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IRC Newsletter

Transnational Biographies

18 December 2014, 5-7 pmScots

Scottish Universities Insight Institute
Strathclyde Campus, Collins Building, 22 Richmond Street, Glasgow
G1 1XQ, Email:, Tel: 0141 548 4051/5930



When people cross political, national, linguistic and religious borders and decide to stay, they start belonging not only to new communities. They also face – despite the victory of globalisation and an international market – different cultural contexts, mentalities, collective memories and values. They bring their own heritage which reminds them that they are and remain foreigners even once they master the language and adapt to local customs. Scots and East Europeans should remember that they have been migrants and settlers in each other's countries for centuries. At some point these newcomers stop being migrants and integrate, even assimilate. This has been the case with elite burgher families of Scottish descent in Polish, Lithuanian and Hungarian towns as much as with Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Romanians, Russians and other Baltic and East Central European migrants who entered Scotland through various historical and contemporary waves of migration.

In an event organised and funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, a series of short papers by specialists on migrants' history and culture focused on individual "transnational biographies". The aspect of Scots abroad was stressed just as much as migration to Scotland. One's memory of origin often melts into the experience of a new environment and society very quickly, but it also causes conflicting identities and even heightened consciousness of one's own heritage. The idea for this public seminar and discussion was to explore the long-term impact of migration and the importance of history for identity-formation for individuals within communities through their biographies. One of the most important issues discussed was the question at which point someone stops being a migrant without becoming a 'native' of his/her new home.

MigrantsProfessor Waldemar Kowalski (University Kielce, Poland):
Integration and self-reliance: the Scottish community in earl modern Kraków

Professor Andrew Blaikie (University of Aberdeen):
Visual documentation, Polish/Lithuanian identities and social interaction in the 1940s

Dr David Worthington (University of the Highlands and Islands):
Scots in East Central Europe – the Leslie Family in Slovenia

Vitalija Stepušaitytė (Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh):
The Experience of Home: Lithuanians in Scotland

Nicolas Le Bigre (University of Aberdeen):
Considering 'Home(s)': Transnational Voices from North-East Scotland?

The discussion was led by Professor Karin Friedrich (University of Aberdeen). Her blog on the event is now live.

Photographic Exhibition:
Neighbours - Photographs of migrants in Scotland by Aberdeen-based artist Blazej Marczak (with an introduction by the artist himself)


2.suiilogoThis event is part of the
Linking Northern Communities

supported by the SUII