Research - Prof. dr. E. Helena Houvenaghel

Exile & Migration and Myth & History Rewriting

Fenix: Network for Research on Female Refugees

Houvenaghel created the Fenix Network for Research on Female Refugees ( It brings together 10 research partners, who merge Gender, Literature, and History with an interest in female refugees. The partners are research centers from universities in France (Avignon, Lille, Paris), Germany (Bonn), Spain (Barcelona, Granada, Madrid), the UK (Birmingham), and the US (North Carolina).

As a transnational research network, Fenix brings into contact researchers on women refugees who fled from their countries of origin during the 20th century. Today’s Refugee Studies rarely address historical matters, yet ideas about forced migration have long roots in Western history. Europe’s 20th century is especially characterized by massive refugee crises. Women refugees fulfill an important role in both the processes of integration in the host country and the preservation of the culture and language of the country of origin. However, female testimonies on adaptation and identity development are less foregrounded, which means that the refugee experience is generally determined by a male perspective. This network aims to connect researchers who adopt a gendered focus on the reception and integration of refugees this last century. With the objective of surpassing language barriers and national boundaries, the network brings together the specialized knowledge that researchers have of the different refugee cases and contributes to the shared exploration of these insights.

The basis for the Fenix Network for Research on Female Refugees was laid during the international congress Spanish Women in Mexican Exile: a transgenerational perspective, which I organised with the intention to give more visibility to the experiences of Spanish women exiles of the first and second generation in Mexico. For more information, see Mexico.

The First International Congress of the Fenix Network for Research on Female Refugees, Spanish Exile and Italian Immigration in Argentina (1930-1976): Gender, Politics, and Culture, took place in Dec. 2018. By reflecting on women refugees’ and migrants’ experiences in Argentina, the Fenix Network aimed during this first congress at gendering the image of Spanish exile and Italian migration in Argentina. The results of this first congress are published as a series of 4 Special Issues in the Journal Romance Studies (2020-2021, 38.2, 38.3, 38.4 and 39.1). For more information, see Argentina.

The second Fenix-congress that Houvenaghel organized (December 2019) focused on Spanish women refugees’ transit in France in the 1930’s-‘40s. The concepts of Agency and Transnationalism served as axes around which revolved the reflection that resulted in the Special Issue Spanish refugee women in transit in France: Agency and Transnationalism (Nov 2020, International Open Access Journal Impossibilia, University of Granada, Fenix-Partner Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies). For more information, see Transit.

The third Fenix-encounter (2020) reflects on the ethics of exile literature and gives a central place to the concept of “nonconformism”. As a case study, this meeting focuses on the transgression of the established norms in second generation exile Angelina Muñiz Huberman’s oeuvre. The results of this encounter are published in the Dossier Angelina Muñiz Huberman: A nonconformist voice, in the Journal INTI Revista de Literatura Hispánica y Transatlántica, N° 93-94, Spring-Autumn 2021)

The fourth Fenix-encounter (May 2021), Networks and Routes: Spanish women in Argentinian exile, puts the spotlight on the paths and relationships of Spanish women exiles in Argentina that go beyond borders. By analyzing the cross-border contacts and trajectories of the first generation of Spanish women in Argentinian exile, the congress contributes to a better understanding of the transnational dimension of female exile in the 1930s and 40s. The results of this fourth Fenix-encounter are published in the journal Anales de Literatura Hispanoamericana (2022). For more information, see Argentina.

The fifth International Congress of the Fenix Network for Research on Female Refugees (Jan 2022) is called Transnational Networks and Routes of Women (descendants) of the Spanish and Jewish Exile in Latin America. This congress aims at providing a better insight in the variety in cross-border paths and relationships of female exile by comparing the Spanish and Jewish cases. For more information, see Networks and Routes.