university’s Department of Humanities: Philosophy, Language and Literature.

The researchers decided to undertake the study of the figure of the immigrant in Spain over the last 25 years because, among other reasons, it is a way of approaching Spanish identity itself, in that it represents the image of the contemporary “Other”. Few phenomena have as much impact on the construction of the cultural identity of a society as migratory movements, according to the researchers’ book recently published by Biblioteca Nueva, Imágenes del otro. Identidad e inmigraci³n en la literatura y el cine (“Images of the Other: Identity and Immigration in Literature and Film”). The book contains many of the results the study produced within the framework of the national research project.

Since the end of the 20th century, immigration has transformed Spanish society and has posed a challenge to the definition of identity that comes with the presence of immigrants of other races, cultures and religions, as the book points out. In this regard, the different artistic expressions have been gradually responding to the Other, influencing the construction of the popular conception of immigration and immigrants. “With this research and this book, we have taken a first step towards the subject with the intention of being the most exhaustive, as far as that is possible, but there is still a lot of work to do,” says Professor Iglesias, referring to lines of research they have considered pursuing in the near future. These include the representation of gender and immigration and different identity-related issues that could affect women’s rights.

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