Journeys of (Be)Longing 'to the Centre': Socio-Political Stories of FSU Jewish Immigrant Couples in TorontoDr. Marina MorgenshternDr. Shoshana Pollack Empirical Research Using Feminist Intersectionality 2013 CASWE/CSA @ The Edge June 5, 2013
Introducing Myself • Immigrant twice-over • Jewish • Heterosexual • Woman • Married • Mother of 2 children • Social worker with diverse experience with individuals, families and communities • Critical scholar
Immigration & Gender—Gaps/Inconsistencies in Literature • Full range of migrant populations not considered • One-dimensional view of gender experiences • Gender experiences not understood as interrelated parts of the same (couple) system • Couple dynamics not linked to experiences of interlocking systems of oppression & privilege
Purpose of the Study • To witness socio-political family stories of Jewish heterosexual immigrant couples from the former Soviet Union (FSU) in Toronto • To explore how these couples make meaning of their collective & individual immigrant experiences & negotiate issues of gender & power • To examine how dominant structures & discourses (neo-liberalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, discourses about Jews and immigrants) impact relational dynamics of immigrant couples.
Feminist Intersectionality • Focus on social structure that • locates individuals in the social world, • shapes their experiences and meanings, and • defines economic and social rewards available • Social/political dimensions • contextual & perpetually shifting • socially constructed & related to systems of power & hierarchy • operate simultaneously (individuals positioned in complex interaction of privilege & subordination) • should be explored both in social structure (macro) and psychological system of individuals (micro)
Research Methodology • Qualitative, Feminist, Combination of Testimonio, Oral Histories & Autoethnography • Multi-stage data collection (24 participants) • Collective experience of immigration (6 immigrants—2 couples interviewed together, 1 –apart; & a rabbi) • Couple experiences of immigration (17 immigrants—2 couples together) • Thematic and Intersectional data analysis • Interviews & analysis conducted in Russian; selected quotes translated for the final report
Privilege & Subordination in Social Status Experiences • Soviet Union: Collective story of resisting state Anti-Semitism through education, professionalism & strong familial and intra-community ties • Canada: Individualistic and privatized stories • Canada – land of opportunities; • Endorsement of market ideology, individual responsibility, meritocracy & competition; • Challenges explained as individual and/or partner’s deficiency; • Social marginalization & lack of sense of community
“For us, communism ended the moment we left [Soviet Union] and there began a marathon of who achieves what. So I achieved, and you are a loser if you are still running(Stas) • There was a movie, about a rat. The rat has eaten, slept, done its business, and then has run down the hallway to the next bulb. Again, has eaten, again slept, again, done the same thing. That means ... but it depends on the beliefs and what the person needs… This is due to the personal qualities, personality traits in the first place, first! And people accept this rat race…. Many simply cannot do anything else, or do not want to study. …You can go to study at any age... And someone might be sitting and saying (in crying voice) “I do not want to be there, but what can I do? What? I have to pay bills, well, I have to work. When do I have time to study? And who will pay the bills, when I study?” And so this takes years, they delay, then the inertia, and then old age comes and they did nothing(Larissa)
Privilege & Subordination in Gendered Experiences • Stories focus on work/family divide • Intersection of labor market and hetero-normative gender rules: Patriarchal arrangements both challenged & reinforced • Women’s experiences: Increased independence and increased burden of fulfilling responsibilities at work and at home • Men’s experiences: Challenged economic power & patriarchal dominance and extension of masculine roles • Shifts in hetero-normative division of roles & engagement in patriarchal power arrangements
[w]omen quickly master the language. The women here [in Canada] find more stable and good jobs—faster than men. [w]omen here have more opportunities than in the Soviet Union. More money, they can afford more. They drive a car that they couldn’t, say, in Russia: no one would let them behind the wheel. They have their own cars; they are practically independent of their husbands, financially. They are able to make pretty good money. They do a lot of things for themselves, go to dance, do yoga, or whatever. They have life of their own, because they spend less time on chores(Volodya) • “I’ve been the head of the family since ‘91, carrying its weight on my shoulders” (Katya)
“men take the first blow and give them [their wives] a boost”(Tsipi) • For a man to come to Canada and work and earn more than his wife, it’s natural; it’s how it should be” (Erik). • If my wife earned more than I do, I would be happy. Today, I would feel great about it. I can’t say what I would have felt about it when we came [to Canada], but today I would feel alright. I am so tired. I got tired after this many years [of work] (Eric) • …[T]o my own shame, I am a man who doesn’t earn much. And I sit and I think “My God, what can I do to have money for Lexus, for a cottage, and so on?” And nothing comes to my mind. So, well, I can’t think of something, so I’ll go fix dinner (Dima)
Implications for Critical Social Science • Informed social work, gender & sexuality studies, race & ethnic studies, social development studies, sociology of immigration, & family therapy studies by • illuminating the interconnection between socio-political context & individuals’ economic & social experiences, mental health, couple relationships & family practices; • tracing connection between individuals’ social location & the ways they make meaning of their experiences; • marking the complexities of whiteness with intersections of class, gender, ethnicity & geographic origins.
Thank you Questions? Comments?