Research - Prof. dr. E. Helena Houvenaghel

Exile & Migration and Myth & History Rewriting

Comparative Project:
Migration flows between Spain, Italy, and Argentina (1930-1976):

By coordinating a comparative cross-national and cross-generational project on 20th century refugee- and immigrant-writing in host country Argentina, Houvenaghel called attention to the contribution of two generations of Spanish and Italian refugees and immigrants to the making of this host country. Houvenaghel and the team were granted this project by Utrecht University’s focus area ‘Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights’ and by Utrecht University’s Comparative Literary Studies. The project compared the impact of writings by Spanish refugees and Italian migrants, and their descendants, on the Argentinean host country, in which the refugees and migrants stayed temporarily or resettled permanently (1930-1976).

Houvenaghel and the team published the project’s findings in a three-part Special Issue in Romance Studies entitled Spanish Exiles and Italian Migrants in Argentina. (1930-1976). First, the team found that the variety of women’s experiences was understudied, in both the Italian and Spanish contexts. Consequently, the project adopted a more inclusive approach and focused mainly on women migrants' and refugees’ writings. See: Special Issue Part 1: Gender (I) and its Table of Content and Special Issue Part 1 Gender (II) and its table of content. In this Special Issue, Houvenaghel and the team's comprehensive Introduction offered a comparative perspective on the Spanish exile and Italian immigration in Argentina (1930-1976). Furthermore, the first part ‘1. Gender’ included Houvenaghel's article, entitled "La construcción del yo en el exilio". In this article, Houvenaghel focused on the efforts made by first generation exiled author Rosa Chacel to create a dialogic relationship with the Argentinean audience. The second part of this three-part Special Issue, ‘2. Politics and Culture’ highlighted the contributions of Spanish exiles and Italian immigrants, and their descendants, to the making of the Argentinean society. See: Special Issue Part 2 and its introduction. The third part, '3. Theatre and TV Drama’, gives protagonism to women playwrights and to the representation of women's experiences of exile and migration. See: Special Issue Part 3 (In press).

As a result of this project, Houvenaghel and the team put an emphasis on the transgenerational transmission of the 20th century Spanish and Italian experiences of exile and immigration in Argentina. This transgenerational insight linked the lives of 20th-century refugee- and migrant women with the present and demonstrated the relevance today of yesterday’s refugees’ experiences. Houvenaghel was invited to present this transgenerational view in the series of lectures for the E. Lorand Chair at the Free University of Brussels Spanish Exiled Women Writers and their descendants in Latin America, 80 years after. In this series of lectures, Houvenaghel juxtaposed three generations of exiled Spanish women writers.

In this comparative Italian/Spanish context, Houvenaghel and her research assistant C. Vásquez Caicedo Rainero participated in the International Congress Cultural Relations between Italy and Latin America. (Un. della Calabria - Icsaic-Centro di Ricerca sulle Migrazioni/U. Nantes/U. Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brasil/U. Groningen) From a transnational perspective, they opened a window on Spanish refugees who led a wandering life between Spain, Latin America, and Italy. Houvenaghel’s article analyzes the self- construal by the Spanish refugee writer María Zambrano during her transit phase in Rome. Houvenaghel’s article closes the Special Issue Rapporti culturali tra Italia e America Latina.