Filling the gaps in the archival sector: Current gender migration in an oral history case study

Triantafillia Kourtoumi, General State Archives of Greece, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, GR

The first decade of the 21th century witnessed a major increase in academic as well as political and popular interest in migration flows in Europe reflecting the substantial quantitative and qualitative changes in migration. The directions of migration flows have become more complex and now involve countries formerly untouched by immigration as, in the case of Greece, receiving countries. Alongside permanent migration there are increasingly diverse forms of long-term temporary migration including substantial numbers of refugees, low-skilled migrant labour, undocumented migrants already working in low-skilled sectors etc., with women an increasingly important element in all these flows.

There is a paucity of literature addressing how to conduct research with migrant women populations, particularly longitudinal research, with those who do not speak the host country language, those who are newly arrived etc. At this point we address methodological strategies that are used in the paper in order to face such challenges and develop a culturally responsive approach in our research methods. The tacit knowledge derived is based on original source material of women immigrants from East Europe and the Balkans to Northern Greece. The extended questionnaire of about 300 interviews deals with the experience of coming to a new country, learning a new language and trying to gain recognition of qualifications and experience. Migrant women are asked about their decision to migrate, their networks, journeys, employment, and experience of legal and other institutions in their host country, relationships, customs, and aspirations for the future. The strategy of oral history enables us to understand the plans and motivations of women migrants (which would exceed the scope of a purely statistical analysis). Furthermore, since many of the women migrants are illegal, the strategy renders a more informed and direct representation of the situation than official statistics would provide.